Who knew Grand Central Terminal had a defunct art school? Fiona Davis explores art, history, and the intersection of the 1970s NYC in THE MASTERPIECE

By Leslie Lindsay 

Gorgeous book inside and out (total cover crush!) about blazingly unique–and strong–woman separated by two different time periods and combining art, history, NYC, and a bit of woman’s lib. Fiona is joining us to chat about Depression-era art, real-life inspiration behind her fictional characters, how story and art is so important in times of unrest, and an inkling of her next book. 

The Masterpiece

Fiona Davis has wow-ed me once again with THE MASTERPIECE (Dutton, August 7 2018), which I feel is exactly that–her best yet. What she excels at is in this and also THE DOLLHOUSE (2016) and THE ADDRESS (2017) is so apparent: meticulous research makes for a rich reading experience; plus dazzling prose, an element of mystery, and intriguing characters.

It’s 1928 and Clara Darden is a single woman artist living in NYC and teaching at the little-known Grand Central School of Art (which existed between 1924-1944 at the Grand Central Terminal). Clara is an up-and-coming illustrator but many of her contemporaries don’t consider illustrations ‘real art.’ But it’s her dream. She wants to create art for the cover of Vogue and yet she’s not sure if she can break in. And then there’s the Depression. But little will keep her from her dream.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, another woman, Virginia, is met with a new challenge. Newly divorced and having lost her prestigious Upper East Side status, she and her 19-year old daughter, Ruby are struggling to make ends meet. Virginia takes a job at the dangerous and unsavory Grand Central Terminal in the information booth. It’s a landmark building and the bones are gorgeous–if only it could be spiffed up. Then, Virginia learns the building’s very existence is threatened as developers want to construct a skyscraper in its place.

These two plots braid together in a sweeping narrative I found fully transportive. I loved Davis’s prose, the blend of art, history, and fact and fiction. But also the strength and tenacity of women over the years.

THE MASTERPIECE simply glittered and had me thinking about the role of art in challenging times, talking about the book with others, and thinking about how woman have shaped the world.

Leslie Lindsay:

Fiona, welcome back! I am so in awe with this story. I love the time periods but also the infusion of art. I know the idea for this setting came directly from one of your readers. Can you tell us a little more about that? And how does this reader feel about THE MASTERPIECE?

Fiona Davis:

Thank you so much for your kinds words. A couple of years ago, I was doing an author talk for THE DOLLHOUSE in Westchester County, NY, gushing about my love of old New York City buildings, and afterwards an audience member came up to me and offered to get me a behind-the-scenes tour of Grand Central Terminal. I said “You bet!” On the appointed day, we tagged along with a group of architectural students, roaming up to the catwalks overlooking the concourse and into the “war room” where they handle crises like 9/11 and the Northeast blackout of 2003. It was tremendous. I’m looking forward to seeing my insightful reader at the release day author launch at Rizzoli’s Bookstore in New York, and thanking her in person.

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Leslie Lindsay:

The Grand Central School of Art was indeed a real place. I had no idea! Art is ultimately made to be enjoyed by the masses, but it is often created in isolation. So when you think about the Grand Central Terminal filled to the brim with travelers,  one senses energy, an inspiration and yet, cloistered away are the artists. Can you talk a little about the process of creating art and how writing fills that need?

Fiona Davis:

You’ve gotten right to the heart of it, and I love that juxtaposition: this illustrious art school perched on the top floor of the Terminal, with thousands of commuters and travelers roaming the concourse below. The importance of the arts in our lives is a theme that I’m passionate about, and in my books, I’ve enjoyed incorporating art forms like bebop jazz (THE DOLLHOUSE), architecture (THE ADDRESS) and commercial versus fine art (THE MASTERPIECE). For me personally, writing is an art form that continues to challenge and delight. I work in isolation, but then get to go out into the world and meet readers, librarians, and bookstore staff and get inspired all over again.

Leslie Lindsay:

Of course, in THE MASTERPIECE, Clara experiences the Depression, and art becomes a frivolous luxury. While we’re not exactly in a depression now, the social and political climate is strained. How can one reconcile? Is art still important?

Fiona Davis:

If anything, art is even more crucial during times of economic or political crisis. While art may have seemed extraneous during the Depression, when there were bread lines and tent cities, the artists who arose from that era – de Kooning, Gorky, Krasner contributed to and changed the modern art scene immeasurably. Today in New York City, artists are struggling to define and depict the current world order, and doing so in an economic climate that makes finding an affordable apartment almost impossible. A one-two punch, but the filmmakers, dancers, artists, and actors are a tough lot, and their messages and mediums will carry on, as they have for centuries.


“With richly drawn characters living in two storied eras, there is much to be enchanted by.”

— Kirkus Reviews


Leslie Lindsay:  

I’m curious about your characters—Clara Darden and Oliver and Levon. Were they inspired by real people? How about Virginia and Ruby? Is there a particular character—or time period—you felt most aligned with?

Fiona Davis:

Clara Darden and Levon Zakarian are indeed inspired by real-life faculty members from the Grand Central School of Art: Helen Dryden (an illustrator who did over 90 Vogue covers in the 1910s and 1920s) and Arshile Gorky (an abstract expressionist). They both were bold, brash, impetuous artists whose lives were marred with great tragedy. Oliver, who’s Clara’s love interest, is made up, as are Virginia and Ruby. I have to say that Clara is the character who I’d love to be – her take-no-prisoners attitude is one that I’d love to cultivate, being more of an introverted, geeky writer-type myself. Virginia is dear to my heart, as she’s struggling to figure her life out after suffering a number of setbacks. And she’s doing it imperfectly – I can relate!

GrandCentralDetail

Leslie Lindsay:

THE MASTERPIECE is your third book and all of them have focused on little known gems of NYC. Do you see yourself continuing to write NYC-inspired historical fiction or have you considered exploring another area with historical merit?

Fiona Davis:

I’m hard at work on my next book, set in the Chelsea Hotel during the McCarthy Era, from the point of view of an actress and a playwright. The Chelsea is a true New York City gem, which for over a century has been filled with eccentric poets, playwrights, rock stars, and icons, both famous and infamous. I think it would be fun to explore another city at some point – an excuse to relocate to London for a month, perhaps?

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s the last book you read? Movie you’ve watched? Or daydream you’ve conjured? Because we all need story, no matter what mode it’s ingested.

Fiona Davis:

I agree with you about the power of a narrative – it’s how we make sense of the world. The upsurge of all of these wonderful limited-run series on Netflix is a perfect example of the current-day hunger for storytelling. The last book I read was THE SUMMER WIVES, by Beatriz Williams, who’s a virtuoso in the genre of historical fiction. Reading her books is like taking a master class, as they’re filled with snappy dialogue, three-dimensional characters, and a plot that surprises without being confusing. Beautifully pulled off.

Leslie Lindsay:

Fiona, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Fiona Davis:

We covered a lot of ground. I’m honored and thrilled to be included, and thank you for everything you do to connect authors and readers.

tilt shift photo of coloring materia s
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE MASTERPIECE, please visit:

Order Links: 

Fiona Davis high resABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Her debut novel, The Dollhouse, was published in 2016 and a year later she hit the national bestseller list with The Address. Her third historical novel, The Masterpiece, will be published in August 2018. She’s a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City. Learn more at www.fionadavis.net.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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#historicalfiction #authtorinterview #NYC #amreading 

[Cover and author image courtesy of Dutton/Random House and used with permission. Images of the interior of Grand Central Terminal retrieved from author’s website on 8.2.18]. 

 

What if Students could choose their learning material rather than be ‘told’ how and what to learn? Educator & Mom Katie Novak Shares

By Leslie Lindsay 

BACKTOSCHOOL SERIES:

back bus education school
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

School would be so much better if students could select their learning material from a buffet, rather than a casserole. Educator and mom, Katie Novak, describes this and more in LET THEM THRIVE. 

When I was a kid, I hated math. I never understood the ‘why,’ to many of the the concepts. It wasn’t put into real-world perspective (at least for me when I was a kid). And then I read Katie Novak’s description of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in her book, LET THEM THRIVE: A Playbook for Helping Your Child Succeed in School and Life and it made perfect sense. Let Them Thrive_cover (1).jpg

Learners (even adult learners) need to understand the ‘why’ of learning for it to be meaningful. That’s what the UDL calls the ‘affective’ piece of learning. Recruit their interest. The second piece is ‘the recognition network,’ that is, the ‘what’ of learning; what they need to know and the third component is the ‘strategic network,’ activating and action plan to express the new information in a meaningful manner.

THRIVE is teaching kids to be effective life-long learners; it’s about the *process* of learning rather than the outcomes (memorization that may not have any lasting meaning or significance to the student).

Novak’s writing style is conversational, approachable, and accessible for just about anyone, but I felt THRIVE might be best geared toward teachers or parents who *are* teachers. Home schooling parents could benefit, too. Novak presents some really great charts and tips for breaking down the UDL into understandable terms and presenting them into real-world examples.

THRIVE is a great parent-teacher primer for the back-to-school season and will give you a framework for teaching at home and supplementing lessons your children in school.

Please join  me in welcoming Katie Novak, Ed.D. to the author interview series. 

Leslie Lindsay: 

What inspired you to write Let Them Thrive: A Playbook for Helping Your Child Succeed in School and in Life?

Katie Novak: 

As an educator, I see the value (and the academic results!) of embracing all our kids exactly the way they are. When I walk into classrooms in districts who embrace personalized learning through UDL, I see kids who are motivated, resourceful and self-directed. They are thriving. This is because in schools where students are thriving, the systems have embraced a framework called Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The basic mantra of UDL is, “Our kids aren’t disabled or broken. Our schools are.” Because UDL is endorsed nationally, it drives me up the wall that some teachers and kids aren’t experiencing the power of that framework. There are too many kids who don’t like school or who struggle academically, socially, or emotionally and schools aren’t meeting their needs. It doesn’t have to be this way. For years, my lens has been trying to transform schools to help them best support their teachers and students, but the transformation isn’t happening fast enough. It’s time to turn out Team Momma, as together, we can make sure all our kids get what they deserve. I wrote Let Them Thrive to let parents know that every child has a right to a personalized education and we have a right to demand it. So, game on!

adorable blur bookcase books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What was the defining moment that inspired you to adopt the Universal Design for Learning framework?

Katie Novak:

I became a teacher because I believe in the power of learning. I believe that any child, and any teacher can be wildly successful if we create conditions for nurture and we provide them with relevant, authentic, meaningful opportunities to learn. I believed this even when I was assigning the same book to the entire class and requiring them to write essays. I believed this when I gave long multiple choice tests that required students to memorize information that was at their fingertips on their phone. I simply didn’t know any other way to teach because I was taught that my job was to follow a script and teach a curriculum. When I first learned about UDL, I suddenly felt free to be creative, to provide options and choices for students to make their own meaning, and right away, their achievement soared.


“While Universal Design for Learning has changed how many educators think about teaching students with disabilities, Let Them Thrive brings UDL’s inclusive message to a broader, general-education audience. This is a very useful tool for helping parents understand UDL and explain it to educators, administrators and policymakers.”

– Ricki Sabia, parent advocate and Founder, National UDL Task Force


Leslie Lindsay: 

What are some practical ways parents can apply the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework at home?

Katie Novak: 

For life lessons: We have two rules in our house: Be nice to everyone you meet and work hard. That’s it. We tell our four little loves, “We don’t care if you get good grades, are funny, or are athletic.” When there are infractions, which there will be, it’s tempting to lay down a consequence, like taking away an iPhone or sitting down for a “family talk.” But remember your goal. For us, our goal is that our kids need to be good people. If your kids are mean to each other, have them troubleshoot. You could start with, “I know that you frustrate each other. It’s okay to be frustrated with people. Let’s talk about some options for how you can cope when you’re frustrated so you don’t take it out on each other.” Share the options that work for you and then provide opportunities to practice. For example, “Maybe deep breathing would help. Even professional athletes use it. Maybe we could grab a book about meditation or you could watch a video or we could sign up for a class together? Which one would work best for you?” You can see how together you can own a goal and consistently choose-do-and review until you figure out the strategies that work best.

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For academic lessons. If your kids attend a school where homework is assigned, it may be the bane of your existence. Kids come home exhausted and they want to lay on the couch, play with toys, run around outside, or just stare at the fridge and say, “Mooooom, there’s nothing to eat!” Now, we can require homework in a one-size-fits-all, traditional approach by saying, “You will sit at the table and won’t do anything else until you finish.” But UDL acknowledges that students need options and choices to meet goals. So, start off by asking, “What do you think would be the best way for you to complete your homework? Do you think it would be helpful to do it all at one time? Or should we break it up into tasks? Do you want to work on it alone or collaborate together? Would you be more comfortable sitting on the couch or doing it outside by the pool?” The possibilities are endless. Allow your kids to make a choice, follow through, and then check-in and reflect. “How did your choices allow you to meet your goal?” If they made a good choice – stock with the fridge with something special. If they were off task, that’s no big deal. You can respond with, “No big deal. Now you know that’s not the best choice. Let’s try something else!” It’s all about teaching kids how to become learners!

Leslie Lindsay: 

You list several ways parents can encourage schools to apply the UDL framework. What are some ways parents can manage resistance from school administrators, etc?

Katie Novak: 

As an educator, I believe that every educator is trying to do the best with what they have. If administrators are resistant, it’s because they haven’t yet learned why it’s important, what it is, and how to implement it. UDL requires a transformation of the system. It’s moving schools from being deficit-based (what’s wrong with our kids) to asset-based (what are the amazing strengths of our babies and how we can optimize their learning). Share articles with them or share books and if you still get push-back, call me. I can definitely hook you up with a UDL advocate, article, or data from my own district that will empower administrators to take the first step. I can promise you this – all administrators want students to be successful. When you can shape that path to UDL, they will be.

Leslie Lindsay:

How can parents partner with teachers in creating an effective learning environment where all 3 networks of the brain (affective, recognition, strategic) are activated?

Katie Novak: 

Teachers love parent support! Share what makes your child amazing and what they are interested in when you send a welcome email. Try something like, “My daughter Aylin is an amazing human. She loves art, play guitar and is obsessed with the Sharer Family on YouTube. She lights up when you give her compliments and don’t be surprised if she brings you little presents like flowers and barrettes, because gifts are her love language. She loves when she is given options and choices to draw, create, and act out things and she’ll do almost anything for a sticker. I’m so excited that she gets to share the year with you. I’d love to know a little more about you. What makes you tick, and what’s your favorite morning drink… I may have to just stop by some time with a treat.” This not only help the teacher to know what makes your child amazing, but you’re also activating their affective network and helping to motivate them. Also, if you want teachers to learn about UDL, you need to provide them with options and choices to learn more about it. For example, you could ask them if they prefer to learn through books, articles, or videos and then share a sample of resources so they can learn about UDL in their own way. Lastly, we want to ensure that UDL translates into action and that our kids have options and choices to learn. To do this, advocate for teachers to receive professional development in UDL because the best way you can support our amazing teachers is to advocate for universally designed learning for them as well. The power of learning, and UDL, will transform our homes and our schools and together, I have no doubt that [parent]-power can make this a reality!

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of LET THEM THRIVE: please visit: 

Order Links:

Katie_Novak_headshotABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katie Novak is the Assistant Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School
District in Massachusetts and a leading expert on Universal Design for Learning
implementation. With 13 years of experience in teaching and administration and an earned
doctorate in curriculum and teaching, Novak designs and presents workshops both nationally and internationally focusing on implementation of UDL.
She is the author of three other books: UDL Now!, Universally Designed Leadership (with
Kristan Rodriguez), and UDL in the Cloud (with Tom Thibodeau).
You can find her online at katienovakudl.com and on Twitter as @KatieNovakUDL.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#backtoschool #parenting #education 

Let Them Thrive_cover (1)

[Cover and author image courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission].

T. Greenwood transforms the true-crime story that inspired Nabokov’s LOLITA in this this shattering gorgeous novel, RUST & STARDUST

By Leslie Lindsay 

Darkly brilliant imagined rendering of Florence “Sally” Horner and her mysterious disappearance in 1948 at the hands of a ‘moral abuser,’ RUST AND STARDUST glitters. She’s here chatting about her charming Golden Retriever, Phoebe, the rabbit hole of research, how she cranked out the first draft of RUST & STARDUST in only a month (and then revised for many more), and so much else.

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It’s 1948 in Camden, New Jersey when shy, lonely, awkward Florence “Sally” Horner is given a dare from a group of girls to steal something from a Woolworths. She’s desperate to join their club and so goes along with them. Just as she’s leaving the store, a man (Frank LaSalle) grabs her and catches her stealing. He says he’s with the FBI and she must go to their headquarters to confess her sins. But really, Frank LaSalle is fresh out of prison.

As the story unfolds, Frank’s lies become deeper and more brutal. Sally is scared but feels she has no way out of her situation. He takes her from Camden to the shore, Baltimore, Dallas, and California. RUST & STARDUST is a true story that has been fictionalized by the author to give it a novel appeal.

And so you wonder…the connection between this book and Nabakov’s LOLITA? The way I understand it, Nabakov was struggling with the manuscript that would eventually become LOLITA while Sally’s case was exposed in the media. It caught his attention and inspired characters in his book.

RUST & STARDUST is gritty but not obscene. Greenwood takes a gentle hand with the brutal aspects of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in the narrative. Readers get a sense of what is going on, but never is it blatant. Her words flow and glimmer and while the tale is disturbing, I felt such a soft spot for Sally and worried for her fate.

Greenwood’s research and intrigue with the case is evident in these pages, but so, too is her imagination. We ‘meet’ a colorful cast of characters, including a traveling circus at The Good Luck Motor Court in Texas as well as migrant workers in a citrus field in California. I found I simply could not put this book down. The chapters are short and told from the POV of several characters fully bringing the narrative–and Sally–to life.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Tammy Greenwood back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Oh, this book! It’s shattering and gorgeous and ruinous and everything else. I know you researched this story for over two years. But I have to ask—what prompted your interest?

T. Greenwood:

I was introduced to Sally Horner as a teenager when I read Lolita for the first time, though I didn’t realize it. A reference to her is embedded in one of Nabokov’s famous parentheticals: (Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?). It wasn’t until nearly twenty-five years later when I read an essay by crime writer, Sarah Weinman on Sally (and the connection to Lolita), that I encountered her again. Sally’s story, the tragedy of it, resonated with me, and I tumbled down the rabbit hole of research.

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you lead us into your research a bit? Where did you start and how did you stop yourself from getting too entrenched and still allow the fiction to flow?

T. Greenwood:

I began by looking at every archived newspaper article I could find about the kidnapping. I also studied genealogy sites and census records to determine familial relationships and addresses and occupations of her family members. I haunted obituaries.

This novel covers a large geographical terrain; La Salle took Sally from Camden, N.J. to Atlantic City to Baltimore, then on to Dallas and eventually San Jose. In the 1970s when I was a little girl, my family often drove to Atlantic City in the summer, where I performed (singing and dancing) on the Steel Pier. I have always wanted to write about this old Atlantic City, and so the fact that Frank and Sally spent time there felt almost serendipitous to me. I did a tremendous amount of research about Camden. (I am forever indebted to a marvelous historical website) I read extensively about the neighborhood in Baltimore where she was enrolled at a Catholic School. I also studied the history of their Dallas neighborhood, discovering that the traveling circus often stayed at their trailer park when they were passing through town. I also learned about a neighboring night club which was host to a shady cast of characters at that time. And then, when I had exhausted every resource I could find, I gave myself permission to fill in the blanks. I dreamed up the rest – including several characters. I tried to stay as true to the facts that I did know, but exercised my full creative license in imagining what life must have been like for Sally during this ordeal, as well as for those she left behind.

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Photo by Henk Mohabier on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

You chose to tell RUST & STARDUST from the POV from several characters—Sally, her sister, Susan, brother-in-law Al, her mother Ella. I like this because it gave me a sense of what was going on ‘back home,’ when Sally was in the grips of Frank. Was this telling deliberate on your part, or did it arise organically?

T. Greenwood:

At first the story belonged almost exclusively to these characters. For the first couple of drafts, I wrote around Sally. I think it was too daunting and scary to inhabit her consciousness given all that she went through. But I knew I needed to go there eventually, and when I finally did, I realized that while the narrative was kaleidoscopic, that Sally was always that bright bit of light at the center.

Leslie Lindsay:

I have an eleven-year-old daughter. I think you once mentioned that your youngest daughter was eleven when you started RUST & STARDUST. How did that affect your telling of this story?

T. Greenwood:

I think it was, in part, what drew me to her. Eleven is a magical age. It’s that odd cusp between childhood and adolescence. Everything about eleven is fragile. I wanted to capture that in Sally’s character. Of course, Sally isn’t nearly as savvy as my own twenty-first century daughter – the book opens in 1948 – but there were more similarities than differences, I think: that longing to fit in, that push and pull with her mother, that precarious innocence.

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Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Ella, the mother of Sally…I think she had a really tough, bitter life. Not only had she been widowed twice, but she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and scraped by on her sewing and piecework. And then this awful thing happens to Sally. Can you tell us a little more about her character? Do you think she had any psychiatric issues?

T. Greenwood:

It’s important to state first that Ella’s character is fictional. I was inspired by what I knew about her (her occupation, her economic status, her having been widowed by a man who committed suicide). But everything else I gleaned solely from the multiple photographs I located of her and the brief commentary that she offered to the various reporters who interviewed her.

One of the most difficult aspects of this story for people (myself included) to understand is how Ella could have put her daughter on a bus with a stranger. And so, my biggest challenge was creating a character and a scenario in which this would be plausible.

In 2015, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (the symptoms of which are exactly like rheumatoid arthritis). For nearly six months, before my rheumatologist found a medication that worked, I was in crippling pain. Chronic pain is not only physically but mentally debilitating. Pain becomes, quite literally, a cage inside which you exist. I knew right away, that I wanted Ella to be inordinately preoccupied – by grief, by financial struggles, and by physical pain. It was the only way I could justify – to myself anyway – the ease with which Frank was able to snatch her child right out from under her.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I understand there’s a true crime book coming out this September about the ‘real’ LOLITA. Sarah Weinman THE REAL LOLITA: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World, Ecco]. Are you familiar with it? I so fell in love with Sally through RUST & STARDUST, I feel I’ve got to read it. Thoughts? Also, can you tell us more about that LOLITA connection?

T. Greenwood:

Yes. At the time that I read Weinman’s essay, I was unaware that she had plans to write a book-length non-fiction account of Sally’s life (and her ordeal’s influence on Nabokov). I actually found out about Weinman’s book proposal just as I preparing to submit my own for publication. I worried a little that there would be no need for two books about Sally. However, in the end, I think they are nice companion pieces. Weinman’s research is comprehensive. She interviewed surviving family members and others who knew Sally, and her book provides an ample overview of the crime. She also explores the connection between Sally’s ordeal and LOLITA as well as Nabokov’s reluctance to acknowledge this influence. But while our agendas are similar – to give a voice to this forgotten child – our respective approaches are fundamentally different. She is a journalist, and I am a novelist. THE REAL LOLITA is a work of reportage, RUST & STARDUST is not true crime, but a fictional rendering of this crime. My hope is that my work not only offers information about Sally’s life, but – through Sally – touches on the larger themes of vulnerability and abuse, of motherhood, and of survival. My goal has always been to offer the reader a glimpse inside what it must have been like for Sally and those who loved her. I would say, if you don’t want to know what happens to Sally, you might want to wait to read the factual accounts of her life until after reading the novel so as not to spoil anything.


“Greenwood’s glowing dark ruby of a novel brilliantly transforms the true crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. Shatteringly original and eloquently written, Rust and Stardust is a lot about how what we believe to be true can shape or ruin a life, and the bright lure of innocence pitted against the murk of evil. So ferociously suspenseful, I found myself holding my breath, and so gorgeous and so unsettling in all the roads it might have taken, I kept rereading pages.” 

—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World


Leslie Lindsay:

Can you tell us a bit about your writing routines and rituals? Any cute dog stories?  Mine is curled up under my desk. She thinks she’s helping…

T. Greenwood:

Mine (Phoebe – a golden retriever) is curled up next to me right now! When I am working on a book, I wake up early (5:30 or so) and after grabbing a cup of coffee go straight to my home office. I try to avoid email and social media (try being the operative word) and just begin working. I only write for a couple of hours each morning, and then have the rest of the day to do all those other things I need to do: teaching, researching or reading, and driving back and forth to my daughters’ school and the ballet studio where my oldest daughter spends most of her time. I like to write my first drafts rather quickly – usually in four to six weeks. The revision process is the agonizing and lengthy one for me. I wrote the first draft of RUST & STARDUST in a month. And then I revised it for another eighteen months.

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s on your fall reading list?

T. Greenwood:

Probably all those books I didn’t get around to this summer. I am researching a new book, which means lots of reading for that project. But I am looking forward to playing catch up: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is on my list, as is The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris, and Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon. Those are just a few in an enormous, teetering stack.

Leslie Lindsay:

Tammy, it’s been a pleasure, as always. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

T. Greenwood:

Only, “What next?”! My next book,  KEEPING LUCY, will be out next August. I won’t say too much about it yet – except that it explores the lengths to which a mother will go for her child. It’s also about one woman’s staking claim to her own life. Like RUST & STARDUST it’s a period piece – this time set in 1971. The novel begins in a tony Boston suburb and ends at a roadside mermaid show in Weeki Wachee, Florida.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of RUST & STARDUST, please visit: 

Order Links:

  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • BAM!
  • IndieBound
  • iBooks

TAMMYABOUT THE AUTHOR: T. GREENWOOD’s novels have sold over 250,000 copies. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, Christopher Isherwood Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. Her novel Bodies of Water was a 2014 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist; Two Rivers and Grace were each named Best General Fiction Book at the San Diego Book Awards, and Where I Lost Her was a Globe and Mail bestseller in 2016. Greenwood lives with her family in San Diego.

 

 

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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R&S

[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission]. 

 

Could Gold Stars and Praise really be a detriment to your child? Alfie Kohn talks about this and more in PUNISHED BY REWARDS

By Leslie Lindsay 

BacktoSchool Series:

Remember the 1990s? Were you raising kids then, or maybe you were one? Do you recall the incentive programs teachers dangled–“If you read 100 books you get this?” or, the BookIt! Program through Pizza Hut–a star for every title you completed and so many stars got you a personal pan pizza at your local restaurant?

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But that was just books and reading incentives. Countless medals were given to every kid on every sports team across the U.S.: “Most Improved,” “MVP,” “Most Likely to Sit on the Bench.” Okay, that last one is a bit of a joke, but in all seriousness, there seemed to have been an award for just about anything.

And then these kids grew up. They started expecting similar accolades in college, in the workplace. Everyone started believing that they were exceptional.

But maybe they weren’t. 

In 1993, Alfie Kohn challenged this basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing employees, which he summarized in six words:

“Do this and you’ll get that.” 

This mindset is still alive and well. Incentives for losing weight, bribing students for higher test scores, higher sales equaling more recognition. But wait–what about the process? Why can’t we honor and respect the process of working hard?

In 1993, Kohn warned that offering rewards to people to do what we want proves to be destructive at home, at school, at work. And now, twenty-five years later, that temptation is no less powerful. And the effects are still just as unsatisfactory.

The key here is two-fold: to be intrinsically motivated (that is, from within; innately) and to enjoy the process, not just the outcome (reward, praise, token) and that is what shapes and changes one’s behavior and performance.

PUNISHED BY REWARDS: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 8 2018) is back with the 25th Anniversary Edition and a whole new generation of parents and kiddos.

I’m so honored to welcome Alfie Kohn to the author interview series. Please join us.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

What’s wrong with rewards? I thought we were supposed to try and catch people doing something right rather than punishing or criticizing all the time.

Alfie Kohn:

The fact is that rewards and punishments are much more similar to each other than different. If you think about it, “Do this and you’ll get that” is really pretty close to “Do this or here’s what’ll happen to you.” Both are ways of trying to manipulate someone’s behavior.  And both have disturbing consequences.

Leslie Lindsay:

Such as?

Alfie Kohn:

Well, if we’re talking about how well people work or learn, the quality of performance tends to decline in the long run when either threats or bribes are used to “motivate” people. A number of studies have found that people who see themselves as working at a task mostly in order to receive some goody wind up doing a significantly poorer job than people who aren’t expecting to receive anything.

Leslie Lindsay:

Why is that?

Alfie Kohn:

One reason — and this is also a rather destructive effect in its own right — is that when you do something for a reward you tend to become less interested in what you’re doing. It comes to seem like a chore, something you have to get through in order to pick up the dollar or the A or the extra dessert.  What this means is that millions of well-meaning teachers and parents and managers are killing off creativity and curiosity in their attempt to bribe people to do a good job.


“A compelling argument that the use of rewards is counterproductive in raising children, teaching students, and managing workers….A clear, convincing demonstration…written with style, humor, and authority.”

— Kirkus


Leslie Lindsay:

Are you seriously saying rewards don’t work? I mean, if I offered you a hundred dollars to autograph your book for me, wouldn’t you do it?

Alfie Kohn:

I’d do it for free, actually, but never mind that. You’re right:  rewards work.  But work to do what?  And at what cost?  Those are the two questions we should always be asking.  Rewards, like punishments, work very effectively to produce one thing and only one thing:  temporary compliance.  But if our goal is to get quality in the workplace; or to help students become self-directed, lifelong learners; or to raise responsible, caring children — then rewards are not only ineffective, they’re actually counterproductive.

Leslie Lindsay:

Counterproductive?

Alfie Kohn:

Absolutely. Beyond the effects on performance, consider the question of how we raise children to have good values.  Studies show that kids whose parents reward them a lot are less generous than their peers.  Is that surprising to you?  Think about it:  such children have been trained to think that the only reason to care about other people is because of what they’ll get out of it.  When there’s no incentive provided — no candy bar or praise or whatever — they have absolutely no reason to help.  They’re not thinking, “What kind of person do I want to be?”  They’re thinking, “What do I have to do to get the reward?”  It’s awfully tempting to try to control kids by promising them good things if they do what we want — or by threatening them with bad things if they don’t — but this approach makes them less responsible and generous in the long term.

Leslie Lindsay:

So you’re saying rewards really don’t motivate us?

Alfie Kohn:

I’m saying rewards motivate us to get rewards. Unfortunately, that’s usually at the expense of excellence at what we’re doing and a commitment to keep doing it.

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Leslie Lindsay:

So what’s the alternative?

Alfie Kohn:

Well, that depends on whether we’re talking about productivity or learning or values, and on what our specific goals are. If we want mindless obedience, there is no alternative to rewards — except maybe punishment.  But if we want creativity and intrinsic motivation and good values and all that stuff, then it doesn’t make sense to ask “What’s the alternative to rewards?” because rewards never moved us one inch toward those goals.  Manipulating people’s behavior never will.  We have to start from scratch and ask what does help us reach those goals.

Leslie Lindsay:

OK. What does?

Alfie Kohn:

There’s no simple answer. “One size fits all” is a lie in clothing and it’s a lie in behavior.  Stickers and A’s and pay-for-performance are so popular because they seem to offer an easy answer.  After all, they’re based on a theory of motivation that was developed on laboratory animals.  But in the last three chapters of the book I take a crack at exploring the roots of excellence in the workplace and the classroom and how kids grow up to be good people.  My answer takes the form of three “C’s”:  content, choice, and collaboration.  Content means that we have to think about what we’re asking people to do; if the work is pointless or the request is unreasonable, it’s no wonder people seem to require bribes to do it.  Choice means that people are most likely to do their best when they’re given a substantial degree of autonomy about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.  And collaboration refers to the proven importance of working or learning with other people instead of against them or apart from them.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I can’t resist asking you this: Were you paid to write this book?

Alfie Kohn:

Sure. I make my living by writing and lecturing.  But I find I have to try to stop thinking about the money while I work so I don’t stop loving what I do.  Managers need to divorce the task from the compensation as best they can by paying people well and then doing everything possible to help them put money out of their minds.  Likewise, teachers and parents ought to do everything in their power to help students forget that grades exist — at least if their goal is to maximize learning.  But my main point here is that there’s nothing wrong with money — or with candy or kind words, for that matter.  The problem begins when we make these things contingent.  It’s when we say, “Do this and you’ll get that.”  The damage occurs when the stuff people like and need is dangled in front of them as a way of controlling their behavior.

Leslie Lindsay:

I want to make sure I understand your reference to “kind words.” What are you saying about praise?  Surely you can’t mean that we’re supposed to stop smiling and saying, “Good job”?

Alfie Kohn:

Praise is more complicated than tangible rewards, and my criticism is more qualified here. Of course, any suggestion that praise isn’t simply terrific seems controversial because we’re taught to just slather it on.  The bottom line is that if people feel we’re not merely giving them feedback but actually using honeyed phrases to control them, then verbal rewards will be just as destructive as any other kind.  Encouraging people is fine, but only if we do it in a way that leaves them feeling self-determining and interested in what they’re doing — as opposed to feeling dependent on our approval.  A lot of us give praise more because we have to say it than because they have to hear it:  it gets people to do what we want and it makes us feel powerful because we’re doing the judging.  But our goal should be to help others, especially children, develop the capacity to figure out whether they’re proud of themselves, not what they can do to please us.

Leslie Lindsay:

So what would you say to people who have been using rewards in just the way you’ve described and are now wondering whether they’ve done everything wrong?

Alfie Kohn:

My answer is that if they’re seriously re-evaluating their approach, then I’m not worried about them. The best parents — and for that matter, the best teachers and managers — are those who are willing to rethink their most basic beliefs and practices.  The people I worry about are those who say, “I don’t care what the studies show.  Rewards work and nothing’s going to change my mind.”

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of PUNISHED BY REWARDS, please visit: 

Order Links: 

241ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The most recent of his 14 books are SCHOOLING BEYOND MEASURE…And Other Unorthodox Essays About Education (2015) and THE MYTH OF THE SPOILED CHILD: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting (2014).

Kohn has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.” His criticisms of competition and rewards have helped to shape the thinking of educators — as well as parents and managers — across the country and abroad. Kohn has been featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the “Today” show and two appearances on “Oprah”; he has been profiled in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, while his work has been described and debated in many other leading publications.

Kohn lectures widely at universities and to school faculties, parent groups, and corporations. He is the father of two children and lives in the Boston area.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

GoodReads
Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
Email:leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com
Amazon 51NIJAMDcgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 8.4.18. Special thanks to HMH] 

 

The horrific reality of cybercrime, property fraud, and so much more in OUR HOUSE from brilliant UK author Louise Candlish

By Leslie Lindsay 

What if you were to come home and find your beloved home was being emptied of all its belongings and new owners were moving in? That’s what OUR HOUSE sets out to discover. Plus, Louise talks about how sometimes our demise is at our own hand, writing herself into ‘knots and tears,’ and being published for the first time in the U.S.

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I’m a big sucker for books about houses. Seriously, two of my favorite things. So when I stumbled upon OUR HOUSE (Berkley, August 7 2018), I knew I had to read it. I’m new to Louise Candlish, too and her writing is quite beautiful and darkly brilliant, well-plotted, and compelling.

Fiona (Fi) and Bram are at the end of their marriage. Bram has been unfaithful one too many times and Fi is done. But what about the kids and their beautiful home in a desirable London suburb? They couldn’t possibly sell it and split the family, send the boys to a different school. So Fi devises a plan to keep the house and the family as intact as possible in the bird’s nest arrangement: the children will stay in the home and the parents will take turns caring for the boys in the house (while the other parent stays in a nearby flat). Everyone is in agreement that this is the best possible scenario.

But. 

Fi comes home from a few days away with her new beau and lo and behold, there’s a moving van out front, a new couple giddy with their purchase. This couldn’t be happening…could it?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


We hear both sides of the story via Bram (Word Document) and a podcast from Fi
 so it’s a bit ‘he-said, she said;’ plus there are as interspersed newspaper articles, and yet still such a mystery. This technique lends to the overall frantic feel of the narrative.

Overall, OUR HOUSE is a very fresh, darkly disturbing, brilliantly plotted domestic
suspense about property fraud, murder, adultery, secrets/lies, double-crossing, and so much more. The killer ending is a fast-paced rush to the finish line.

Please join me in conversation with Louise.

L.L.: Louise, it’s great to have you! First, the cover is stunning and the writing very gripping, but before we get to all that, what was your inspiration when you set out to write OUR HOUSE?

Louise Candlish: Thank you for having me! The main source of inspiration for the book was the increasing problem of property fraud here in the UK. There’s a perfect storm of rising house prices and burgeoning cybercrime that’s truly terrifying. I wanted to write about a crime I hadn’t seen before in fiction and I knew this was it. One particular real-life case caught my eye in the Daily Mail: a woman was almost defrauded of her million-pound home by a criminal gang, one of whom had even changed her name legally to the owner’s. It was stopped at the last minute.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: I have to admit to liking the bird’s nest concept. I haven’t actually seen it in practice, but I can see the appeal. Can you tell us more about how this came to your attention? Do you know others who have done this successfully?

Louise Candlish: It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Emblematic of our age of conscious uncoupling. I read about it in the Telegraph here and a lightbulb flashed: perfect for my domestic crime set-up! It’s evidently quite a successful custody arrangement, but tends to be an informal thing (as Bram and Fi’s is), rather than a court-ordered one, so it’s impossible to quote data. I would do it myself (while keeping my passport and personal documents under lock and key, of course).

L.L.: Bram is kind of a bad-boy. He’s charming, charismatic, and well-liked by the ladies. And he has a bit of a reckless streak. At some point in the novel, there’s a passage about our undoing being completely on our own accord. Can you elaborate on that, please?

Louise Candlish: It’s so interesting that you picked up on that, because it’s one of the central concerns of the novel. What’s the difference between things going right and things going wrong? It’s one bad call, basically, one unfortunate little bit of poor judgment. Then life can spiral dangerously quickly. Of course it’s not quite that simple. There are complex links between mental health issues and crime and Bram’s got a lot going on in his head. He isn’t in a position to make a good decision.

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Photo by Joe Fitzpatrick on Pexels.com

L.L.: There are a lot of characters in OUR HOUSE, most notably Fi and Bram but also neighbors, as well as Mike and Wendy and the various storytelling techniques used [Bram’s Word Doc and Fi’s podcast]. Was there a character or technique you enjoyed more—or felt most aligned with?

Louise Candlish: I enjoyed writing Fi’s (transcribed) podcast interview, because by definition when you’re giving a interview meant for public broadcast, you have an agenda. She’s quite controlled, but then occasionally she’ll allow some emotion or grievance to burst through. That was fun to write. Bram was a different experience because his account is so raw and confessional. He made me feel quite sad. For me, their narratives exemplify one of the points the book makes: men are straightforward, their faults on the surface for all to see, whereas women are more multi-layered, more ambiguous. I had an inkling readers would find Fi irritating at times, so I used the tweets to provide some human reaction to her.

L.L.: OUR HOUSE is so intricately plotted—or at least it reads that way!—what was your process like and did you ever write yourself into a corner?

Louise Candlish: I was in corners a lot. In knots in corners, weeping. The main problem was how interconnected everything was, so every tiny alteration had its own ripple effect and I had to chase the ripples until they disappeared. It’s been interesting to see the reaction of other writers to this book: to a man (and woman), they have remarked on how hard it must have been to structure. They totally understand my pain. For the reader, of course, I hope it’s seamless!

L.L.: The page is blank. What’s calling to you now?

Louise Candlish: I’m in the late stages of my next novel, about a terrible neighbour who inspires the worst instincts in those who cross his path. Could you hate your neighbour enough to plot to kill him? If the newspapers are anything to go by, yes. I’ve yet to discuss this with anyone who doesn’t offer up a horror story of their own. Bad neighbouring is universal and yet somehow we all think we’re great neighbours. Interesting.


“A high-stakes domestic thriller that is utterly absorbing. Twists and turns abound; OUR HOUSE will have you locking your doors and checking your windows . . . Trust no one!”

HEATHER GUDENKAUF, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF NOT A SOUND


L.L.: What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Louise Candlish: I’ve always been a big tennis fan and I annually down tools for Wimbledon, but in this digital age I can watch any tournament I like – a terrible temptation. I will be one of the millions who will wear black for a month when Roger Federer retires. Same for Rafa Nadal. If they retire at the same time, well, that will be the end of me.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: Louise, it’s been a pleasure. One last question: is Alder Rise/Trinity Avenue a real place? Is there anything else I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Louise Candlish: The pleasure is mine. No Alder Rise is fictional, but many people know I live in South East London and know certain areas better than others. Alder Rise is a composite of those areas. It’s the hidden gem with the park and the great school and the farmer’s market and the artisan bakery. These houses never come on the market (at least not to the owners’ knowledge!).

I guess you could ask what it’s like for a British author to be published for the first time in the US?

The answer: so far so delightful. So I thank you.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of OUR HOUSE, please visit: 

Order Links: 

Louise Candlish (c) Jonny RingABOUT THE AUTHOR: Louise Candlish attended University College London and worked as an editor in art publishing and as a copywriter before becoming a novelist. She lives with her husband and daughter.

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You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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[Cover and author images courtesy of Berkely and used with permission] 

What if you committed a heinous act as a teenager & it continued to haunt you? Emily Arsenault explores this & more in THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU

By Leslie Lindsay 

Dark tale about a woman and her younger, troubled days, a murdered psychologist, and a small town cop. Plus, Emily chats about characters flirting with madness, staying disciplined as a mom-writer, and the books that stay with her.

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Dr. Mark Fabian is found murdered in his office. His patients are suspected: including former patient, Nadine Raines, and Johnny Streeter, now serving a life sentence for a mass shooting at a local retirement home. But Nadine and Johnny were patients over 20 years ago, in 1997…what could they possibly have to do with Dr. Fabian’s death? And why now?

THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2018) is an edgy small town whodunit with alternating POVs and time periods, mostly focused on Nadine and Henry, a police officer-newly-turned-detective. And of course, what happened to Dr. Fabian?

At once a psychological thriller, THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU is also a slight deviation from Arsenault’s previous works as this one is also part police procedural.

Emily Arsenault takes her readers into the dark folds of a disturbed young woman’s mindobsession and secrets—with a great deal of small town edginess that will have you frantically flipping the pages.

Please join me in welcoming Emily to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay: Emily, welcome! I am curious what the instigating spark was for you with THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU? Was it a character, a situation, or something else you wanted to explore?

Emily Arsenault: Thank you, Leslie! It was primarily a character—my female narrator, Nadine. I started with her. I wanted to write about a woman who does something impulsive and violent as a teenager and then has to figure out how—and how long—to atone for it. I wanted to go deep into her psychology to explore her reasons for that one fateful act. I’ve always been interested in adolescent impulsivity and the way our choices or behavior at that age can affect the rest of our lives. This is a theme I’ve touched on in earlier books, but I think I wasn’t yet ready, in those books, to carry this theme to as dark a place as it goes in The Last Thing I Told You.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: And yet it’s a bit different from THE EVENING SPIDER, which was more literary and focused on motherhood and hauntings and was almost historical in nature.How did your process differ with THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU? Or, did it?

Emily Arsenault: The Evening Spider wasn’t necessarily a typical book for me, either. That was my fifth book and I had never done a historical novel before. In fact, the process for that and The Last Thing I Told You had some similarities despite content differences. Both have two narrations that I was constantly jumping back and forth between as I worked. Both have one seemingly steadier, more relatable narrator and one who might be flirting with madness. Thematically, I think there are similarities that might not be immediately obvious. Both feature female narrators who think in a dark and perhaps skewed sort of way, and whose peers view them with suspicion.


“Psychologically acute, beautifully written, full of twists and turns, The Last Thing I Told You is a complex, absorbing and satisfying read.”

– William Landay, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob


L.L.: I was intrigued with the therapy piece of this tale—I’m curious what research you did to make this realistic?

Emily Arsenault: I really loved writing Nadine’s therapy sessions. As far as research, I read a few books and articles on the subject of therapy, but the main thing I did was consult with a friend who has worked as a therapist. At first, we just chatted generally about the subject. Then, when I was further along, she read the therapy notes and files of my fictional therapist to help me keep them realistic and professional. When I was revising the draft, she read the whole manuscript. Something we talked about a great deal is that the experience of therapy can vary widely depending on the particular type of training the therapist receives, the accountability structure he or she is in (e.g. hospital setting, private practice, paid by insurance, paid privately), the therapist’s philosophy or approach, and the therapist’s level of competence. I thought it would be interesting for readers to assess for themselves, along the way, if Dr. Fabian is a good therapist—if he’s asking the right questions or calling Nadine out at the right moments. The reader is very much in Nadine’s head for the therapy scenes, but the presence of Dr. Fabian—in the actual therapy sessions and his files—potentially gives readers a different perspective on her.

L.L.:  Can you share a bit about your writing routines and rituals:

Emily Arsenault: It really depends on where I am in a project. When I’m in the early drafting stage, I struggle to stay on task for two or three hours a day. When I’m finishing or revising a project, I tend to want to power through and write all day and night. When I’m in the middle of a tough part, I tend to reward myself with sugar for finishing a certain number of pages or scenes. A miniature can of Coke or a cookie. My process is still in flux. I was very disciplined while my daughter was a toddler and a preschooler because my daily writing time was really limited and I had to use it wisely. Since she went off to full-time kindergarten this past year, I’ve kind of become flaky and unfocused. I’m still working out what my work and writing balance should be as she continues through elementary school.

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L.L.: What do you hope readers take away from THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU?

Emily Arsenault: Primarily I’d like readers to keep turning pages and enjoy the read. But with Nadine, I’d hoped readers would experience a dark female character in a way they might not have expected. I don’t want to say much more than that, because I don’t want to prescribe to readers how they “should” feel about Nadine.

L.L.: What’s the last book you read—and which book do you keep thinking about?

Emily Arsenault: I’m in the middle of The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. A book I keep thinking about is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

L.L.: Emily, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Emily Arsenault: No—but thanks for your insightful questions, and thanks for having me!

For more information, to connect with with author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU, please see: 

Order Links: 

Emily Arsenault author photo (c) Ross Gram (1).jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:Emily Arsenault is the critically acclaimed author of six mystery and psychological suspense novels, and one young adult psychological suspense novel, The Leaf Reader. Titles of her adult novels include: The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times Notable Crime Book in 2009, The Evening Spider, What Strange Creatures, In Search of Rose Notes, selected by The Wall Street Journal as one of the Best Mysteries of 2011, Miss Me When I’m Gone, and her latest book, The Last Thing I Told You, which released i n July 2018 and was one of PureWow’s Best Beach Reads of the summer. She lives with her husband and daughter in Shelburne Falls, MA.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

[Cover and author image courtesy of William Morrow/HarperCollins and used with permission. Author credit: Ross Gram.] 

NYT bestselling author Linwood Barclay chats about his new thriller, A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS…thrills & chills & twists galore

By Leslie Lindsay 

Fast-paced summer thriller about a seemingly possessed typewriter will have you thinking you have it all figured out and then…

Linwood Barclay is here chatting about how writing is a job he loves (but words don’t get on the page unless you put in the time), how he’s readying for R&R in Prince Edward County, and his love for typewriters and model trains. 

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I’m so glad I’ve been introduced to Linwood Barclay. His writing is sharp, compelling, and addictive in similar vein of Harlan Coben meets David Bell meets Stephen King. A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS (William Morrow/HarperCollins 2018) is a fabulous thriller beach read that you can easily finish in a long afternoon because it’s so fast-paced and has all the makings of a terrific read: murder, an unreliable protagonist, and just when you think you have it all figured out…

You’re wrong.

College Professor Paul Davis seems to have it all: house on Long Island Sound, a second wife, a son, a teaching job at a local university. But when he spots a colleague out on the road late at night, his curiosity gets the better of him and he becomes victim /witness to a crime.

And now, eight months later, he’s still struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depression; he hasn’t returned to work. He thinks maybe he’ll write about the situation–a little catharsis couldn’t hurt, right. His wife, Charlotte, purchases a second-hand typewriter for him, but soon Paul is certain he can hear the machine late into the night? Or is it just his mind? His PTSD? An intruder?

Paul starts to question everything. And frankly, so too will the reader. A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS is at once menacing and creepy, but also a good whodunit-and-why; I thought I had it figured out (at least in part), and then new things were revealed, shifting theories. Personally, I love when that happens! This is the kind of read that gives you ‘waves’ of reveals, in that you let out a collective sigh only to be geared up again for yet another…thrill.

So, so honored to welcome New York Times bestselling author Linwood Barclay to the author interview series.


A Noise Downstairs will astound, confound and thrill you. You’ll need to read it with your wits about you and you’ll want to sleep with your eyes open afterwards. A masterful novel.” 

–Gilly Macmillan, author of What She Knew and The Perfect Girl


Leslie Lindsay: Thanks for popping by, Linwood. I tore through A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS because it’s so fast-paced, dark, and mysterious. Paul is being haunted by the typewriter, so I have to ask: what was haunting you as you set out to write?

Linwood Barclay: I think what haunted me as I started this book is what haunts me whenever I start writing a new novel: Can I do it again? And more than that, can I do it better? You want every book you write to be better than the one that came before, and sometimes you feel as though you’ve done it, and other times it’s, well, I don’t know. This time, I think I managed it, but readers will really be the ones to make that judgment.

L.L.: I have to say—typewriters! It seems they are becoming a ‘thing’ these days. Tom Hanks has a collection. You’re seeing them in antique stores, even I have a couple; and at the American Writer’s Museum [in Chicago], they even have a bank of old typewriters visitors can try their hand at typing. Do you have a fascination with them as well?

Linwood Barclay: I do love them. I love the look of them, the heft of them, the fact that while using one it will not connect you, within three seconds, to a funny cat video. I love the sound of them. I started in newspapers just before computers took over, and the sound of a newsroom tapping away is the sound of history being recorded. All that said, I still work on a computer. But when I was a kid, I asked my dad, when I was around nine or ten, to teach me how to use our old Royal, and received a three-minute lesson. That was the beginning of my banging out stories.

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Photo by Studio 7042 on Pexels.com

L.L.: :Paul is struggling with PTSD regarding an incident with a colleague. What kind of research did you have to do to get this part ‘right?’

Linwood Barclay:  I’m delighted that your question seems to suggest I did get this right, especially considering I did not spend a great deal of time researching the subject. Like most people, I’ve been through some difficult times (nothing to compare with what Paul went through, mind you). And like most writers, I made stuff up. But seriously, I worked hard to imagine myself in his position, how what had happened to him would haunt him, give him nightmares, change his perspective of the world around him. I’m hoping I’ve captured that.

L.L.: Can you tell us a little about your writing process, if you have any rituals or routines?

Linwood Barclay: I spent thirty years working in newspapers, so writing is very much a job to me. A job I love, but a job. You get up, have breakfast, make some coffee, and had upstairs to the study by 8 or 8:30, and the goal is to write two thousand words. If you can do that, you’ve got 10,000 words at the end of the week, and in two or three months, you’ve got a first draft. For half of my journalistic career, I was a columnist, writing three pieces a week. There was no calling your editor to say, “Gosh, the muse didn’t strike, so there won’t me a column tomorrow.” You produced. Those work habits are drilled into me. So, aside from the coffee, no real rituals. It’s just ass-in-chair and start typing.

L.L.: What’s on your to-do list this week? It doesn’t have to be literary…

Linwood Barclay: What a week to ask.  It’s nuts. I’m trying to finish the very rough, first draft of what might be the 2020 book, am putting together a presentation for some TV types for a series Entertainment One is developing, based on my PROMISE FALLS trilogy, writing a newsletter to let everyone know about my US and UK book tours that will take place the second half of April, reading Carsten Stroud’s terrific novel THE SHIMMER, taking allergy pills so I won’t get asthmatic when we look after our daughter’s dog while she moves, watching The Affair while asking myself why, why, why am I still watching this show when it went completely off the rails not last season, but the season before THAT, hoping to get to our place in Prince Edward County, Ontario, where I will sit on the dock and drink several vodkas with lemonade and contemplate whether this is the longest sentence I have ever written. (It’s not. There’s a sentence in A TAP ON THE WINDOW that’s longer.) And may I say, what a great question, which no one has ever asked before.

L.L.: Linwood, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask, but should have?

Linwood Barclay: Is it normal for a grown man to have an entire room in his basement dedicated to model trains? (I feel I’m too close to this to give an unbiased answer.)

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Photo by Gary Spears on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS, please see: 

Order Links: 

Linwood Barclay author photo.JPGABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linwood Barclay is the author of seventeen previous novels and two thrillers for children, including the international bestseller NO TIME FOR GOODBYE. New York Times bestselling author, his books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. He wrote a screenplay adaptation for his novel NEVER SAW IT COMING and his book THE ACCIDENT has been made into a television series in France. A native of Connecticut, he lives near Toronto with his wife, Neetha.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

 

 

              

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[Cover and author image courtesy of HarperCollins/WilliamMorrow and used with permission. Other Barclay cover images retrieved from author’s website, 6.27.18] 

 

 

 

 

Summer chills with a dash of horror in Zoje Stage’s debut, BABY TEETH, which will leave you thankful for the family you have

By Leslie Lindsay 

Dark, chilling, disturbing psych thriller that might be best suited to the horror genre, BABY TEETH will shake you to the core and keep you flipping the pages.

Join me in conversation with Zoje Stage about scary child movies, the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths, how much fun she had writing Hanna, and so much more.

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If you want to read something this summer with varying reception, BABY TEETH (St. Martin’s Press, 7/17/18) is for you. It’s completely unsettling and will most definitely burrow under your skin and having you looking over your shoulder. And it’s deliciously compelling.

Hanna is a mute seven year old who adores her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands—accepts—her, and Hanna wants to live happily-ever-after with him. But Mommy stands in her way. Its’s one of those Electra complexes that will have you questioning everything. Is Hanna really that bad? Is her mother, Suzette, partially to blame? Is there something more at hand?

Suzette has tried with her daughter. Oh, how’s she’s tried. There have been medical tests, home-schooling (because Hanna does horrific things and gets kicked out of every school she’s ever attended), she reads to her, she takes her speech-pathologists, the park, but there is something so disturbingly defiant about her daughter. Suzette is out of options. She’s losing her mind and possibly, her marriage.

But maybe Suzette isn’t so innocent? She seems a bit ambivalent about being a mother and then there’s her Crohn’s disease, her checkered history with her own mother. Could something more be going on?

Yes. But what? BABY TEETH ends on an ambiguous note, but I promise, it will linger long after you turned that last page.

Please join me in welcoming Zoje Stage to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay: Zoje, I was utterly absorbed in BABY TEETH. I have to know—what was haunting you when you set out to write?

Zoje Stage: Many years ago I developed a screenplay that was a precursor to BABY TEETH, and one of the things I was interested in exploring was the taboo idea of a mother who regretted having a child. The story changed quite a bit once I decided to resurrect the concept and reimagine it as a novel, primarily because the mother and child took on equal roles in the novel. The new focus became what would a mother do if she seriously believed her child was dangerous—which let me explore the evolution of Suzette’s feelings, as well as Hanna’s misaligned thinking.

L.L.: You have a background in film. So much of BABY TEETH reminds me of horror movie—or that it could easily be adapted—did you draw any of your inspiration to classic horror stories like POLTERGEIST or CHUCKY or ANNABELLE? Or maybe not at all?! And then I just saw HEREDITARY!

Zoje Stage: While I’ve always very much liked “scary child” movies like The Bad Seed, Joshua, and Goodnight Mommy, I didn’t specifically draw my inspiration from that; rather, I wanted to depict a “scary child” with as much realism as possible by exploring relationships and certain dynamics—within a family, between a couple, and between mother and daughter. Though, because of my background, I still see in “scenes” so it played like a movie in my head as I wrote it.


Stage fuses horror with domestic suspense to paint an unflinching portrait of childhood psychopathy and maternal regret.” 

–Kirkus Review 


L.L.: Your descriptions of Suzette’s Crohn’s disease were so authentic, I started wondering if maybe you have it, too? Can you talk about that and how it appeared in the novel?

Zoje Stage: I do have Crohn’s disease, and while it served the story well for me to base Suzette’s medical experiences on my own, it made some sections very difficult to write. I didn’t want to shy away from those difficulties though, because there are so many people who live with invisible illnesses and it was important to me to give readers a glimpse into what a person who appears “normal” may actually be experiencing. And of course, little Hanna sees her mother’s illness as a weakness that she can exploit, which makes Suzette even more vulnerable.

L.L.: Likewise, I am curious about Alex’s Swedish background. I found it melded into the storyline quite organically with his being an architect and some of the family traditions presented throughout BABY TEETH. Was that a cognizant decision on your part?

Zoje Stage: To some degree, this is where the magical process happens in writing. I made certain decisions about Alex and his background, but at the moment I made them I didn’t know how all of them would play out. So, for instance, though I knew Alex was Swedish, I didn’t know until the middle of the first draft that the Walpurgis holiday would be a significant event.

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L.L.: Did you have a favorite character? Was someone more fun to write or more relatable? Do you see BABY TEETH as a tale of family dysfunction?

Zoje Stage: Writing Hanna was about the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to think like a child, and working within her limitations: because of her young age, there are inherent limits on what Hanna could do physically, and also what she would know of the world. And yes, it’s certainly a tale of family dysfunction. The thing about living in a dysfunctional household is it becomes very hard to be objective about what’s happening—and even harder to conjure a solution— which is part of why it takes Suzette and Alex so long to recognize the true depth of their situation.

L.L.: I have to say, I really liked Beatrix, the psychologist. I felt she was sympathetic, bright, and quite authentic. Did you have to conduct much research to get the psychological pieces ‘just right?

Zoje Stage: I drew on some of my own experiences with different therapists as a basis for what Beatrix’s demeanor might be, and her approach to questions. Though in terms of her knowledge, I read about the perceived differences between sociopathy and psychopathy, as well as blogs by parents of dangerously mentally ill children, and watched several documentaries on related subjects. (Marshes, the treatment facility that’s featured in my book, was inspired by a British documentary about a facility for severely troubled children.) And of course I used my imagination, as I had specific ideas for Beatrix as a character.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: Can you tell us what’s next for you? Maybe a sequel to BABY TEETH?!

Zoje Stage: I love that so many people want a sequel to BABY TEETH! But… no, my next book is another stand-alone novel, tentatively called WONDERLAND. It will be published in late 2019, and it’s a horror novel about an artsy New York City family who moves to the Adirondacks and promptly find themselves trapped by the winter weather, and in the presence of something… scary. That’s all I’ll say. 😉

L.L.: Zoje, it’s been a pleasure. Maybe more like a ‘wicked delight.’ Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Zoje Stage: Thank you, Leslie! I’d just like to add that I’m so grateful for the support my debut novel has gotten from the book-blogging community! You guys rock!

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of BABY TEETH, please see: 

Order Links: 

Zoje Stage_Credit Gabrianna DackoABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Zoje Stage is a filmmaker and writer. She was a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation of the Arts and a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA. BABY TEETH is her first novel.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT! 

#psychthriller #horror #amreading #summerreading 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission. Promotional book image from L.Lindsay’s personal archives]

 

 

Susan Henderson talks about her luminous novel, THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS, taking chances, her favorite movies, & writing advice

By Leslie Lindsay 

A haunting tale of a dying town, THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS is tender, lyrical, and poignant in a very illuminating manner about a female mortician, a horrific accident, and taking chances. Susan Henderson is here chatting about so many wonderful things it’s impossible to list them all…seriously, you want to read this interview and then you’ll run out and buy this book. It’s that good. 

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I was absolutely ensnared with the vivid bleakness of that swell of blue and green of the cover and then the title, THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS called to me from some place far away and I had to get my hands on the book. I’m so glad I did.

Susan Henderson is a writer with tremendous grace and empathy, plus she seems to really ‘get’ small town American life, the human condition, and so much more. I read this book on a driving trip through Iowa. And while the story is actually set in a dying Montana town (which goes by the fictional name of Petroleum), I couldn’t help but feel I was there, smack in the middle of this book cover.

Mary is thirty years old and the town’s female mortician. She grew up the only child of Allen (whom is mostly referred to as ‘Pop’) because her mother died in childbirth. There was no funeral home in Petroleum, so Pop studied and took classes to become certified in the art of bereavement and embalming. Mary really had no choice but to follow in her father’s footsteps. Together, they live in the funeral parlor and put the town ‘to rest.’

But years ago, before the story really begins, a horrific accident occurred at the grain elevator, killing the town’s star high school athlete. The granary is closed for good, and the train no longer stopped in town, plus the brother is blamed for the tragedy and shipped off to live elsewhere.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Susan Henderson to the author interview series.


“This novel is so breathtakingly good, so exquisitely written. About a female mortician, about a childhood tragedy that still haunts a damaged young man, about the endless landscape and about those tiny sparks of possibility. Oh my God. Trust me. This book. This book. This Book.”

 —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World


Leslie Lindsay: Susan, I am so, so honored. First, I was so completely struck by the beauty of the prose, the obvious research you did to paint such an authentic portrait of small town life. But it came at a bit of a price. You spent an entire month living in a hotel of the town that became Petroleum. Can you tell us about that experience and was that sort of the ‘birth’ of this tale, or was it something else?

Susan Henderson: My intention with the book was to grapple with the current division in America—between those who want change and those who feel things are changing too fast, and I wanted to do that in a way that was removed from politics and might get each side listening to each other again.

So I was not trying to write about the people from this particular town. In fact, I only desired to set the story in a small, rural town, and chose to spend a month in this one because I was emotionally attached to it. It’s where my father grew up, and I knew how physically unique it was.

Of course, the real town managed to seep into the novel a good bit—particularly the tactile details of homes and weather, the sounds and rhythms of ranchers, the stark beauty of the land, the isolation from other towns and conveniences.

But this is definitely a work of fiction, this is me grappling with a conversation that has become uncivilized in the real world, so I put it into story form. I wanted to dig down deep into the grief and rage and pride of people whose identities are tied to jobs and a way of life that are slipping away. And yet there are some people in the town, and the narrator’s one of them, whose passions and dreams for themselves are not found in the town’s traditions.  My hope is that we might start to hear each other, that we might get tired of being stuck.

L.L.: While there are some elements in THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS that are drawn from memory and experience, it is in no way autobiographical, a memoir…yet there are so many truths in fiction. Can you talk about that, please?

Susan Henderson: Fiction is where I tell the truth.

If I were to tackle the issues of death and dying and what happens to the body in non-fiction, I would worry too much about exposing another’s privacy and harming them in some way. And that instinct to protect others would make me pull back from the hard truths and create a story that’s much too tepid for my taste.

Fiction allows me to talk about the things polite people avoid in real life. I can walk right towards rage and fear and our imperfect bodies. And whenever I need to buffer some sort of psychic pain, I can add another character or a bridge or completely imagined moment that can heal more deeply than what the non-fiction moment might offer.

The great gift of fiction is that we can see the truth more clearly when we see it from a different angle, when we can climb deeper inside the story and the characters. And when the great writers of our time are at their best, fiction can both reexamine and change the world. Think: Animal Farm, A Handmaid’s Tale, Beloved, The Lottery, Invisible Man, All the Light We Cannot See.

L.L.: Regarding truth, it’s elusive, much like the wind in THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS, which I noticed came up a good deal, but wasn’t overdone. We can’t see the wind, but we can feel it. We can see the devastating effects the wind can cause land, on buildings. And the wind can provide energy, motion. Did you intentionally make it a metaphor or was that something that grew organically?

Susan Henderson: When I stayed in the real town for a month, it was the wind that made me worry I might lose my mind. It was so loud, I felt like I had to shout over it. When I was inside my motel room, it crashed so hard against the room, I sometimes wondered if the windows would break. And when I walked out of that room, I felt almost tormented by it, like it was purposefully pushing me. So it just became more of a character in the book, like this mischievous soul messing with people’s hair, knocking down signs, slamming doors.

What was so clear to me while I lived there was that the weather and the land were interconnected with the lives there. It would physically change you—your skin, your hair, your ability to hear and be heard. And your isolation from other towns, from others who might help, would force you to become self-sufficient, or you simply wouldn’t survive.

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Susan took this photo while staying in the small town that would become the fictional Petroleum. And the cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?!

L.L.: Of course I have to ask about Mary’s role as an embalmer. This might make someone squeamish, but you took such a gentle, comforting approach, it didn’t bother me. Can you tell us a bit about your research to get Mary’s character ‘just right?’

Susan Henderson: So, the eventual concept of the book, was to tell the story of a dying town via a narrator who could look at death without flinching. She could take us to that conversation that’s so uncomfortable for us to have. She’s seen all manners of grief—raging against the inevitable, going submissively, pretending it’s not happening.

But this meant that I would have to learn how to run a funeral home and how to embalm dead bodies. I learned everything I could about the dead and dying, about mortician’s tools and burial practices. I learned from books and from talking with folks in the funeral and hospice industries.

And then I dreamed up Mary Crampton, kind of a quirky loner who is more comfortable with the dead. And I gave her a story line which would force her into the living world, where she is less confident. And I put her smack in the middle of the conflict I wanted to explore—between an agent of change and those who are trying with all they have to hold on to their traditions.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

L.L.: In the end, the very end, you talk about your writing ‘tribe,’ how writers are a ‘bunch of introverts, misfits, observers, and deep thinkers.’ This really resonated with me as I read your words. You went on to say how we share the scars of rejection, hounding questions about how long the writing is taking, and so much more. I get it, oh, how I get it. What other writerly things have you learned along the way and how might one keep swimming?

Susan Henderson: I get as much mail about the Acknowledgments section as the book itself. I really felt like I needed to write that note to my fellow writers because it can be such a bruising business.

How to keep swimming… well, for starters, I created my website, LitPark, just for that purpose. It’s where we all share our struggles and successes and tips. I also added a new feature called Words for the Weary, where authors share their advice about surviving in this business.

Beyond that, I think the reality is that we would all have quit by now if we could or if we were being reasonable. But somehow, in spite of the rejections and the uphill climb, we keep waking up with ideas, we keep observing and eavesdropping and dreaming. What that says to me is that we’re writers. It’s in our hardwiring. For whatever reason, we’re driven to tell stories, to look closely at the world, to find music in words.

Once we realize that, there’s only one thing to do, which is to build the support we need to stay in the game. Follow the writers who are emotionally available, attend readings and greet the authors afterwards, find the nearest indie bookstore and get to know the owners. This is how we find our tribe and, some days, this will be lifesaving.


“Great sentences expounding on the complexities and fragilities of the human heart, one that echoes John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, and William Faulkner.”

 —Lou Pendergrast 

on THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS


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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: Susan, it’s been wonderful. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have? Like…your summer plans, what you’re writing next, what you’re reading, what movie you last saw, or a favorite guilty pleasure?

Susan Henderson: You know, people always ask me about books but never ask for movie recommendations. Here are a few I’m looking forward to: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (because I could use a little Mister Rogers in my life these days), American Animals (because I’ve heard it’s brilliant), and BlacKkKlansman (because I’m a crazy-huge fan of Jordan Peele and Spike Lee).

What have I seen lately that’s memorable? I loved the animation in Isle of Dogs. The movie itself is uneven but worth it for the visual artistry. Moonlight is a gorgeous coming of age story that feels like you’re watching a poem. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie that felt so much like a literary masterpiece. I, Tonya surprised the hell out of me by how terribly funny, poignant, and deep it was, especially in exposing our prejudices about class. The Stanford Prison Experiment was painful to watch but a eye-opener at how quickly we are corrupted by power. I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary about my favorite writer, James Baldwin, and his words are more relevant today than ever. The Zookeeper’s Wife made me want to go home and write. And Get Out made me want to talk about it for hours because Jordan Peele is a genius at getting you to look at society and self from another angle.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE FLICKER OF OLD DREAMS, please visit:

Order Links: 

Susan_Henderson.2ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Henderson is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. She is the author of two novels, The Flicker of Old Dreams and Up from the Blue, both published by HarperCollins. Susan lives in Kings Park, New York and blogs at the writer support group, LitPark.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of HarperCollins. Image of rural fence from the archives of S. Henderson; all used with permission]

Veronica Henry talks about how books are really very comforting & nourishing in HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP

By Leslie Lindsay 

Now out in paperback, Veronica Henry is here chatting about imagination, saving bookstores, the Cotswolds, and so much more in HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP

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As an avid reader, there’s no feeling quite like exploring a beautiful old (or new) bookstore. In fact, many years ago before my husband was my husband, we were at the Grand Opening of a local Barnes & Noble, giddy and holding hands. It was an official date and solidified our love for books—and each other.

When I came upon Veronica Henry’s HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP, I knew it would bring the same sense of whimsy and wonderment as that bookstore date nearly eighteen years ago. There’s something magical about browsing the shelves, touching the spines, turning the pages, and getting lost in the imaginary worlds of beloved authors.

Emilia Nightingale is all grown up and grieving the loss of her father, who raised Emilia alone after her mother died during childbirth. Add in the charming English countryside town of Peasebrook, several long-held secrets, and it’s a haven for literary-minded locals and readers alike. HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP (Viking/Pamela Dorman Books, August 15 2017) is ultimately about its grieving owner, a literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart. I absolutely loved this book.

I am thrilled to have Veronica Henry here to chat with us about the book, and all things literary. Please join us.

Leslie Lindsay: Veronica, it’s great to have you. I devoured this book, mostly because I so appreciate the hub of a great bookstore. But also because your characters were so relatable. Why this book, why now?

Veronica Henry: Firstly, thank you so much for having me…your questions are all fantastic! I wrote this book because a few years ago it seemed as if books were going to vanish, and along with them bookshops. But I noticed that after a couple of years’ excitement over digital books, people were really missing thecomfort and pleasure of holding a real book in their hands, and went back to buying them. And as a result bookshops had a renaissance. I wanted to reflect that
phenomenon. I also love to write books set in places where I know my readers will enjoy going – and pretty much everyone who reads books loves bookshops! They are my own safe place and comfort zone, so it felt very natural to set a book there.

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L.L.: I adored all of these characters! HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP is not a banquet of ‘too many’ characters, name dropping, etc., but almost like reading several novellas. For each character’s story, we are drawn in, given a clear sense of their backstory and it makes me love them more. How did you decide on this structure? Did you have a particular character(s) who really spoke to you?

Veronica Henry: I used to be a script writer, and wrote for lots of British long running drama series, so I am used to juggling lots of stories and characters. So it comes very naturally to me to structure a book like that. I always decide on my setting first – a sense of place is the most important decision for me before I start – then I choose one character whose story will be the book’s spine. All the other characters have to fit in around them. This book is centered around Emilia, but everyone else gets their moment in the sun!

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L.L.: I think at the heart of HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP is the community—the people who venture into Nightingale Books. Did you base this tale off any particular bookstore or town?

Veronica Henry: I worked in a couple of bookshops before I was a writer so I am familiar with what it’s like the other side of the counter, which helped with the story and Emilia’s dilemmas. One of the shops I worked in was the famous Foyles in Charing Cross Road, which was very eccentric. But Nightingale Books is a mixture of all the bookshops I’ve been into and come to love, mixed in with a bit of
imagination – Peasebrook is fictional, and is my ideal town. I adore the Cotswolds – they are so breathtakingly pretty and so atmospheric. The book is my fantasy life, really! My favourite book as a child was Henrietta’s House by Elizabeth Goudge, which had a glorious bookshop in it that was a big influence.

L.L.: I came upon a story today on the Internet about reading and why we should. The world is a messy place and when we get sick of it, go read. A proper book, not the news. Why, in your opinion, do we like to escape into a good book? [Here’s the article]

Veronica Henry: I think the wonderful thing about reading is that it engages your imagination. We are spoon-fed so much these days, but you have to work quite hard when you read a book, subconsciously, and I think that is immensely satisfying. It also means that your version of that book is very personal to you. So your vision of what Emilia looks like and how the shop is laid out will be very different from the next person’s. A good writer gives you an impressionistic sketch and you get to fill in the rest. So books are nourishing and satisfying in a way that other mediums aren’t.

L.L.: I have to say—I really ‘got’ Bea. She might have been my favorite character—mostly because she’s a mom and is dealing with expectancy violation. The country is just a little too bucolic, a little too saccharine for her. Motherhood is boring. She yearns for her old career at a glossy home décor magazine. I loved reading about her ideas to make Nightingale Books better. I think this excerpt summarizes my zest for her best:

“We’re creating…a complete experience. This won’t be just a bookshop. This will be…an emporium of delight. A feast for all the senses. A place of comfort. An escape.”

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In fact, designing a bookstore would be the ultimate job! Can you talk more about her character and how she came to be?

Veronica Henry: I love Bea too – she doesn’t want to accept the stereotype and she’s a bit of a rebel and dares to do things other people might not. And she is prepared to admit she is not living the dream she thought she would – but is brave enough to figure out how to make it work. She’s creative and she wants to help other people make their dreams come true too. She’s a do-er. I love people who make things happen – I guess that’s where she came from – but I wanted to shock people too. We all have to pretend to be so perfect, but not everyone is, and I think Bea reflects that.

L.L.: Thomasina and Lauren are lovely chefs and caterers. From the potato gratin to the loin of venison coated in a mushroom duxelles and wrapped in puff pastry to the delicate pear mousse with a rich chocolate sauce right in the middle…well, let’s just say, I did a fair amount of snacking while reading. Are you a foodie yourself?

Veronica Henry: Oh yes … I am never happier than when reading about food, cooking food, eating other people’s food … Right now I am poaching a chicken and I’m going to try a new dish my friend told me about – a Greek soup with lemon and egg and rice – and I can’t wait. It brings me such pleasure. Food is a really important part of my writing. Mealtimes are perfect dramatic backdrops. They bring people together. Add in some wine and the drama begins! Thomasina is a great character – I love how she is so quiet yet brings people so much pleasure without showing off.

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L.L.: Emilia often talks about her childhood living above Nightingale Books. Do you have anything from your childhood you wished you still had—a toy, book, item of clothing?

Veronica Henry: I’m really trying hard not to hold onto stuff anymore as I think it does hold you back and stop you growing as a person. Living in the past isn’t healthy, but it’s important to keep a few key pieces. I have a lot of my childhood books which bring me joy and I often re-read them. I also still have the teddy bear my father gave me for my first birthday – he died last year so that bear gives me a lot of comfort. It was weird – I wrote about Julius’ death just before my own father died (I didn’t know he was going to), and it was so odd re-reading the book afterwards as I felt so many of the things Emilia felt. 

L.L.: It’s been a pleasure, Veronica. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Veronica Henry: It’s been a pleasure for me too – I just want to remind your readers to visit their local bookstore as often as they can. We must keep them alive. And you never know what you are going to come out with. Happy reading everyone!

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Veronica Henry © Jenny Lewis.jpegABOUT THE AUTHOR: Veronica Henry worked as a TV scriptwriter before turning to fiction. In 2014, she won the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year with A Night on the Orient Express. Henry lives by the sea in North Devon, U.K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[Cover and author images courtesy of Viking/Pamela Dorman Books and used with permission. Cotswolds cottages retrieved from, reading outside from, Cotswolds bookstore retrieved from, collection of childhood books from, all retrieved on 9.25.17]