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Laura McHugh is back sharing her sublime & atmospheric new novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN DARKNESS, set in the Missouri Ozarks, traumatic experiences with spiders, sleeping in her car, the claustrophobia of rural towns, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay

Abducted as a teenager, a woman must confront her dark and tangled past as another case closely linked to hers comes to the surface.

WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS

ALWAYS WITH A BOOK

Laura McHugh & Leslie Lindsay in conversation

Laura McHugh’s novels are often inspired by true crimes, but at the heart of each story, she writes about families: their secrets, their tragedies, and the powerful, complicated bonds of blood. All of her work is set in the Midwest and the Ozarks, where she was raised. Plus, she’s won–and has been nominated–for numerous awards, including International Thriller Writers Award and the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel and the Missouri Author Award for Fiction, among others.

Laura McHugh’s rural thrillers are always a summertime treat. They are so evocative and atmospheric, drawing such breadth and emotion from the landscape; you can nearly feel the thick humidity and hear the chirp of the cicadas. There’s a murkiness here, too, a gauzy underworld of darker things brewing.

One of 2021’s Best Beach Reads—OPRAH DAILY

⭑ An Amazon Editors’ Choice for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

ABOUT WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS:

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS (Random House, June 22) is so psychologically astute, but also quietly spine-chilling. Sarabeth–now Sarah–was abducted at age 17, when she refused to participate an an arranged marriage right out of high school. Her body was found mangled on the side of the road after weeks of being held captive in a dark place.

Now, she’s mostly recovered from that trauma and lives independently working for an animal shelter when a detective approaches her with a new investigation, one that sounds shockingly similar to hers. She’s reluctant at first, but soon is ensnared in the mystery; mostly because her 16 year-old estranged sister is engaged to be married and has asked her to come home to be in the wedding.

Told in alternating time periods of ‘then’ and ‘now,’ Sarah recaptures the pain and confusion of her early upbringing in the Ozark Mountains at the Missouri-Arkansas border. Here, she must confront the past of the first half of her life: ‘typical’ before her father had that affair and moved the family to remote farm where the children were expected to wear dresses, be homeschooled, and have no Internet (and more).

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is a dark, atmospheric mystery with some police procedural investigation, with a fairly satisfying ending; mostly I was intrigued with the community and human behavior. The writing is crystal clear, fast-paced and very unsettling; it’s a bit like WINTER’S BONE meets FOOTLOOSE (movie) with a touch of GONE GIRL.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Laura McHugh back to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Laura, I cannot believe it’s been four books that we’ve been chatting! Each one is so dark, so gritty, and I’m always excited to talk with you. We share a connection with Missouri and that’s what I want to start with. They say setting becomes a character, and with your work, it’s absolutely true. The Ozarks absolutely belong to you. Can  you talk about your geographical influences and inspiration, please?

Laura McHugh:

I’m so happy to be chatting with you again, Leslie! I’ve lived in the Midwest nearly my entire life, starting in southern Iowa and then moving deep into the Ozarks on the Missouri/Arkansas border. I live in a mid-size college town now, but I grew up in a series of small, rural communities, one especially tiny and quite isolated (our address was simply “Box 6” in Tecumseh—good luck finding it on a map!). The Ozarks are beautiful, though ruggedly, menacingly so. I love to incorporate the foreboding and sometimes treacherous elements of the landscape in my work, from the abundant spiders, snakes, and insects to the caves and cliffs and rivers to the impossibly twisted roads and isolated dwellings. For me, the sense of being in the middle of nowhere, with the constant buzzing of insects and the humidity closing in, those elements put me (and hopefully the reader) a bit on edge. You can’t help but wonder what’s out there, what terrible things you might encounter in these hidden places.

Photo by Jack Gittoes on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

Since WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is set in Missouri and you’re writing from Missouri, and I know so much fiction is ‘borrowed from real life,’ I couldn’t help but wonder if some of this was autobiographical. It probably isn’t…but one makes suppositions. Fiction and nonfiction often blur. Can you talk about that, please?

Laura McHugh:

I often start with small seeds of truth, but they grow into something unrecognizable. I’ll give a character a quirk of mine, or add little details drawn from personal experience, or take inspiration from real-life crimes, but usually those bits of truth are distorted and repurposed in the writing process to best serve the story. There are some pieces of my real life in this novel, though for some reason, they are mostly drawn from traumatic experiences with spiders! I was horrified the first time I saw a horde of tarantulas in the Ozarks. I’ve always wanted to put that in a novel, and I finally did. I also stayed in a river cabin populated by venomous brown recluse spiders while writing this book, and that made it in, too (I did actually sleep in my car one night, like Sarah does). The piece of this book closest to real life was inspired by the murder of a teenage girl on a remote farm not many miles from my home in Tecumseh.  

“Laura McHugh is already on everyone’s short list of crime writers to watch for, someone who just goes from strength to strength. WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is timely, but more importantly, it’s a deeply empathetic look at a community and place that are all too easy to stereotype. Compulsively, propulsively readable, it never loses sight of what’s really at stake for its characters — or its readers.” 

Laura LippmanNew York Times bestselling author of Lady in the Lake

Photo by Austin Guevara on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I was talking with my (Missouri born and bred) husband about WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS and he said, “When is this book supposed to take place?” And I said, “Present-day!” He was shocked. So much of what you describe about Sarabeth’s life in the Ozarks rings of old-timey ways. Long skirts, man as head of household, women who sew, can, bake; no internet, homeschool. But it happens still. What more can you tell us about this aspect of the story? What research did you do to get this ‘right?’ Did you have sensitivity readers?

Laura McHugh:

This part of the story is drawn from personal observation, from reading about these types of communities, and from pop culture (many people are likely familiar with the Duggar family from their reality TV show). The religious community in the novel is fictional, and more extreme than what you might encounter in real life, but the patriarchal culture—and what might seem to some an “old fashioned” way of life—is real. I grew up in the Bible Belt and live in a deeply religious area. I know a family that embraced much of this lifestyle, though on the surface, they wouldn’t stand out aside from some telling details (the long dresses and hair). You would have to get to know them to get a deeper sense of their beliefs and behaviors at home. A friend of mine who grew up in a fundamentalist church read the book, and she told me stories about her pastor not allowing her to see Smurfs on Ice with her Girl Scout troop because ice skating costumes are “too carnal” and not allowing her family to get a Christmas tree. He had so much power over what was acceptable. When he finally relented and allowed a tree, it had to be a certain size, with homemade ornaments—nothing sparkly. And, as you might expect, that made her deeply want sparkles and glitter and everything he denied. The fictional church in the novel might seem outlandish to some and too close to reality for others, but I wanted to examine a patriarchal community like this through the lenses of different women—those who embrace it, those who exploit it, and those who long to escape it.

Leslie Lindsay:

I’m working on a series of interlinked stories about my own ancestral roots; I can trace them the Missouri Ozarks and Arkansas (and also the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee). I think Sarah mentions that when she goes back ‘home,’ it’s instantly recognizable. She feels the swell of the hills, the winding lanes. It’s visceral, almost. Do you think we’re rooted to the earth?

Laura McHugh:

In some ways, yes. When I returned to Tecumseh a couple of years ago to teach at a nearby writing retreat, I definitely had a visceral reaction. I think our experiences in a particular environment are inextricably linked to the place itself. For Sarah, the familiar landscape gives her a sense of claustrophobia and panic; she was desperate to escape, and returning makes her feel trapped. While I appreciate many things about the Ozarks, going back to my old home hollowed out my stomach with a feeling of desolation and anxiety. My body automatically remembered how I’d felt in that place, in my childhood, and the feeling returned without me consciously thinking about it. In contrast, when I visit the area I’m originally from in Iowa, and the town where my grandparents lived, the river and cornfields and the old houses are deeply comforting. My characters often struggle to reconcile the meaning of home. There’s always so much more to it than a spot on a map, but there’s a certain draw—sometimes good, sometimes not—to the places of our past.

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I know you’ve been a lifelong reader. I think most writers are. What—whom—were some of your formative influences?

Laura McHugh:

Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner. I liked horror, Southern Gothic, dark humor, science fiction. For several years when I was growing up, we lived in an area with no library, so I would read whatever I could get my hands on—discarded school books from my seven older siblings, yard sale finds, boxes of musty old paperbacks of unknown origin in our basement. That’s how I came across Jackson and O’Connor and other favorites I might not have sought on my own.  

Leslie Lindsay:

Laura, as always, it’s been a treat. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten, or perhaps something you’d like to ask me?

Laura McHugh:

I would love to know how you juggle your various projects! You have multiple writing projects and still find time for a full schedule of reading and reviewing. I know that’s not easy when you also have kids at home. Thank you for taking the time to visit with me—it’s always a pleasure!

Leslie Lindsay:

Ask me on a different day and I may have a very different answer! Most days I juggle multiple and unrelated tasks: kids’ dental appointments, a demanding basset hound (the phrase, ‘dogged determination’ is the life of a basset), social media/platform building, yoga practice and cardio, home renovations, and a very active reading/review schedule. My two writing projects are not related at all. There’s one about childhood speech issues and another about mothers and mental illness and grief. It’s a bit exhausting–mentally–to shift gears so frequently. Aside from all of that, I am writing and submitting articles and essays. Here’s a little secret: sometimes, I want to quit. Here’s another: I thrive with busyness and variety. A happy medium is ideal, but sometimes, even dynamos need a break.

For more information, to connect with Laura McHugh, or to purchase a copy of WHAT’S DONTE IN DARKNESS, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 

YOU MIGHT LIKE:

I found some similarities between WHAT HAPPENS IN DARKNESS and Julia Heaberlin’s work, particularly WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, but also some of Gillian Flynn’s earlier work, SHARP OBJECTS comes to mind, but also there’s a touch of Jodi Picoult here, as well as Karin Slaughter.

Next week, Hanna Halperin talks about her debut fiction, SOMETHING WILD.

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Learn more about Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book HERE

Up Next Week:

Hanna Halperin talks about her debut, SOMETHING WILD about domestic violence, going home, more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura McHugh is the internationally bestselling author of The Weight of Blood, winner of an International Thriller Writers Award and a Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for best first novel; Arrowood, an International Thriller Writers Award finalist for best novel; and The Wolf Wants In. McHugh lives in Missouri with her husband and their daughters.

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online.

She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

You can learn more about HERE.

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Author and cover image courtesy of Random House and used with permission. Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1

THE GRUMPY FRUMPY CROISSANT helps with kids anger management, plus a baking activity, how it might help with apraxia, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A sip of milk and ten deep breaths: anger management for kids to help calm angry minds and soften misunderstandings.

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~Apraxia Monday|Always with a Book~

Spotlight: Childrens Literature & Emotions

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Croissant isn’t happy and he’s taking it out on the rest of the breakfast plate! Toast, Scone, and Milk think he’s being mean, but Croissant feels they’re being mean to him! So take a sip of milk, ten deep breaths, and everyone and calm down and be more open. 

THE GRUMPY FRUMPY CROISSANT by Mona K. and illustrated by Korey Scott, is a delightful and quirky children’s book with bold, colorful, hand-drawn illustrations easy for any child to grasp. Here, kids learn that simple communication is often the best way to solve problems. 

The book even contains a delicious recipe that parents and caregivers can make with their kids, plus full-page coloring activities featuring characters from the book. 

Why it might be helpful for kids with apraxia

  • It’s frustrating for kids to have ideas they want to communicate, but can’t. They may ‘act out,’ become angry, melt-down. THE GRUMPY FRUMPY CROISSANT may help visualize and normalize anger. 
  • Rather than trying to ‘reason’ with a young child, breakfast foods take on human traits, which may be comforting–and silly–for children with limited verbal communication. 
  • Make it fun! Role play or ‘play-with-your-food,’ at home. Can you act out a scene or feeling with your child about how it might feel to have limited verbal skills? 
  • How about a themed book party? Read this book, or other books featuring foods (like Green Eggs and Ham), then whip up some delicious food with your child(ren). Let them help by measuring, pouring, mixing, more. Talk about these things as you do them. Your child may not respond with everything, but ask for approximations, more. Just the act of being together and narrating the tasks involved will be time well spent. 

GrumpyCroissant_recipe page

  • Talk about anger. Identify it as a feeling like any other…it’s normal and natural, just like love, happiness/joy, frustration, sadness, silliness, more. What other coping mechanisms can you model with anger? Stomping your feet? Punching a pillow? Taking a walk? 

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For more information, to connect with the author, or to order a copy of THE GRUMPY FRUMPY CROSSIANT, please visit: 

Order Links: 

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 
  • Check out my curated list of children’s literature at Bookshop.org

 

DSC_2918-Edit (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Mona K. lives in New Jersey with her husband and six-year-old son. She derives all of her whimsical inspiration from her son and unhealthy amounts of coffee. When she is not writing, she enjoys baking and meditating. She also loves building stories with numbers and works as a statistician during the day.

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warms, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in literary journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speechsoon to be released as an audio book by Penguin Random House. She is represented by Catalyst Literary Management.

Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory is currently on-submission. 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT! 

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#alwayswithabook #childrensliterature #kidsfeelings #kidsemotions #readingwithkids4e6296d9-881b-44b2-856d-00a0bfae2c12

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Cover and author images courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #booknerd

Laura Lippman chats about her hallucinatory new novel, DREAM GIRL, about fear & isolation, how books formed her, backstory and creativity

By Leslie Lindsay

Such a masterful, slow burn of a literary thriller. Highly unique, deliciously dark and complex.

WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS

ALWAYS WITH A BOOK

Laura Lippman & Leslie Lindsay

A distinctive voice in crime fiction, Laura Lippman has been named one of the “essential” crime writers of the last 100 years. She’s a New York Times bestseller and has won more than 20 prizes for her work and been shortlisted for 30 more.

ABOUT DREAM GIRL:

Gerry Anderson is a big-time author, his book, DREAM GIRL catapulted him onto the bestseller lists and he hasn’t come down since...his sense of self is up there, too. But now, he’s been injured in a freak accident, laid up in his Baltimore penthouse, which, in essence, is pretty ironic and hilarious. Gerry doesn’t exactly want to be in Baltimore, he says he’s happiest in NYC, where he had been living. He has relocated to care for his ailing mother, who had issues with delusional dementia.

Here is where this synopsis and review gets a bit tricky: are we summarizing the story of DREAM GIRL the novel you see here, or the one “Gerry” wrote. DREAM GIRL is a bit of a detour for Laura Lippman (June 22, 2021, William Morrow), which she calls ‘horror,’ but it’s also a bit of a frame story. It’s slippery and elusive, just when you think you have a grasp on it, reality shifts.

Gerry is not particularly ‘likeable,’ but if you see him as a slightly skewed but lovable narcissist, you might actually really enjoy his wry sense of humor. I enjoyed the writerly/author insights and the literary references.

DREAM GIRL is a delicious head-trip. Gerry begins to question his sanity when he goes in and out of dreamlike states due to a combination of sleep meds, isolation, and more. He has a night nurse he doesn’t particularly trust, a day assistant who handles calls, errands, bills, but something is clearly ‘off.’ Gerry begins receiving calls from a woman claiming to be his ‘character’ from DREAM GIRL. Could he really be losing his mind…like his late mother? There are no record of the calls and so maybe…

We also get a terrific backstory, which is adequately placed, delving into Gerry’s childhood, his father, and so much more, which I loved. Keep in mind: DREAM GIRL is not your conventional storytelling technique, but a deviation from tradition—hugely creative and convoluted at times.

DREAM GIRL is whip-smart, hugely unique hook, with a deep sense of interiority, and the ending is inevitable. Truly a masterful read.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Laura Lippman back to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Laura! Welcome back. It’s always a treat to chat with you. We last chatted about WILDE LAKE, which was borrowed from some of your life experiences (what fiction isn’t?!) and now, with DREAM GIRL, which is wholly different, there’s an echo of you here, too. In fact, your author’s note indicates that you and Gerry are about the same age, creatures of Baltimore, formed by big and small experiences…can you talk a little more about your inspiration for DREAM GIRL?

Laura Lippman:

It was the end of 2018 and I watched A Quiet Place over the holidays. I like horror films quite a lot and I’ve always been intrigued by how many horror stories use physical isolation as part of the set-up. But it occurred to me – and, remember, it was 2018 – that even people in big cities with busy lives might be more isolated than they realized and wouldn’t that be more horrible still? To see the world, to hear it – but not be able to get to it.

Photo by Philipp Birmes on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I found the structure and plot so unique and mind-bending. It’s unconventional, but that’s part of its charm. You describe DREAM GIRL as a bit of a ‘horror,’ I see it as a frame story, sort of a story within a story. It’s also very hypnotic, dreamy, and isolating. Would you agree with that assessment? If not, let me know where I went wrong.

Laura Lippman:

Hypnotic, dreamy – yes! The chapters in the past spring from what’s happening to Gerry in the present and, at first, the connections are easy to spot and literal. His accident has required him to be hospitalized, so he remembers waking up in the hospital as a boy who suffered a burst appendix, his parents sniping at one another. A snowstorm knocks out the power in the present day and he remembers how a blizzard affected the city when he was young. But as the book goes on, the connections get stranger. He has reason to remember a particularly graphic scene from the film Scarface and his memory takes him to a sad lunch he had with his mother at (the very real) Al Pacino’s pizza restaurant in Baltimore.

“Perceptive, often amusing insights into a writer’s mind make this a standout. Lippman is in top form for this enticingly witty, multilayered guessing game.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Dream Girl

Leslie Lindsay:

Gerry is very isolated. In so many ways, this is reflective of the times we are living. I felt such sense of claustrophobia, isolation, and a thrumming anxiety in DREAM GIRL. Just as the country is starting to ‘open back up,’ I was thrust into this sort of dismal and topsy-turvy world. I’m guessing a good deal of this was written during the pandemic? Can you talk about that?

Laura Lippman:

If I had finished the book on time (February 1), it would have been done before the U.S. even realized it had a Covid problem. But I was, unusually for me, late with this book and I feel that it was a weird blessing to have something that required such intense focus for the first three months of the pandemic. And I think a lot of those feelings seeped into the book – the fear, the unknowingness of the time.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I absolutely loved all of the literary references, old classics (and more contemporary ones, too), how they played off one another and fed into the story. For example, Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes up. In what ways were you influenced by other works? And can you talk a little about your process?

Laura Lippman:

Books formed me, I feel that I am mainly made from the books I read when I was young. Books taught me how to “be” if that makes sense. Gerry and I are different readers – he’s much more of a literary snob, he reads competitively, if that makes sense – but I’m like him in that my default is to compare my life to a book. And to try to make everything into a narrative that I control, which, as I am reminded again and again, I don’t.

Leslie Lindsay:

Also, I loved the backstory! I find it intriguing to delve into the psyche of a character, particularly a character who is an author. this case, there was a darker side to Gerry’s dad. Bigamy and estrangement. In fact, these themes surfaced in another book I read recently and even have been unearthed in my own extended family. Without giving too much away, can you give us a sense of what shaped this backstory?

Laura Lippman:

Gerry is an example of what I consider to be a very dangerous type of man – someone who believes himself to be good. I believe in trying to be good, in striving to be good, but if you self-identify as good – yikes! Gerry wants to be a better man than his father, but that’s a pretty low bar. And he becomes so convinced of his own goodness that he doesn’t recognize when he’s being thoroughly awful.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Where and what time of day do you find yourself most creative? Do you find that different types of creativity—brainstorming versus actual writing—come at different time and places or you?

Laura Lippman:

I love to write in the morning. I can brainstorm almost any time. I “solve” a lot of plot problems while walking or working out.

Leslie Lindsay:

Laura, this has been so delightful. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Or, perhaps something you’d like to ask me?

Laura Lippman:

Thank you for being a smart reader who loves books. We can’t ask for anything more than that!

For more information, to connect with Laura Lippman, or to purchase a copy of DREAM GIRL, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 

YOU MIGHT LIKE:

DREAM GIRL reminded me a bit of Gillian Flynn’s earlier work meets REAR WINDOW (Hitchcock)WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (A.J. Finn) ala Gillian Macmillian.

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Learn more & donate to Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has been hailed as a distinctive voice in crime fiction. Recently named one of the “essential” crime writers of the last 100 years, she has produced 24 novels, a book of short stories, a collection of essays, and a children’s picture book, and been published in more than 25 languages. A New York Times bestseller, she also has won more than 20 prizes for her work and been shortlisted for 30 more. Her 2019 novel, Lady in the Lake, will be produced as a television series starring Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o. Lippman lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her daughter.

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family. You can learn more about HERE.

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Unless otherwise noted, author and cover images are courtesy of WilliamMorrow and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover and June featured authors designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay.

Mckenzie Cassidy talks about his debut coming-of-age, Here Lies a Father, a fabulous 1970s playlist featuring songs about dads, the hero’s journey, upstate NY as a character, the catharsis of writing about family secrets, more

By Leslie Lindsay

A coming-of-age tale featuring a young man dealing with the death of his father, the secrets he attempted to hide, truth, reconstruction, and more

WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS

ALWAYS WITH A BOOK

Leslie Lindsay & Mckenzie Cassidy in Conversation

Writer, professor, Floridian, and Dad, Mckenzie Cassidy delves into dark secrets and a sorted past to discover who–and what–shapes us in his debut coming-of-age, loosely based on a true story.

About HERE LIES A FATHER:

This an astute and poignant debut from McKenzie Cassidy (Akashic Books, Jan 2021), about fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, and the universal odyssey of family secrets, lies, and revelations. Ian Daly is fifteen when his wayward father dies; they are a bit estranged, he and his mother having recently returned to New York state after a stint in Florida. The parents are separated and leaning toward divorce. Ian has an older sister, Catherine, who is at college. HERE LIES A FATHER opens at the man’s funeral and backtracks through the somber, dysfunctional realms of his life, peeling back layers while juxtaposing it with the life of his son, Ian.

It’s at the funeral that Ian and his sister discover that their father, Thomas, had been married not once before, but twice, and leaves behind two other families, including children –half-siblings–neither ever knew of before. Ian wants to know more of the truth, and so he seek to discover the long-held painful secrets in this classic coming-of-age tale ala the ‘hero’s journey.’

Meanwhile, Ian’s sister and mother, Helen, would rather leave the past in the past. Here, we beg the question: is truth a myth? Why reconstruct the facts? The setting is the perfect melding for truth-seeking and mirrors the journey well. In the upstate NY, it’s dry and somber, lonely and cold as Ian attends the funeral, recollects his father’s life and his experiences with his dad; on the other hand, we get a good sense of the lush landscape of Florida, where the two halves of his life are sort of breaking apart, and then coming together again.

HERE LIES A FATHER is a relatively quick, yet
 somber and haunting read. It is about truth and reinvention, walking away, and reuniting.

Please join me in welcoming the talented and kind Mckenzie Cassidy to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Mckenzie, so great to chat. I am so struck by the epigraph, both of them, actually, the ones pulled from 1970s songs, “Old Man” by Neil Young and also Cat Stevens’s “Father and Son.” Since it’s June and Father’s Day is right around the corner, I image a lot of folks are a bit sentimental. Can you talk a little about why you chose these particular lines to introduce HERE LIES A FATHER? Also, was it the same motivation for writing the story?

McKenzie Cassidy:

One of the most interesting things I was asked to do when promoting the book was to create a playlist. Something readers could listen to before or after and get a feel for the novel. I realized each of the songs I selected were melancholy and dealt with fatherhood, mental disease, and addiction. It included The Pixies, Everclear, No Doubt, Nas, older classics like “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by The Temptations, and even “Father And Son” by Cat Stevens.

Throughout my 20s I curated this list of sad songs involving fathers and then I’d listen to them every now and then. They weren’t exactly my motivation for writing but they often put me in the mindframe to get the story down. It’s amazing how a three minute song can arouse more emotions in the listener than a 300 page novel. Both of the songs in my epigraph are also from the 1970s, which I associate with my parents’ lives because they were married in that decade. That’s also when my older sister was born.

I chose the line from “Old Man” by Neil Young because I felt it represented a significant theme from the story: whether we can choose who we want to be in life or if destiny has us on one track? Nature versus nurture. “Old man, look at my life. I’m a lot like you were” is the line I included. The main character Ian is on the same track as his father, yet he chooses to correct his behavior after learning about his father’s tragic life. I think this is a big fear for people who grew up in a home with addiction or mental disease; whether they’ll end up like that parent?

For the Cat Stevens song “Father And Son,” I was drawn to the line, “from the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.” In my view this represented protecting the family myth. Everyone in Ian’s family knew there were problems but they swept them under the rug. They wanted to keep up appearances and in order to do that everyone had to keep their mouth shut. Both songs are very sentimental and sad. They both celebrate fathers but there is a suffering under the surface and I think this is why I chose them. Everyone reading this should give them a listen over Father’s Day.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

HERE LIES A FATHER is a traditional narrative arc in the form of the hero’s journey. Ian is given a task. He travels, he is tested, he learns new stuff, he returns home better. Was this deliberate on your part? Did you experiment with form and structure?

McKenzie Cassidy:

I always knew this story was going to be a hero’s journey because it’s my favorite narrative arc. When I look back at all of the books and movies I’ve loved the most in my life, they’ve all been the hero’s journey. It’s the most compelling for me as a reader because I feel satisfied when a character overcomes their challenges (whether internal or external). Using this form was deliberate because I knew Ian would need to change by the end of the story.

One thing I did experiment with was perspective. My publisher Kaylie Jones was the person who suggested early in the drafting process that I try making Ian Daly into an unreliable narrator. I wasn’t familiar with the concept but the point-of-view fit my story like a glove. I started studying how the masters did it. I immersed myself in novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Graham Greene, J.D. Salinger, Gillian Flynn, Zoe Heller, Vladimir Nabokov, Julian Barnes, and more. I read their best works and dissected exactly how they created an unreliable narrator. Then, over the course of five years, I worked to apply elements of an unreliable narrator to my own story. It was a long, difficult process but I’m pleased with how the novel turned out.

Leslie Lindsay:

One of the key elements—themes—I found was how we often want to know the ‘truth,’ even if it’s unsavory. Particularly if it’s unsavory! But sometimes the truth is just that, and sometimes it’s bland. What do you make of that? Do we just live with it? Learn from it? Do you see this as being about reconciling the past in order to move forward?

McKenzie Cassidy:

Learning the truth like Ian did in the story is painful. Someone who learns about a dark family secret will always feel different and broken. But, I do think this is something that individuals can reconcile in the long-term and learn to live with in a healthy way. Nothing will ever change what happened, but over time they can shift the way they think about it until they reach acceptance and peace. It’s a work in progress.

I’m not sure whether it’s better to learn the truth or keep living the lie.

This is an impossible question to answer. Now that I’m a parent, I realize we lie to our children all of the time when we talk about Santa Claus, withhold information that could be painful to them, or misrepresent something to protect their innocence. In these cases, I believe we’re doing the right thing, but where does it end? At what point does a fib about the Easter Bunny turn into the concealment of half-siblings and secret families? This is what made writing the novel so interesting for me. It’s not black and white. There’s no easy answer.

I do feel it’s better to know the truth about major issues. For one, it gives you an accurate portrayal of what is happening in your family and shows the realities of life, but it also helps you learn from previous mistakes. I’m able to be a better father to my children because of what I learned from my father’s mistakes. I can also recall what I had desired from my father growing up, and I can offer this to my children. We’ll never improve as parents or human beings unless we hear the bad along with the good.

Photo by Abdullah Ghatasheh on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I wanted to talk about the setting and landscape a bit. In Florida, it’s lush—in many ways. Ian’s mother is falling in love with a new man and Ian might be falling in love with that man’s daughter (or at least her backside—wink, wink). Back in upstate NY, it’s desolate, somber. He’s lost his dad, his best friend has drifted. Was this shifting landscape intentional?

McKenzie Cassidy:

The changes in setting were absolutely intentional. I was raised in upstate New York and it’s very cold and depressing for most of the year. Ian’s mother moved the family to Florida to start all over again. It was bright, tropical, beautiful, everything she was seeking in life, but the problem was her family was the same. She could change the scenery but she couldn’t solve the family’s dysfunctions. Everything was exactly the same as it had been in New York so she left again to get away from it.

The setting of upstate New York is like a character of its own. I wanted to make sure the reader was grounded in that desolate, winter environment. While writing the story I looked for opportunities to use the setting to establish emotion or further action. For instance, when Ian and Eveline are first spending time together and he has to step over large cracks in the sidewalk from giant tree roots. In this scene I used the setting of upstate New York to demonstrate how he’d never let her get too close. He had feelings for her in the beginning of the novel but he lied about it, and kept her at arm’s length so she would never get to know his family.

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What I found so astonishing as I read was how this isn’t exactly a ‘new concept,’ the idea of having families before. I am currently in the process of unearthing some family lore—so much fun with Ancestry.com—and in talking with my father, I discovered that there were several ‘families before’ on my paternal side! Many of these had death as a precursor, and the ‘new’ family knew, but still…it’s jarring! Can you talk about that, please?

McKenzie Cassidy:

Here Lies a Father is loosely based on real events. Before marrying my mother, my father had relationships with three other women. He had children with all of them. My father was married to the first woman and had two children with her. I’m not sure if he was married to the other two.

I first heard about the other families when I was 18 and we didn’t start connecting until my father died when I was 21. The process of learning about my father’s life wasn’t the same as it was in the book. It was drawn out over years and wasn’t dramatic at all. We were all adults by then and had lives of our own. But, as you know, conflict is the key to a good story.

My father’s death brought us all together. I have met nearly all of my half-siblings in person, except for two. We have pretty good relationships and keep in touch on social media. Most of them didn’t know our father at all because he left when they were young. He stayed with my family the longest, which I think had to do with the fact that he was getting older and didn’t have the energy to start over again with another woman.

What shocked me the most was how my father compartmentalized everything.

He left his other children when they were in diapers and never looked back. I couldn’t understand how he did that but it explained a lot about his mental health and his issues with addiction. Secrets and guilt ate away at him. As one of his children, it made me wonder if he had been planning to leave me and my sister at some point but just never got around to it? I couldn’t imagine leaving my own children behind and never seeing them again for the rest of my life.

Like you, I also used the Ancestry website to get some answers. I even completed one of their DNA kits. I always thought my family was all Irish, but my test results showed me I was Scottish and Welsh as well. More than I ever thought. Basically, over 90% of my ancestry was from one of those two islands. These tools are great for people who are adopted or who never met one side of the family. It won’t fill in all of the gaps but it can help you develop an identity.

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

McKenzie, this has been so insightful. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Like, what’s it like publishing your first book in the midst of a pandemic, working with a smaller/indie press, what you’re working on now, fatherhood and writing…or perhaps something you’d like to ask me?

McKenzie Cassidy:

Publishing during the pandemic was disappointing because I couldn’t meet up with people in real life but we made it work online. The benefit of hosting virtual book events is that people can attend from anywhere in the world. If I hosted a book event in Florida, for example, there would be family and friends in New York who wouldn’t be able to attend. But, Zoom and other platforms helped that happen. Now that the spread of COVID is down and the vaccine is available, I can start to think about attending book fairs or other events. I’m also fully vaccinated so I’m ready to get out there.

I am working on a new project but it’s challenging to consistently write with two small children and the fact that I work from home. This project is not like Here Lies a Father at all. I would describe it as a literary speculative novel set on Mars. The only similarity to my first novel is that many of the characters are teenagers. After all of the time I spent on my first novel, and all of the emotions involved, I’m ready to move on to something else. The process of writing Here Lies a Father was cathartic and I’m putting it to bed. Thank you so much for reaching out with these questions about the book! I hope we get to meet in person one day. Stay safe and healthy. 

For more information, to connect with Mckenzie Cassidy, or to purchase a copy of HERE LIES A FATHER, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 

YOU MIGHT LIKE:

I was reminded of WINTER LOON by Susan Berhard meets the writing style of William Kent Krueger , along with Dave Patterson’s SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT.

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Learn more & donate to Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MCKENZIE CASSIDY is a writer, higher education marketer, and professor living in southwest Florida. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and HERE LIES A FATHER is his first novel.  Author photo credit:  Ali Camacho-Febles

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online.

She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

You can learn more about HERE.

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Instagram|Facebook|Twitter|Bookshop.org|Penguin Random House

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Cover and author image courtesy of Akashic Publications/Kaylie Jones and used with permission. Artistic image designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1.

Toe-tappin’ Hip-Hoppin’ Llama Glamarama is all about marching to the beat of your own drummer, celebrating differences, feeling left-out, PRIDE and more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A bright and colorful rhyming story with a powerful message about celebrating differences, LLAMA GLAMARAMA is the perfect Pride picture book for everyone.

Llama Glamarama - Cover

~Books on MondaY|Always with a Book~

Spotlight: Childrens Literature

June Author (1)

Meet a dazzlin’ dancin’ llama who learns to march to the beat of his own drum by strutting his stuff with Pride (and a funky feather boa)!

Larry the llama loves to move and groove! But will his friends all disapprove? Larry lives a slow and quiet life at the barn with all the other llamas, just the way they like it. But at night when everyone has gone to bed, Larry loves to dress up in bright costumes and DANCE! He has to hide this from the others, for fear that they won’t approve of his raucous ways. One day, he stumbles upon the Llama Glamarama, a carnival full of music, laughter, and yes – dancing! Will this vibrant celebration give Larry the pride he needs to bring his dance back home?

assorted colored chalks on wood surface

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Kirkus calls LLAMA GLAMARAMA (Scholastic/Orchard Books, June 1, 2021) by Simon James Green and illustrated by Garry Parsons,

“a toe-tapping book about being true to yourself.”

They continue,

“The energetic story is supported by colorful illustrations that read equally well from a lap or from the back of a story time group. The occasional witty aside will make caregivers and educators chuckle as they read the story again and again. The title will be on heavy rotation during Pride month, but it sets a catchy beat for all other times of the year as well. Will dance off the shelves.”

LLAMA GLAMORAMA has such a great message: we all need to be true to ourselves and celebrate the ways we are different…while also finding our own tribe.

I loved the flamboyance, the energy, colors, and fun this book brings…it’s truly like a party in a book. 

Which brings me to this: you can create your own party at home for littles [LLAMA GLAMARAMA is best-suited for kids ages 3-5 years). Here’s what you do: you get a group of likeminded kiddos (and parents) together (safely, of course, bearing in mind COVID concerns), and create an explosion of color with watercolor paints, markers, dress-up clothes, glitter (if you dare), and music. Maybe even serve or create rainbow-themed food…

The author/illustrator has put together a fabulous suggested playlist, which I am completely geeking-out over: 

  • Everybody Dance–Chic
  • He’s the Greatest Dancer–Sister Sledge
  • I’m Coming Out–Diana Ross
  • The Hokey Pokey–Ray Anthony
  • YMCA–The Village People
  • Macarnea–Los Del Rio
  • The Locomotion–Little Eva
  • Mashed Potato Tome–Dee Dee Sharp
  • Try Everything–Shakira
  • The Hustle–Van McCoy
  • The Conga–Gloria Estefan & Miami Soundtrack
  • I’m So Excited–The Pointer Sisters
  • Night Fever–The Bee Gees
  • Disco Infern0–The Trammps
  • Daddy Cool–Boney M

Full-disclosure: every one of these songs is fabulous; I know them all by heart. You can search ‘Llama Glamarama’ on Spotify for the full playlist.

brown haired kid on grass field

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Why it’s good for kids with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS):

  • Kids with CAS often feel ‘different,’ left-out.
  • Music helps! Sometimes kids with CAS can sing before they can speak
  • Expression through music can be fun, kinesthetic, and whole-body, this stimulates the nervous/vestibular system. Since CAS is a motor-neurological speech disorder, it just might stimulate some verbal expression.
  • It’s about celebrating who you are–love, acceptance, friendship abound in this bright, bold book, but it also taps into those ‘darker’ emotions.
  • Kids with CAS often have difficulty with rhyming. LLAMA GLAMARAMA taps into this in a silly, fun way.
  • It’s multi-sensory.

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Artistic image designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this #alwayswithabook #speakingofapraxia

For more information, or to purchase a copy of LLAMA GLAMARAMA, please visit:

close up photo of lgbtq letters on a person s hands

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

June Author (1)

Simon James GreenABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Simon James Green is an award-winning author and screenwriter. He contributed to the PROUD book anthology, and his successful Noah books (NOAH CAN’T EVEN, NOAH COULD NEVER, and the short story, NOAH GOES NUCLEAR) were optioned for television. ALEX IN WONDERLAND was nominated for the Carnegie medal and featured in Best Kid’s Books 2019 from The Guardian. His latest YA novel, HEARTBREAK BOYS will be published in June, along with his debut picture book, LLAMA GLAMARAMA, illustrated by Garry Parsons. Simon’s first middle-grade book, LIFE OF RILEY: BEGINNER’S LUCK publishes in September. You can learn more here. 

Garry ParsonsABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

Garry Parsons’ illustrative talent has afforded a wide and substantial list of clients in both publishing and commercial illustration.

In children’s publishing Garry has worked with many of the UK’s most talented writers and been published by leading publishing houses  including Puffin Random House,  Egmont, Hodder and  Andersen Press  including  many foreign editions and is the illustrator of the best selling Dinosaur That Pooped series. Garry’s  illustrations are regularly aired on the popular CBeebies’ “Bed Time Story” schedule. You can find him here. 

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ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warms, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in literary journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to be released as an audio book by Penguin Random House. She is represented by Catalyst Literary Management & Writer’s House.

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #apraxia #apraxiamonday #llamaglamarama #speech #rhymes #kids #childrenslit #music #dance #betruetoyourself #pride #pridemonth

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[Cover and author/illustrator images courtesy of Scholastic. Artistic image designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this #alwayswithabook #speakingofapraxia]

Helen Cooper talks about fragmented conversations, hidden histories in families, peering in windows, &other dark truths in her debut, THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR–plus miniatures and driving!

By Leslie Lindsay

How well do you really know your neighbors? How well do you know yourself? These are the overarching questions explored in this fiction debut by Helen Cooper.

WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS

ALWAYS WITH A BOOK

Helen Cooper & Leslie Lindsay in conversation

From the U.K., Helen Cooper’s background in teaching with an emphasis on Academic Writing. Her creative writing has been published in Mslexia and Writers’ Forum; she was shortlisted in the Bath Short Story Prize in 2014, and came third in the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2018. The Downstairs Neighbor is her first novel.

ABOUT THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR:

THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR (Putnam, Feb 16th 2021) is a delicious blend of family drama meets domestic suspense as an entire three-flat Georgian home is a-rumble about the whereabouts of a missing seventeen-year-old girl. Cooper’s writing is tremendous and strong, while she presents a cast of characters: a mousy woman living alone (or presumably so) with a pet hamster, the ‘perfect’ Harlows, Steph and Paul (and their missing daughter, Freya), the driving instructor and his wife.

It’s one house. Three families. Countless secrets.

But now, Freya is gone. The police are investigating matters and everyone who lives in the building may or may not have something to do with it. They are seem a little sketchy, have a bit of a motive, and then there’s this new twist about a similar situation from twenty-five years ago. Could the two somehow be linked?

THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR is a bit of a whodunit, but more so, it’s about casting blame, discovering the truth, reinvention, marital tensions, relationships—lies, secrets, crimes, and more. The cast of characters are quite eccentric, flawed, and authentic. You’ll relish in deciphering the puzzle.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Helen Cooper to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Helen! Lovely to have you. I am always curious about what ‘haunts’ a writer into a particular story. And this one is very haunting…it’s dark and clausterphobic with some lighter elements. What propelled you?


Helen Cooper:  

Thank you have having me, Leslie! The initial idea that began haunting me (and you’re right, it is just like a haunting!) was the image of a neighbor in a shared building, overhearing something unexpected from an adjacent apartment. It was sparked by a friend who told me she’d discovered (by accident!) that there was one particular spot in her flat where she could hear her upstairs neighbors crystal clear. That really struck me – the idea of suddenly having an earpiece into someone else’s life – and seemed like a great way into a story. Everybody hears or sees fragments of their neighbors’ lives sometimes, but I started thinking, what if those glimpses were disturbing or worrying, or you became obsessed with listening in, or maybe misunderstood what you’d overheard? That became the opening scene of the book, probably the one scene that hasn’t changed much through all the drafts!

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

When I write, there is often a character, place, or theme I am eager to explore—sometimes all at once! Was there a particular aspect of THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBORS that did it for you?

Helen Cooper:

Prior to that idea of overhearing your neighbors, I’d also been thinking about the hidden histories that can exist within a family: your parents’ lives before they were your parents, or your spouse’s before you were together. It’s interesting how loved ones can seem as if they were different, unknowable people before your lives became joined. And we’ve all probably got things from our past we’d rather keep to ourselves!

The two ideas seemed to relate to one another – how well you know your neighbors, and how well you know those closest to you – so that became the main theme I was keen to explore. It was ideal for psychological suspense, really, because there were so many different (and sinister!) directions I could take it in. I decided to create a neighborhood of characters who all had their own stuff going on, but who’d been living alongside one another without needing to ask too many questions. Of course, I then needed a catalyst that would upset their coexistence. The disappearance of Freya, the teenager from the top floor apartment, changes everything for the residents of her building. I wanted it to cause suspicion and conflict, not just between the neighbors, but within the family units living on each floor as well.

Leslie Lindsay:

I want to talk about the house for a bit because I adore houses and homes and architecture. It’s an old Georgian style home subdivided into three flats, with three different families. Can you describe it in more detail? Is it based on a real place? And also, so much can happen under one roof—things we are often not privy to. I think that’s what makes THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR such a voyeuristic read. Can you expand on that please?

Helen Cooper:

The house became more important with each draft I wrote. I wanted a suburban setting, so I based the story in Kingston-Upon-Thames in southwest London, where my sister used to live. At first I pictured my sister’s two-storey building as I was writing (she lived in a ground floor flat like my character Emma), but as the plot became bigger, so did the house, and I ended up with a tall Georgian townhouse, a bit like the one my mum and dad now live in. It has four levels, including a basement and an attic, and original stone floors and sash windows, which I loved picturing as I was writing. In the book, as you say, it’s converted into three apartments – so although the house is quite big, it feels intimate and claustrophobic, which was what I wanted for the story.

In earlier drafts, I had my main characters all living in the same neighborhood, but only two of the families were actually in the same house. It was my editors who suggested they could all live under one roof – and I loved that idea; I realized it would make the atmosphere even more intense. Once I’d moved everybody in together, there was great scope to have them hearing, seeing, watching, and bumping into one another. It was fun to be able to zoom in on the three families on their different floors, and to compare the reality of their lives with the judgments of their nearby neighbors. And you’re right, it does feel quite voyeuristic – this idea of peering through windows, or listening outside doors. It was great to be able to play around with the misconceptions that can bring.

Another really fun aspect is how the house has become a bit of a symbol for the book. Both my UK and US publishers put images of the house on the book jackets, with Putnam choosing one that reminded me really strongly of the doors in my parents’ home! And Hodder had a miniature version of the house built by a model-maker to photograph for the cover. My very talented friend, who owns Paisley Pig bakery, also made the house out of cake to celebrate my publication day – with chocolate instead of secrets inside the walls!

Lock your doors, close your curtains, and sink into this claustrophobic tale of families, neighbours and buried secrets. Tense and perfectly paced, this emotionally charged novel will keep you guessing right to the very end.” 

― Emma Rous

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Were there any characters—or their stories—that you had difficulty writing? Did you come to appreciate them as you developed space from the work?

Helen Cooper:

The hardest characters to write were the ones with the biggest secrets to keep! It was tricky getting the balance right between allowing the reader into their heads, and their lives, but holding certain things back and retaining the mystery. Plus, I was trying to create a scenario in which readers would be unsure who to trust or what to believe. I’ve been massively influenced by novels like My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier, which is an absolute masterclass in characters you’re constantly revising your opinion of! It was a big challenge trying to keep that ambiguity, while also making sure the characters felt authentic and relatable enough – and, yes, it was definitely harder with some than with others. But again, having the neighbors living in close quarters helped, as I could use their judgments of each other to muddy the waters. In the second half of the novel, as the major reveals start to happen, it was really satisfying to peel back the layers of the characters and show their true motivations. Some of them really came alive at that point, so then my task was to go back and make sure they felt well-rounded and engaging enough in their earlier chapters.

Leslie Lindsay:

Interestingly, my own daughter has a driving lesson tomorrow! She’s 16 and now I’m a bit terrified. In fact, there were quite a few themes in THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR that had me thinking: truth, reinvention, freedom—as in driving—were all of these intentional on your part? Do you write from an outline? Or allow the story to unfold organically?

Helen Cooper:

Ha, sorry for planting dark thoughts about driving lessons in your head!! The character of the driving instructor was one I’d had in mind for a while, actually (though my own driving instructor was not at all shady, I hasten to add!). When I started planning THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR, I realized he could fit in really well – someone who drives the same repeated routes around a neighborhood, observing things, and has a range of people in his car with him, who might all know each other or live in the same area. Chris sees the neighborhood from a unique perspective as he drives around it, but he also feels conspicuous in his branded car – and he finds himself very much embroiled in the investigation when Freya goes missing after a lesson with him.

And you make a really good point, Leslie – themes related to driving or learning to drive are highly relevant to the story, like control and protection; independence and freedom. Some of the themes were intentional, some developed as I was writing, and some I only became aware of once I’d finished! One of the fantastic things about having an editor (and I’m lucky enough to have two extremely talented ones) is that they tend to spot the themes that are hovering and encourage you to bring them out even further. And I love that stage – when the plot and the characters are all in place and you’re going back through looking for opportunities to highlight your themes.

I do broadly plan before I write, so that I know where I’m heading in terms of the central mystery of the book, and can plant clues and misdirection along the way. But there are always curve balls once I start writing, or things that don’t work in practice. With THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR, I had to plan each character’s arc and the things I needed to reveal about them as individuals, but I also had to consider the overall sequence of events and the pace of the story as a whole. I did a lot of re-drafting, and made some pretty major changes to the original plot, which required a lot of unpicking of the different storylines because they are so intertwined! So, even with plenty of planning, the book had to be taken apart and painstakingly reassembled a few times! Now I’m at a similar stage with my second book and trying to remember how on earth I did it the first time around …

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Helen, this has been so fun. Thank you for taking the time and providing a little glimpse into your process. Is there anything I should have asked but may have forgotten, or perhaps something you’d like to ask me?

Helen Cooper:

Thanks so much Leslie, I’ve really enjoyed it! Great questions! Nothing to add from me, except all the best with your own writing and thanks so much for reading THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR and inviting me onto your brilliant interview series.

For more information, to connect with Helen Cooper, or to purchase a copy of THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 

YOU MIGHT LIKE:

THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR reminded me a bit of Claire Mackintosh’s work meets Louise Candlish’s THOSE PEOPLE and OUR HOUSE.

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Learn more & donate to Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Helen Cooper is from Derby and has a MA in Creative Writing and a background in teaching English and Academic Writing. Her creative writing has been published in Mslexia and Writers’ Forum; she was shortlisted in the Bath Short Story Prize in 2014, and came third in the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2018. The Downstairs Neighbor is her first novel.

Helen has also co-authored two books on academic writing for university students.

She loves reading and running, and lives in Leicester with her partner and his daughter.

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online.

She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

You can learn more about HERE.

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Written by a nurse, illustrated by a 15-year old, and sung by a quartet of musicians, THE TEENSY WEENSY VIRUS is a fun, hands-on way to talk with children about the pandemic

By Leslie Lindsay 

Embracing the latest science, The Teensy Weensy Virus pairs simple, kid-friendly explanations with bright, colorful illustrations.

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~BOOKS ON MONDAY | ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Children‘s literature

COVID-19 is a big deal—but with all that adults have to worry about, it’s easy to overlook the pandemic’s impact on children. This book provides a great way for parents and caregivers to introduce and reinforce the importance of safety measures to children, while giving kids the opportunity to ask questions and share their feelings.

Written and designed by a pediatric nurse practitioner with expertise on the other end of the spectrum: palliative care, Sherri Rose is well-versed in health, medicine, and children. Plus, what I really love is how THE TEENSY WEENSY VIRUS offers additional resources for adults and an informative song. This helps lighten the mood as families engage with this serious topic.

I love the bright, bold illustrations, the sing-song-y lilt of this story, plus the playful nature and child-adult bonding that’s sure to happen. For all of those reasons, THE TEENSY WEENSY VIRUS is the perfect book to pair with your speech-language needs, particularly children and families on the apraxia journey.

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Tip: Sometimes children can sing before they can speak. Music allows rhythm and movement, and lend especially well with hand motions like that of the ‘itsy-bitsy spider,’ which this story is modeled after. 


For more information for how to incorporate books and music into your apraxia journey, please see the Speaking of Apraxia page on this website, or refer to SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech (Woodbine House, 2020). 


“A soothing story that helps children understand the new world of COVID-19. It provides them with simple, proven steps for taking appropriate precautions, and will ease the anxiety that has accompanied this pandemic. An added benefit is the resource list provided for parents to learn more facts about this new disease.”
—Helen Ragazzi, MD, FAAP with twenty-four years of experience as a pediatrician

For more information, to connect with Sherri Rose, or to purchase a copy of THE TEENSY WEENSY VIRUS, please visit:

ORDER LINKS: 

June Author (1)

sherri-roseABOUT THE AUTHOR:

​Sherri L. Rose grew up in Richmond, Virginia. As a retired pediatric and family nurse practitioner, as well as a hospice and palliative care nurse, she recognizes the critical importance of helping children understand what is happening during the pandemic that is currently sweeping the globe. COVID-19 has created so much stress, anxiety, grief, and loss for adults—imagine what children must think but be unable to express!

Inspired by her concerns for the smallest among us—as well as by her own significant grief over not being able to hug her grandchildren during quarantine—Sherri began to write this book to help preschoolers understand what’s going on and why all of us have to follow new rules. As a mother of three daughters and three stepdaughters, as well as a grandmother to seven, she hopes that the resources found in this book will be useful to parents and caregivers all over the world. Sherri started writing her memoirs several years prior to the pandemic, but staying at home has been quite a help, providing much more time to complete her writing projects. She plans to sell her Teensy Weensy Virus Book Series internationally, and it is her sincerest hope that her little books can help others better understand the science of, and the importance of staying safe during, this pandemic.

Besides writing, Sherri loves gardening, reading, singing (she participates in her church’s virtual choir), playing the piano, cooking, handwork, and playing Scrabble with her fabulous husband, George. While she loves being at home with her husband, she misses seeing and hugging many of her other family members—like so many others who are attempting to follow the CDC guidelines regarding social distancing during this difficult time.

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir,4E6296D9-881B-44B2-856D-00A0BFAE2C12 MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

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#alwayswithabook #theteensyweensyvirus #pandemic #parenting #families #kids #speech #music #songs #musicplay #children #apraxiafamilies #apraxiofspeech #speechlanguage #teaching #readingwithkids 

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Elizabeth Brundage discusses her fabulously dark and mysterious new novel, THE VANISHING POINT, how she enjoys investigating conflict from several angles, stylistic choices, existential questions & more

By Leslie Lindsay

A spare, unflinching, gorgeously rendered tale of intersections and cross-sections of our lives, the memories, jealousies, secrets, and more.

I am swooning over THE VANISHING POINT (Little, Brown May 18 2021) by Elizabeth Brundage. It’s eerie, evocative, entangling and pulls at a knotted thread of mystery. Here it has all of the hallmarks for gorgeous prose: it’s emotionally resonant leaving the reader with residual feelings and thoughts while at the same time generating forward momentum, it’s stunning.

Julian Ladd and Rye Adler are photography students–and roommates, briefly—during a time while attending an exclusive workshop, mentored by Brodsky, a photography great. It’s mostly men, but there’s a woman, too, Magda, a Polish immigrant who has spent most of her life in the U.S. Both men are fascinated and captivated by her, but no one can seem to ‘have’ her.

Julian and Rye’s lives diverge; they take different paths. Julian becomes ensconced in the pharmaceutical industry and Rye pursues photography. In fact, he’s at the top of his game, snapping photographs of celebrities and the like.

But now someone’s dead–at least presumed to be–there is no body, but speculation swirls: was it an accident? Suicide?

“A dark and moody literary mystery, centered on three photographers caught in a love triangle, Brundage’s stylish novel probes the relentless demands of real-world problems on artists and their work.”

New York Times Book Review


Traversing decades and exploring such themes of our changing world, about the denouncement of relationships, the fleeting images of our past and even our present. THE VANISHING POINT is highly sophisticated in theme and motifs, exploring those intersections–and cross-sections–of our society from homelessness to the immigrant experience, elitism, addiction, secrets, jealousies, motivation, and so much more. It would almost do the work injustice for me to try to summarize the plot or even my feelings about the book–just read it–you won’t be sorry.

THE VANISHING POINT is somber and stark but glittering with the most gorgeous and unfiltered prose with sharp descriptions and hugely perceptive.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Elizabeth Brundage back to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Elizabeth, I am so, so in love with this book. I mean, it’s stunning. Not only is your prose razor-sharp and brilliant, but the themes are just so spot-on for this period in history. I know you had hoped to write a story about how photography serves as a metaphor—and it does (and you were successful in doing just that in THE VANISHING POINT)—but was there more to your inspiration? Other details and aspects you wanted to explore?

Elizabeth Brundage:

Leslie, thank you for your kind words about the book, they mean so much to me, truly. 

I guess it was about four years ago when I started taking pictures every day as a method of teaching myself how to see.  Walker Evans famously said that it was the seeing that mattered to him, that his eye distinguished his work, not his camera.  That was my north star in writing this novel.  Trying to see what is real for these characters in an age of visual deception.  I wanted to find the real vs. the virtual. Who are we at this moment in time?  What are the things that bring us joy, the things that damage us or threaten to destroy us, the things that make us human?

This is a story about a love triangle that develops between three photographers, Rye, Magda, and Julian, who meet at an exclusive photography workshop in their twenties, when their ambitions are unrestrained and uncorrupted.  Over time, the realities of life and the difficulty of making it in a highly competitive field inevitably alters their dreams.  I was interested in the competitive dynamic that exists between artists; a dangerous rivalry develops between Julian and Rye that forever underscores their lives.  Magda realizes all too quickly that she does not share the same opportunities as her male counterparts and, faced with many challenges, she makes a choice that casts a shadow on her destiny. 

When her son, Theo, starts using heroin, it feels like a betrayal of her conscientious mothering, and her life is suddenly, radically, changed – not unlike so many families in this country that have been caught in the grip of the opioid crisis, including my own.  I knew I needed to write about it. Our kids are at the mercy of our times – I wanted to show this with Theo. Addiction is a symptom of a much larger problem and you can’t really isolate it. Various questions came up for me.  Why is this happening to so many of us?  Who is ultimately responsible, if anyone?  What are some of the untruths, the mythology, associated with withdrawal?  How are parents unwittingly complicit in the decisions their children make?  Magda knows her life depends on saving Theo.

Photo by Csongor Kemu00e9ny on Pexels.com

Photography was useful to me as a thematic resource, allowing me to explore how each character’s unique vision and voice is a direct response to the world we’re living in right now. The novel, ultimately, is about perception – how we can all look at the same picture and see something entirely different depending on our vantage point, our frame of reference. 

We live in a visual world; a constant onslaught of images on screens everywhere.  I started to wonder how it alters our perceptions, our sense of who we are.  It’s true that, with the easy accessibility of our iPhones, we’re taking more pictures than ever before – but it doesn’t mean we are actually seeing.  We’re posting curated versions of ourselves, our lives, as evidence of our happiness – but that doesn’t make them true.  So there’s a sort of deception going on that we’re all participating in – a deception of the self – a virtual reality vs. what is real.  I wanted to get at what is real in this novel.

Photo credit: Leslie Lindsay #alwayswithabook #bookstagram

“At Rye Adler’s funeral, they didn’t bury his body – or the rivalry of his closest enemy.  A gripping literary thriller by the author of the “wrenching and exhilarating” All Things Cease to Appear.”

Wall Street Journal

Leslie Lindsay:

You are an accomplished photographer yourself. I know it began bit as a ‘method acting’ when writing THE VANISHING POINT—I think you wanted to explore what it was like to get behind the lens. I’ve loved observing your evolution on Instagram. Your photos are so strikingly haunting and sparse, and rarely include people—much like one of your characters. Like you, I find a ‘soul’ or presence in photography void of humans. Can you talk about this, please?

Elizabeth Brundage:

I like this idea of the soul coming through in some of the pictures we take.  I’m thinking that the soul is light.  And sometimes you can find a certain glow in photographs, some inexplicable and ephemeral manifestation that seems to suggest the idea of God….

I wanted to consider, in very general terms, God as an idea. The question of God comes up throughout the novel for almost all of the characters. Even Julian, who is not a believer, admits to noticing a mysterious light in some of his photographs of empty lots or vacant land.  There are enigmas in life.  I’m interested in writing about things that are not easily explained and yet are entrenched in our perceptions, our collective consciousness.  What do we make of that special light?  What do we bring to the image?  What do we invent?  Are our interpretations pure or an amalgamation of ideas and historical rhetoric?  What do we believe in?

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Here’s what I love about writing and photography: they are both storytelling mediums. They evoke emotion, stir memory, and more. And, as you hint at in THE VANISHING POINT, photography is fleeting; capturing a moment in time never to be had again. While writing—and its longevity—is a little different, it might be said that it too changes as the reader evolves. That’s why when we re-read something, it might strike differently. Can you expand on that, a bit?

Elizabeth Brundage:

I love to reread books.  When you first pick up a novel you read it as quickly as you can to see how it resolves.  With some books you want to go back and reread certain passages because the writing is so exquisite.  Again, it’s all about perception and where you’re at in your life at the time you’re reading something.  There are books I started years ago and set aside and went back to later and found them to be incredible.  I think it’s important to be open to novels, to forego your expectations and let the writer take you someplace you probably weren’t expecting. 

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you talk a little about your writing process? I know you did a ton of research for THE VANISHING POINT—reading about photography in textbooks, memoirs, etc. Do you research as you write, do it all ‘up front,’ or sort of hybrid? What elements of craft do you struggle with? What do you feel are your strong suits?

Elizabeth Brundage:

With this book in particular I did a lot of research up front while the characters were incubating inside my head.  I read as much as I could on the subject and practice of photography.  I wanted to gain a better understanding of how photographers see.  I studied the history of the medium, and was able to interview several professional photographers.  I attended the PhotoPlus Expo in NYC, which was an amazing experience.  I started taking pictures on a daily basis, which helped me to better understand the mindset of a person who makes countless images, who captures the world inside a frame.

The frame is interesting.  What’s inside of it; what is just beyond its boundaries?  And what is our frame of reference in life?  How does each of us develop a world-view?  For some of us, it’s easier to crop the frame, to choose what’s inside of it, while, for others, the lens offers an unedited landscape.  I read so many fascinating books about the photographer’s process, many of which I’ve referenced in the acknowledge pages.

When I’m writing a novel, I think of my keyboard as the keys to a piano.  All of the notes have to add up to something.  I think of the story I’m telling as a visual opera.  I try to imagine it as if it will be read in one sitting.  There is the story that builds like a hive around a central dilemma.  There is the sense of place, the imagery, and the music of the words, the language.  I attempt to create a world that you can vividly see in your head as you read.  This is partially the hungry filmmaker in me.  As I’ve become more experienced as a novelist I realize that every sentence, every decision, matters.  Words.  Images.  The sound of the sentences as they stack up on the page. 

What elements of craft do I struggle with?  I tend to write pretty dark fiction.  I struggle with the idea of genre.  I find myself always writing a story that is, at its core, tethered to the thriller or mystery genre. But in truth I am not consciously trying to “thrill” people or make them turn the page.  I see life as both mysterious and thrilling.  When I’m working on a novel, I’m investigating a conflict of some sort from several angles. Every story I write is generated by philosophical and existential questions about who we are as people and what we’re doing here on this earth.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

In terms of structure—sort of at a micro-level—I noted the lack of quotation marks. At first, I didn’t notice, then it became a bit jarring. Finally, I liked it. It flowed. It felt more organic. Can you tell us about that decision? Was it intentional?

Elizabeth Brundage:

It’s a stylistic choice.  Ideally, when the reader is immersed in the world of the book, quotation marks are not necessary. I trust the reader’s ability to understand what is happening, to be invested in the characters, without having to be told when they are speaking. 

Leslie Lindsay:

I love how some of these places you mention in THE VANISHING POINT are so hallucinatory, so dreamlike, almost. They are a bit wonky—fragments and fractals—of underpasses and communes, backyards, abandoned places, seaside cottages, parked trucks. I love everyone one of them. Do they exist outside of your imagination? 

Elizabeth Brundage:

I think they are fragments, perhaps, of what I see inside an imaginary setting.  As in a photograph, a few remarkable details can describe a place – almost like the recollection of a memory, or the fragments of dreams, you can build a story from there. I try to use images that viscerally bring to mind a time and place so that the reader can fully inhabit the scene. 

Leslie Lindsay:

Elizabeth, I loved this so much. Thank, you, thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten, or perhaps something you’d like to ask me?

Elizabeth Brundage:

I just want to thank you for having me here today, and for your interest in this novel, and also for your love and support of so many writers in the work you do.  Your enthusiasm, your generosity, your genuine spirit – I am so very grateful for it. 

Photo Credit: Leslie Lindsay @leslielindsay1 #bookstagram #bookflatlay #alwayswithabook

For more information, to connect with Elizabeth Brundage, or to purchase a copy of THE VANISHING POINT, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 

YOU MIGHT LIKE:

I was reminded, in part, of the work of Anita Shreve meets Thomas Christopher Greene (especially THE PERFECT LIAR), with perhaps a touch of Meredith Hall (BENEFICIENCE and WITHOUT A MAP)

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others is one small way to engage with the literary community.

Author Photo Credit: Edward Acker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elizabeth Brundage is the author of four previous novels, including All Things Cease to Appear, which was a Wall Street Journal best mystery and the basis for the Netflix film Things Heard and Seen. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a James Michener Award, and she attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.  Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Witness, New Letters, the Greensboro Review, and elsewhere.  She has taught at several colleges and universities, most recently at Skidmore College, where she was a visiting writer-in-residence.  Brundage lives with her family in Albany, New York.

Photo credit: J. Lindsay

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

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Always with a Book at work #bookflatlay #bookstagram @leslielindsay1

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others is one small way to engage with the literary community.

Apraxia Monday but on a Talking Tuesday: Leslie Lindsay, Author of Speaking of Apraxia, Narrates Audiobook

By Leslie Lindsay

You guys! May has been a huge month for me. I am so grateful, honored, and humbled to have had the opportunity to record the audio version of Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

A Timeline of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA:

  • When my first-born wasn’t speaking like other children her age, I worried. When her pediatrician said, “I think she might need an assessment from a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I gulped. Really?! Not my kid.
  • Just shy of her third birthday, she was diagnosed with moderate-severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS).
  • What is CAS?
  • Quick definition: a neurologically-based motor speech disorder in which kids know what they want to say, but have have difficulty organizing the movements needed for speech. It is not something kids outgrow, but requires frequent, intense speech language therapy, often for many years.
  • I wanted a book. Few were available, with the exception of some graduate-level textbooks, a chapter here and there, a mention in parenting or child development book. I wanted a book for families navigating this elusive and complex disorder.
  • What I did: I wrote the book. It wasn’t easy. It took years of research, a ton of reading, writing, networking, rejections…more.
  • The original book was released in 2012 by Woodbine House, a premier special needs publisher.
“Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech” (Woodbine House, March 2012)
  • Fast-forward many years. My editor at Woodbine reached out and suggested it was time for a 2nd edition. We wanted to update websites, quotes, resources, follow-up on some of the children mentioned in the first edition. We wanted more apps and technology, suggestions for things you can do at home, pandemic-related stuff. We did that. It, too, was a ton of work.
  • The second edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (December 2020) was met with a huge amount of excitement and interest and was a #1 Amazon bestseller in its category.
  • And THEN….Penguin Random House said they wanted to turn it into an AUDIOBOOK!! I was flabbergasted. I didn’t even know this was in the works! Well, I did…but then heard NOTHING for months. I figured it was a NO-GO. But it was a PLEASANT and DELIGHFUL surprise.
  • What’s more, Penguin Random House suggested we record in May, which is Better Speech & Hearing Month/Apraxia Awareness Month and Mother’s Day and I thought, what BETTER time to do this! It seemed the planets were aligning.
  • It took 5+ days (and probably a total of 30 hours) of recording. I worked at a recording studio in downtown Chicago and was consistently impressed with the sheer teamwork and all of the hands involved in the production, from the office manager to the studio owner, sound engineer, director (via Zoom in Brooklyn), the producer (in California), and the editor. It takes a village!
  • I had to pop back into the recording studio one last time to record what the industry calls “pick-ups.” That is, if there was a little bit of sound that was picked up (a growling stomach, cord movement, a sigh, swallow, throat-clearing). Sometimes I said something similar to what was printed, but not quite. “Interpret’ versus ‘interrupt,’ for example, or I said someone’s last name incorrectly. The editor listened to ALL 1133 minutes of recording, followed along with printed text, and then pointed out where I veered ‘off-script;’ we fixed it.
  • SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech will be available in audio from Penguin Random House July 6th. You can pre-order now. It includes a downloadable appendix will all kinds of great resources.

Learn More:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

Let’s be social! 

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Memoir Monday May Roundup with an emphasis on Motherhood & Mental Illness

By Leslie Lindsay

May is all about growth. Spring is in full bloom; and it’s a time for recognition and celebration, but it can also be a loaded month. Over thirty years ago this month, my mother devolved into psychosis. We were estranged starting in my tweens, until her suicide over six years ago. How does that leave me to mother my own daughters? Would I fall victim to the same genetic legacy? Could I break the cycle of poor mother-daughter relationships? And how do I celebrate Mother’s Day with no mother? How did I celebrate my mother when she was alive and not capable of being much of one?

“I am so grateful to have this conversation with you. It means a great deal respond to someone who has so carefully read my work and I’m thankful to have this opportunity to reflect in this way.”

-Vince Granta, EVERYTHING’S FINE

For the entire month of May, I’ve featured some really wise and thoughtful authors–they’ve courageously shared their relationships with their mothers, opened up about their deep connections with their daughters, lead us into dark corners of their grieving souls, but also how they’ve come up for air, found hope, and healed amongst the shattered pieces. There’s growth here, understanding, empathy, forgiveness. And so much more. We talk about memory, emotion, the art & craft of writing, coincidences, anger, and it was nothing short of transformational.

“I loved your intelligent questions and the process, as well. I so appreciate your generosity, especially to a first time author: It was such a thrill to see the post up in digital print.”

-Deborah Shepherd, SO HAPPY TOGETHER

If you missed something, it’s easy to read our conversations. Just click of the interview (“in conversation,”) near the date on the book image you’re interested in, and you’re in!

Sharing really is caring. If you read something you love, please share it by posting on your preferred social media outlet. Getting the word out on such a tender and vulnerable aspect our life is why we do what we do. It matters. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @leslielindsay1. Most authors featured have similar accounts. Please, re-circulate. It’s a kindness we really appreciate.

“Your grasp of the book was a delight. I think I found the perfect reader for this work.”

Maryanne O’Hara, LITTLE MATCHES

HERE THEY ARE….

“This is incredible! I always love chatting with you, Leslie. You ask the best questions.”

–Mary Kubica, LOCAL WOMAN MISSING

“Oh my gosh, Leslie. What a beautiful piece of art you turned this into!”

-Tori Starling, CRAZY FREE

You Might Like:

“…wonderful, inventive, and engaging questions from such a perspicacious individual. [She] showed my mother such kindness and thoughtfulness.”

–Claire Phillips, A ROOM WITH A DARKER VIEW

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speechsoon to become an audiobook from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

“Leslie, you are just the best.”

–Nicole Bokat

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