A Mother’s Love, a Teacher’s Promise, living life with a full heart: Internationally bestselling author Alyson Richman shares this essay on THE SECRETS OF CLOUDS

By Leslie Lindsay

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of THE LOST WIFE and THE VELVET HOURS comes an emotionally charged story about a mother’s love, a teacher’s journey, and a child’s heart…..

9781984802620 (1).jpg

In recent months, I’ve stumbled upon antique stores with a greater curiosity for nostalgia of my childhood.  Almost invariably, I’ve unearthed toys or household goods that were once a part of my childhood. The Barbie Mercedes! A set of Smuf glassware from a restaurant chain! An early edition of Hungry, Hungry Hippos, the same type of cannisters that once adorned my childhood kitchen counters…and I think: these are antiques?!

I remember the 1980s with a brilliant, almost photographic memory. So when THE SECRET OF CLOUDS (Berkley hardcover, Feb 19 2019) came to my attention, I was completely intrigued. THE SECRET OF CLOUDS is internationally bestselling author Alyson Richman’s first depiction of a more contemporary era–1986, but it also combines pertinent topics of immigration, education, a parent’s love, a teacher’s dedication.

Richman is known for her sweeping WWII tales of WWII, like THE VELVET HOURS, and THE LOST WIFEthe latter of which is in development to be a major motion picture and is currently being cast.  Now, Richman pens a heartwarming story of love and the power of healing for a Ukrainian immigrant family living in New York following the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which I also distinctly recall.

THE SECRET OF CLOUDS is a journey of a mother and her son, and a teacher and her student.  A story that will make readers examine what it means to actually live life with a full heart. 

A Bit About The Book:

Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev.  Years later, when the couple has safely emigrated to America, their son, Yuri, will be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children.  When a passionate and dedicated teacher, Maggie Topper, is assigned to tutor Yuri, she finds herself forced to confront her own painful childhood memories.  As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri’s boundless curiosity and unique wisdom will inspire Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life.  And she’ll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her — until she needs that strength the most…


“Exquisite and haunting. Richman writes with the soul of a poet, and her captivating new novel enchants while tugging ever so gently at the heart. Her story stands as a reminder to never take any day for granted.”

—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece


When I asked Alyson a bit about the seed for THE SECRET OF CLOUDS, she responded with this thoughtful and touching essay about the goodness of people, the restorative power of humanity, and how teachers make a difference. What a perfect message for February. We hope you enjoy!

beverage breakfast close up cocoa
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Writing with a Full Heart” 

 by Alyson Richman

In 2016, I began contemplating what my next novel would be. The year had been particularly tumultuous, with politics taking up most of the headlines, and I wanted to embark on a creative journey that would be both emotionally restorative and also reinforce what I believed to be the good in people.  Also, I had spent the majority of my career writing historical novels, several of which took place during World War II, and I wanted to expand my creative horizons and write in a different direction with a more contemporary theme.

###

Every one of my novels comes about from personal curiosity and a desire to leave something meaningful behind.  The first seeds for THE SECRET OF CLOUDS began one sunny August afternoon as I was sitting poolside with a dear friend of mine who is an elementary school teacher.  She was considering what projects she would be assigning to her new students that Fall. She mentioned to me how every year she instructs her third-grade class to write a letter to their eighteen-year old selves about how they envision their lives in the future, then she holds on to those letters for nearly a decade, mailing them back to the children the week they graduate high school.  I was immediately in awe of her!  She described that her basement had a filing cabinet in which she stored several years’ worth of letters, their envelopes all sealed shut and written in a child’s hand, waiting to be returned to their original owner at the appropriate time.

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

I began to question her on what specific letters had stood out for her over the years. She shared a deeply emotional story about how one year, she tutored a child who was too sick to come in to class and attend school.  Nonetheless, she gave him the same writing assignment as the rest of her class, keeping his letter in her filing cabinet along side those of her other students.  The boy’s health improved, and when it was eventually time for him to graduate, poignant memories of their time together returned to her, and she realized just how deeply this one particular student had transformed her.  I was immediately struck by the profound and life-changing bond between a teacher and their students, one that can transcend time and distance, and I wanted to explore that more deeply through my writing.

###

Teachers have always fascinated me.  Their selflessness, their devotion to their students and the way in which they inspire a love of learning, are all something I’ve held in great esteem ever since the start of my own school days.  I know there have been several teachers who helped me become the writer I am today, ones who opened up the world of reading to me and nurtured my writing. I’ve also since been lucky enough to witness firsthand how so many teachers have helped shape my own children’s lives.  I wanted that powerful and special relationship to be the core of THE SECRET OF CLOUDS, while also showing how students can also positively reshape the life of a teacher as well.

orange white and pink smoke digital wallpaper
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Also, because all of my previous novels have so extensively woven in a historical theme, I again wanted to create a backstory of a part of history that I felt needed to be explored more in contemporary literature. When my son was an infant, his first babysitter was a nurse from Ukraine. She shared with me her stories of the accident at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1986. I’ll never forget her describing how, for three days, no one in the area knew about the accident, so they were all outside sunning themselves in the unseasonably hot weather and bathing in the now unusually warm waters of the local river. Babies were soon born with rare diseases and heart defects akin to what my character Yuri has. Countless health problems related to the radiation leak still plague the Ukrainian population. I wanted to illuminate this trauma in my novel. Weaving together the story of the letters written by a classroom of American children and the history of Chernobyl was the perfect way to explore the themes that were important to me.

###

While Yuri, the main character in THE SECRETS OF CLOUDS is born with a rare health condition that prevents him from going to school, his heart is still full of the same hopes and dreams as his fellow classmates.  For me, so much of this novel is about living life to its fullest and leaving a lasting impact on those around you. In the end, the novel is about all the things that are important to me:  a mother’s love, a teacher’s dedication, and the profound wisdom that can be found in a child’s heart.

I hope you will enjoy the novel! 

art art materials artistic blue
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

alyson richman1 credit jeanine boubliABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alyson Richman is the international bestselling author of The Velvet HoursThe Garden of LettersThe Lost WifeThe Last Van GoghThe Rhythm of Memory, and The Mask Carver’s Son. She lives on Long Island, New York, with her husband and two children.

 

 

 

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#amreading #authorinterviews #bookreviews #fiction #Ukraine #Chernobyl #immigration #teachers #children

9781984802620 (1)

[Cover and author image courtesy of Berkley/Penguin Random House and used with permission. Author photo credit: Jeanine Boubli].

 

 

Would you read a book about dead people? You should–there’s so much life thrumming within the pages of THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD

By Leslie Lindsay

“Death is the subtext of life,” writes the author in her introduction of THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD, and she would be right.

9781640091221.jpg

PBS NewsHour Best Book of the Year 


One of the Top Ten Books of the Year, Newark Star-Ledger

Poetic vignettes of 60+ individuals (including one dog and one goldfish), Winik captures the beauty of living in this slim book. Plus, that cover!

Longtime commentator of NPR’s “All Things Considered” (1991-2006), Marion Winik reviews books for Newsday, People, and Kirkus, and is host of The Weekly Reader podcast. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to relish in her poetic, yet sparse writing. 

And relish, I did. Although THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD is a slim volume (heck, it could almost fit in your pocket), you might be tempted to breeze right through it in one sitting.

But don’t. 


Every short essay
(2-3 pages at most) deserves your full attention, a careful read. I was amazed and awed with how vivid a portrait Ms. Winik could paint with few words. There’s hope, love, family, pain all succinctly wrapped in a tidy package.

THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD features ‘death’ in the title, and you might be wondering if you want to sit and read about death …because doesn’t that sound a bit depressing? Well, do it anyway. It’s not as dull or macabre as it might sound.

Winik writes with a graceful and amazingly light hand about a less-light subject. In essence, Winik’s observations are more of a lesson for the living, a glimmering memorial, and nuanced observations of the world we live.

Please join me in welcoming Marion Winik to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Marion, welcome! I found THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD most insightful, though unusual. I understand it’s a follow-up to your earlier title, THE GLEN ROCK BOOK OF THE DEAD (Counterpoint, 2008). But there are other books—and a decade between the two—can you talk about why this book, why now?

Marion Winik:

Right after I finished GLEN ROCK, my mother died, my husband left, and I moved to Baltimore. Since I had been with one man or another pretty much continuously since I was 27, I assumed a new guy would turn up right away. Instead, about two years of utter ridiculousness ensued, and that became HIGHS IN THE LOW FIFTIES: How I Stumbled Through the Joys of Single Living. Also in this time I started a bi-weekly column called Bohemian Rhapsody in the Baltimore Fishbowl — I’ve been keeping up with that ever since, which is eight years now, though I did switch from bi-weekly to monthly a few years ago. The column was and is a great outlet for my creative energy. (And if you want to read them, sign up over here, you’ll get a notification each month when it comes out. Also all 200 old ones are archived on the site.) So at this point, with seven books of memoir under my belt, I felt like I really had nothing more to write about if my life had to be the focus. So, I then spent 3 years — god, was it really that long? — working on a novel about a memoir teacher who has a student who becomes famous. It was called The Acknowledgments. I guess it still is. But literally dozens of publishers rejected it, so at this point, it’s staying in the drawer.

So — aren’t you glad you asked this question? Oy vey this is a long answer — at this point I realized for the third time that I just can’t write fiction and if I want to do anything worthwhile I better get back in my wheelhouse. THE GLEN ROCK BOOK OF THE DEAD is one of my favorite books I’ve ever written, and it was really a great experience to write it. Both the communing with dead part, and the creating 400-word essays part. What else could I do that would be sort of like that? I tried and tried, and couldn’t think of anything. Then I realized it was 2018, a lot of people had died since 2008, and I could probably just do the same thing again! I proposed the idea to Jack Shoemaker at Counterpoint, the publisher of GLEN ROCK, and he said, show me. And … well, it worked out really well, I think.

books on bookshelves
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

And so where does that leave you now? If you feel you can’t write fiction? Does this mean more memoir?

Marion Winik:

Actually, I’m now working on dead people again, because we’ve decided that instead of bringing out BALTIMORE in paperback this fall, there’s going to be a BIG BOOK OF THE DEAD which will merge GLEN ROCK and BALTIMORE and includes 13 new pieces! 125 total, divided into four chronological sections.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Should I say oy vey?

Marion Winik: 

Yes, yes. I think you should!

Leslie Lindsay:

And just to clarify, there’s not a lot of ‘Baltimore’ per se, but you titled this based on where you wrote it, yes? Can you expand on that, please?

Marion Winik:

It has turned out that the “Baltimore” in the title has sort of worked against me, because a.) people in other places think it’s not for them and b.) people think it’s about Baltimore’s murder problem. Actually, I was just following the pattern established in GLEN ROCK of naming it for the place it was written. But since no one ever heard of Glen Rock, mentioning it in the first title didn’t have much of an effect at all — Baltimore is a different story.

And this is another reason I’m so excited about THE BIG BOOK OF THE DEAD! Not only do I get rid of the geography, it has a bit of an irreverent ring which may help correct the impression that the book is depressing and morbid. I have Jenny Alton, my editor at Counterpoint, to thank for thinking of it.


“An affecting collection of brief, incisive portraits of departed figures both public and private.” 
People


Leslie Lindsay:

I’m so, so interested in genre these days. It seems like it should be pretty straight-forward, but that’s not always the case. Many books are genre-bending, genre-crossing. THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD is a little of everything—non-fiction, poetry, memoir, autobiography, essay—can you give us a little more insight and should writers worry about genre?

Marion Winik:

No they should not! I think a lot of the most interesting work we’re seeing today is hybrid genre. Auto-fiction, for example, like the work of the great Lucia Berlin, is a really interesting category. The books of the dead could be considered prose poems, auto fiction, or memoir. The only reason to think about genre is because it affects the marketing. Jack had mentioned the idea of publishing THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD as fiction. Because as much as the essays are based on fact and are very carefully researched, approved and checked by someone who knew the person, there’s also a lot of imagination that goes into it — I’m writing about events I didn’t not attend, sometimes people I barely knew. But since GLEN ROCK had already been published as memoir, we really didn’t have that option.

book opened on top of white table beside closed red book and round blue foliage ceramic cup on top of saucer
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

There are over sixty stories—but those stories encompass so much living, so many lives—was there one or two that really surprised you? Perhaps they illuminated a piece of yourself—or someone else in a new light. Can you talk about that, please?

Marion Winik:

Well, as I just mentioned, each piece is researched with family or friends of the person, so I found out tons of things I didn’t know. Like in ‘The Perfect Couple,’ I had planning to write about just the wife. But when I interviewed my friend, her daughter, I realized that the story of her father dying of AIDS was all entwined with it, and it should be about both of them. And the seaplane crash in ‘The Cat With Nine Lives’ — I had only foggy memories of that, but I was able to research it both with the son of the person (my cousin) and in the archives of the New York Times and the Newark Star-Ledger. The story of David Bowie’s ‘Thin White Duke’ character I really knew nothing about until I started reading books about Bowie’s career. I could go on and on, because almost every one of the pieces is based on research and interviews. That’s why the Acknowledgments are so long. [You can read excerpts from THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD here.]

orange tabby cat with red collar on green sofa

Leslie Lindsay:

What challenged you the most during the writing of THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD? Did you worry about how others might respond—or maybe they didn’t want to be in your story?

Marion Winik:

The subjects are all dead, so they are unable to weigh in on whether they’d like to be in the book. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t use their names. But I do get permission from the survivors and actually no one has said no yet. Sometimes there are bumps in the road because they don’t like the first draft I show them, but I keep going back and forth until they are okay with it. It’s often a pretty collaborative process.

Leslie Lindsay:

Marion, it’s been a great pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to chat. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Marion Winik:

No, I think this was great. Thanks so much, Leslie — thanks for reading my book and taking the time to talk to me.

blur exhibition indoors miniature

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD, please see: 

Order Links: 

Marion Winik Author Photograph by Maeve Secor & Jane SartwellABOUT THE AUTHOR: Longtime All Things Considered commentator MARION WINIK is the author of First Comes LoveThe Glen Rock Book of the Dead, and seven other books. Her Bohemian Rhapsody column at BaltimoreFishbowl.com has received the Best Column and Best Humorist awards from Baltimore Magazine, and her essays have been published in The New York Times MagazineThe Sun, and many other publications. She is the host of The Weekly Reader radio show and podcast, based at the Baltimore NPR affiliate. She reviews books for NewsdayPeople, and Kirkus Reviews and is a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. She is a professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore.

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#prosepoems #amreading #TheBaltimoreBookoftheDead #authorinterview #memoir #autofiction

49913290_193815168241701_6701782886238161033_n.jpg

[Cover and author image courtesy of Counterpoint Press and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Join me on Instagram]

NOW IN PAPERBACK! Robin Oliveira talks about her love for Albany NY, bike riding, researching books to be accurate yet emotional, & more in WINTER SISTERS

By Leslie Lindsay 

A haunting tale of a horrific New York blizzard that leads to missing girls, a court case, and dead parents. 

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

Winter Sisters
It’s March 1879, fourteen years after the Civil War. The day begins like any other. A light snow is falling as the O’Donnell family leave their simple home for work and school. But an epic blizzard has obliterated the city, separating children from parents and families from homes. Both of the O’Donnell parents area dead and the girls, Emma and Claire (ages 10 and 7) are nowhere to be found.

Close family friends, Dr. Mary Stipp (nee, Sutter)–whom we met in Oliveira’s earlier book, MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER, and her husband, Dr. William Stipp, begin a tireless search for the girls, turning over every orphanage, church, home, school…the girls are nowhere to be found. The police feel they must have died in the river. Yet, scandal is brewing.

Meanwhile, Mary’s mother, Amelia and niece (Elizabeth) return from their stay in Paris where Elizabeth had been in the Paris Conservatory studying violin. Together, with the Drs. Stipp, the search continues, as well as grieving for the lost.

I found the writing absolutely glorious, with rich detail to the historical period, making every piece of the story feel very authentic and accurate (though some creative liberties were taken with the dates, as explained in the author’s note). Oliveira’s descriptions sing, as does her experience as a former critical care R.N., bringing so much of this 19th century doctor to life.

The last third of WINTER SISTERS was almost exclusively focused on a trial, which Oliveira depicts in such flourish and beauty, sharp dialogue, and clever characters. I was so taken with this part of the story and couldn’t get enough. Much of the themes angered me, but had me cheering for the ‘good guy,’ too.

Part family saga, part medical drama, part thriller, all set in a historical setting, WINTER SISTERS is sure to delight and enrage as it traverses unspeakable evil to tremendous good. 

I am so, so honored to welcome Robin to the author interview series. Please join us!

Leslie Lindsay:

Robin, I loved WINTER SISTERS so much. I’m curious what drew you to this story? I know you’re from Albany, New York, but there has to be more to it other than it being your hometown. Can you elaborate?

Robin Oliveira:

Thank you, Leslie. I’m so glad you loved the book. I love to hear when readers connect with one of my novels. Because we writers write in a vacuum, it is lovely to receive notes of appreciation.

I grew up in Loudonville, which is just north of Albany on Route 9, but we often drove into the city to attend church, visit the doctor, shop, go out to dinner. From the wide back seat of my mother’s Bonneville, I formed indelible memories of the city: the Hudson River seemed wide and forbidding, the trains traveling right down the middle of Broadway spoke of faraway places, and the grand, rococo spires of the churches were enthralling and historic. Albany wears its history on its sleeve. Much of its 19th century architecture remains intact, giving Albany a distinctly visible link to its past. There were wooden row houses and elegant brownstones and verdant parks and enormous government buildings that to a child seemed like the larger world. Of course, it wasn’t Paris or Manhattan, but at that time, to my eyes, Albany was a fascinating, dangerous, romantic place, full of story and drama. That impression, and the desire to convey Albany’s legacy, has lingered with me in the years since.

In the 19th century, Albany was not a city in decline but a significant player on the world stage, a vital crossroads between east and west, which makes it a rich setting for a novel. The Hudson River, the railroads, and the Erie Canal all played an important role in the prosperity of the nation. Hemmed in on one side by the river, high and low society lived cheek by jowl: the rough and tumble lumbermen, barons of industry, tumultuous politics and politicians, and a more genteel society several generations removed from its methods of enrichment. Separated from Manhattan City by only a four-hour dayboat ride or train trip, in its heyday Albany was intimately connected with the commerce of the entire country. This story, WINTER SISTERS, in particular, begged to be set in this thriving, small city, where gossip and scandal could impact multiple levels of society.

What drew me to the story itself is another question entirely. I didn’t set out to bring Mary back. But in the process of researching an entirely different book, I discovered that in 1879, in New York State, the age of consent was ten years old. That changed everything. I knew I had to write about it, and as I discovered that a doctor’s services would be called upon in the book, I thought Mary Sutter might make a cameo appearance. But the issues explored turned out to be grave, and I knew that if Mary got wind of them, she wouldn’t stay silent or stand by while somebody else dealt with the problem. She wouldn’t be content with having a distant role. So, she needed to be intimately affected by the events of the novel. And voila! A new Mary Sutter novel was born.

Leslie Lindsay:

WINTER SISTERS picks up about fourteen years after the Civil War. In your previous book, MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER, we’re introduced to a brilliant, headstrong midwife who eventually becomes a Civil War surgeon. Dr. Mary Sutter (now married to Dr. William Stipp), is back in this tale, but this isn’t exactly a series, is it? Is there a literary term for this type of character cross-over? And what is it about Mary that you—and readers—love so much?mary-sutter-250

Robin Oliveira:

I know,it isn’t quite a series, is it? Shall we invent a term? Connected novels, like connected short stories? Though I have received many requests from readers over the years to ‘bring Mary back,’ I could never find a story that seemed as necessary or compelling to tell as the one I had already told about her. I felt as if I’d solved all her problems, and that nothing else would ever be as exciting or interesting as becoming a surgeon in the midst of war. What I think compels readers—and me—to love Mary Sutter is that she is a bright, clear-headed, courageous woman who speaks her mind, ignores societal conventions, slices directly into the heart of things, runs into trouble rather than away from it (the definition of a hero), and persists no matter the roadblock. I particularly love her verbal comebacks. She thinks of and says the apt rebuke or bon mot we all wish we were able to say in similarly fraught moments. There are many situations in my life where I think, Well, Mary wouldn’t have let that person speak to her like that. Why did you? Of course, it took me three or more drafts to write the words she wields as deftly as a sword. But what I think I adore most about Mary is that she is at heart an entirely moral human being. She rejects the frivolous—fashion, status, appearance—for the pursuit of much higher goals.

Leslie Lindsay:

Like Mary, you have experience in the medical field as a former critical care nurse. Your knowledge shines through in those medical scenes (I was a former psych R.N.) and so I’m curious how you made the switch from nursing to writing and how your past experience informs your present writing.

Robin Oliveira:

Before I ever thought about becoming a nurse, I was a reader. From early in my life, you could find me buried in a book somewhere in a corner, oblivious to the world around me, enthralled by a story. Since you and I have a lot in common—we are both readers, writers and nurses—I think you would probably agree that what connects those occupations is empathy. Writing is nothing if not an act of empathy, as is nursing. We inhabit differing realities, seek out hidden sources of pain, and do what we can to craft meaning from the lives we encounter, or in fiction, the characters we create. On a practical level, my transition to writing began with education. Having failed at making much progress in learning to write on my own, I started taking writing classes at the local community college, then moved on to university extension evening courses, and finally received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I have made a number of changes over the years. My first undergraduate degree was in Russian, a reflection of my love of language.

All of these things—reading, nursing, my love of language—inform my present writing. But more specifically, nursing brought me close to people on the verge of mortality. The intimacy of the act of nursing the critically ill breeds the kinds of instinct that work well for a writer: notice everything, try to draw meaning from sometimes inchoate gestures or requests, ask multiple questions to understand what someone’s true desire might be, especially at the end of life. In addition, I probably am able to write about medicine with more precision than another writer, who isn’t in the medical field. But I think that medicine and illness—even cursory illness— isn’t utilized enough in fiction. I often wonder about books covering many years in which no character ever suffers even a cold. It’s important as we write to acknowledge the weaknesses of the body as well as the soul. Nurses and physicians who write may be more focused on this.

dt_150421_doctor_reading_book_800x600.jpg


 

“A true tour de force, Winter Sisters is the best period thriller I’ve read since The Alienist. Robin Oliveira is…working at the height of her powers.”
   —Thomas Christopher Greene, author of The Headmaster’s Wife and If I Forget You


Leslie Lindsay:  

I absolutely loved the piece about the courtroom showdown, which takes place in the last third of WINTER SISTERS. I was in awe of the quick wit, the cleverness, and I was thinking, ‘how did she pull this off?’ What research did you do for these scenes?

Robin Oliveira:

I spent a lot of time reading 17th and 19th-century trial transcripts. I began with reading the Old Bailey transcripts from England—now available online—which were helpful in terms of tone but less helpful in terms of procedure and law. But New York trial transcripts, also recently digitized, are available from the early 1880’s, close enough to 1879 to be useful to me. I ferreted out procedure from these, as well as language and the kinds of questions lawyers were asking victims and witnesses.

In my first drafts, I didn’t quite know how to portray that court scene, never having written one, and not being a fan of television crime dramas. I couldn’t quite figure out how to craft those scenes so that they were tight and yet still portrayed what would have occurred in the courtroom. At first, I wrote endlessly long scenes recounting events and information that readers already knew. My editors, after reading the 200,000-word draft I sent them on my first deadline, implored me to cut the dross. It was excruciating figuring out which details to include and which to summarize in order to make the scene move with the kind of speed required to keep a reader’s attention without sacrificing any important details. As far as wit and cleverness go—thank you!—that was just rewriting. I went through multiple drafts. I included repartee because the events of the trial are so weighty that I felt the reader needed some comic relief in order to stay with me.

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s a lot to this book. There are missing girls, family drama, music in form of the violin, the natural disasters of the blizzard and flood, medical procedures, and of course that courtroom scene(s). They are all interrelated and form a delicious whole, but is there one aspect you enjoyed writing more than others?

Robin Oliveira:

I like learning new things. It’s the perennial student in me. I knew nothing about playing the violin—I can’t play a single instrument and am tone deaf—so I enjoyed figuring out how to write about a character who knew how to play the violin really well. I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching performances and listening to violin instructors explain things. I went to a Hilary Hahn concert to study her phrasing and watched her physicality as played. I went to Paris to visit the Conservatoire, which was wildly fun. Not trusting my two years of college French in conversation, I composed a note that I presented at the door of the school, which explained that I was writing a book and that part of it was set in the conservatory. Could I please come in to see the building and the famous concert hall? Yes! They let me in! I love the French. Then came the challenge of writing about the conservatory and about playing the violin convincingly enough, which was both a terror and a joy. This might be a good time to mention tha

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you talk a little more about the music piece? In this sense, this story reminded me a bit of Carmela Martino’s PLAYING BY HEART. What was your intention with Elizabeth and her violin?

Robin Oliveira:

One of the reasons I chose to include music in the story was that I needed Elizabeth to stand very much in opposition to her aunt. Their differences, both in personality and profession, provide a source of conflict that pushes one of the narrative threads. Mary Sutter is a physician who from an early age was scientifically grounded, practical in the extreme, and as a result seems better equipped to handle the kinds of issues that arise in WINTER SISTERS. By contrast, Elizabeth has always been artistic and emotional, and as a result not only feels far more vulnerable than perhaps her aunt ever has, but also, at first, seems to have very little to offer when the crisis presents itself. But each of them is a prodigy in their own right, and Elizabeth has something to provide that it turns out that Mary, with all her medical skill, cannot. Elizabeth’s musical genius reaches into the soul—and this story cried out for every tool available to respond to the story’s tragedy.

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you give us a few “Robin” facts, maybe something few know?

Robin Oliveira:

I love to ride my bicycle around the San Juan Islands in Washington. I studied in Moscow, USSR, in January 1976, when I was just twenty-two years old. I once skinny-dipped in Puget Sound. (I don’t recommend it. Too cold.) I’m addicted to watching eagle cams so I can observe growing eaglets while I write. I’m afraid of sailboats. I almost drowned when I was four years old on a family vacation in Cape Cod. I included one of my childhood dreams in WINTER SISTERS. I love the ballet. I was a Girl Scout, but probably sold the fewest boxes of cookies of any Girl Scout ever. And I met President Carter on a trip to the White House in 1977, and President Obama when he was raising funds for his first run for the White House.

backroads_-_new

Leslie Lindsay:

What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Robin Oliveira:

Perhaps the question I most often receive about my books is how authentic is the history in my books?

The answer is 99% of it. If I ever differ from established history, I explain how and why in my author notes. As you alluded to earlier, for WINTER SISTERS I moved a famous blizzard from 1888 to 1879. I did that because I needed my characters to be a certain age, and since they had already appeared in a prior book, I had to fudge that timing. But given the history of deadly winter storms in the northeast, I didn’t think it was too much of a stretch.

I like to put my readers—and myself—back in time. I do this by making my characters contend with reality as it was then. For instance, every boat or train they take adheres to historic schedules. In MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER, I wouldn’t allow Mary to possess more medical knowledge than was available at the time. This of course led her to make mistakes, but it was important to show medicine as it was, not medicine as I wanted her to know it. Also, I make certain never to move my historical characters from one place to another unless I can make a good case for how it might have happened. Again in MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER, I knew that President Lincoln gave a speech on a certain day very near General Lee’s house in Arlington, Virginia, where most of the Union Army had decamped after a blistering defeat at Manassas. I thought it was possible that Lincoln could have traveled on to visit the general who had mismanaged the battle, so I felt comfortable writing a scene set there. In I ALWAYS LOVED YOU, a story about the impressionist artists Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, I kept a detailed timeline of where every single artist in their circle was at any given time so that I wouldn’t have them meet while one was in Paris, say, and the other in Aix.

old-letters-envelope-21194905.jpg

It’s very important to me to underpin historical story with historical fact. However, emotional character arcs, in my mind, are fair game for interpretation in fiction. While I never go against anything that can be historically verified, story is not made up of facts. It is instead made up of emotion—the why something happened, which at its core speaks to motivation. Characters make decisions based on desire, and story ensues. That’s what makes historical fiction differ from history. That said, when I write about historical characters, I make heavy use of diaries, letters, reports, newspaper stories, etc. so that I can better get to the heart of who they were and what they wanted. Never is a historical figure a pawn in my story about them. Rather, I try to understand their story in order to portray it as intimately and emotionally true as I am able.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Robin, it’s been such a pleasure! Thank you.

Robin Oliveira:

The pleasure is all mine!

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

Order Links:

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

Robin Oliveira - © Shellie Gansz 2017.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Robin Oliveira grew up just outside Albany, New York in Loudonville. She holds a B.A. in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow, Russia. She worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, specializing in Critical Care and Bone Marrow Transplant. In 2006 Robin received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In 2007 she was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for her debut novel-in-progress, MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER, then entitled The Last Beautiful Day. MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER also received the 2011 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the 2010 American Historical Fiction Honorable Mention from the Langum Charitable Trust. The book was chosen as an all-city read for both Schenectady, N.Y. and Roswell, Georgia, and in 2015, the all-state read for Iowa. Her book, I ALWAYS LOVED YOU, was published by VIKING in 2014. WINTER SISTERS is her newest, set for publication on February 27th, 2018. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Euphony and Numero Cinq. Robin is the former fiction editor at the literary magazine upstreet and a former assistant editor at Narrative Magazine. She lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her husband, Andrew Oliveira. She is the mother of two grown children, Noelle and Miles.

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

f361308f-8e47-46bd-ab06-5662fe502b14

#amreading #authorinteview #historicalfiction #winter #sisters #orphans #NewYork 

Winter Sisters

[Interview originally appeared in February 2018. This is a ‘reprint.’ Cover and author image courtesy of Viking/Penguin Random House and used with permission. Author photo credit: Shellie Lansz. Paris Conservatory images retrieved from Wikipedia; signs and storefronts of c. 1892 Albany NY from  Albany mansion from, nurse reading from, backroads biking on San Juan from , image of old letters from; all on 2.15.18]

What if you adopted a little girl…and then took in her homeless parents for awhile? That’s what happened with Vanessa McGrady in ROCK NEEDS RIVER

By Leslie Lindsay

Released just this week, ROCK NEEDS RIVER (Little A, February 5 2019), Vanessa McGrady takes us on a journey through the very open adoption of her daughter, Grace, and what happens when her biological parents need shelter, too. 

img_0768 (1)

“How can you repay a priceless debt? When my daughter’s birth parents became homeless, I impulsively invited them to stay with us, without clearly thinking it through. It was wonderful in some ways, terrible in others, and continues to be a roller-coaster of love, truth, and loyalty. This is our story.”

Here, Vanessa McGrady shares her top nine books on adoption. Some are memoir, others poetic; some for children, others written by same-sex partners, and some are down-right humorous.  Please join us.

Books on Adoption

By Vanessa McGrady

Every major hero/ine’s journey and epic tale has an adoption component. From Bible stories and Greek myths (adoption worked out well for Moses, not so much for Oedipus) to Star Wars through This Is Us, we humans are obsessed with origin stories. And it’s no wonder: “Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” are questions that confound and comfort us from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath.

Even more specifically, books about adoption give us light and insight into how families are created and what it means to be a family—by blood, by love, and sometimes, the combination of the two.

Dear Birthmother

by Kathleen Silber

The pioneering godmother of the open-adoption movement in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Silber did ground-shaking work to bring transparency to the adoption process, 51uDG1P9FJL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgwhich ultimately, is better for the mental health of all parties involved. In Dear Birthmother, a primer of sorts, she helps adoptive parents understand the love, humanity and loss intrinsic to placing a child for adoption. I love this book because it shines a light on the much-deserved compassion to these women who give up so much in search of a better life for themselves and their children.

Everything You Ever Wanted

by Jillian Lauren

In this exquisitely written poem of a memoir, Jillian Lauren splays her heart wide open, 41ZmyGvxc7L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgon every page as she transforms from an addict whose used up most of her luck to a mother whose role requires great stores of grit, determination and love. We’re right there with her as she and her husband decide to adopt a boy from Ethiopia, and we’re along for the bumpy, often painful, occasionally joyful, ride through the challenges of parenting this tiny person who has already lost so much, but has so much to give. Outside of motherhood, she’s so funny and interesting I kind of want to be best friends with her. Not in a weirdo-stalker way, though.

All You Can Ever Know

by Nicole Chung

Born to Korean parents and adopted by white ones, Nicole Chung spent her life 41ohxrqghkl._sx329_bo1,204,203,200_wondering about her origins, and feeling slightly out of place in her decidedly non-Asian community. As she searches for and ultimately finds her birth family, we feel her butterflies, her joy, her chagrin, her confusion and disappointment … all of it. This is such a deeply personal book, yet resonates so universally for anyone who has ever asked themselves, “Who am I? No, who am I really?”

God and Jetfire

by Amy Seek

Deciding to place a child for adoption is one of the most excruciating decisions in the 51k9ah9daol._sx331_bo1,204,203,200_human experience. When Amy Seek, a promising architecture student, becomes pregnant, she’s not yet ready to become a parent. But she’s also not ready, completely, to hand over her child to a perfectly lovely family. Her tale of love, heartbreak and acceptance is a reminder to parents and non-parents of all circumstances that there are lots of ways to make a family—and in this case, it was the best, most perfectly imperfect option. I think this is a really important book for everyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees) to read, because it really gets up close and uncomfortably personal with the struggle some birth mothers undergo, despite the unlimited love they have for their babies.

Born With Teeth: A Memoir

by Kate Mulgrew

Kate Mulgrew’s ascent to stardom as star of Ryan’s Hope, Star Trek: Voyager and Orange 51postlgwll._sx314_bo1,204,203,200_Is the New Black would have read as somewhat of a fairy tale—coming from a large, loving family to the Big City to hone her talent, win roles and find love—except for one decision that would haunt her for most of her adult life. When Mulgrew unexpectedly became pregnant early in her career, she knew that her child would be better off in a home where parents were wanting and waiting for a child. Nuns whisked away her newborn daughter, and it would take deep searching and 22 years to see her again. There are many ways a birth parent-adoptee reunion can go down, but fortunately for Mulgrew and her daughter, Danielle, theirs was all you could hope for, and maybe more.   

The Kid

by Dan Savage

One of the earliest works in the adoption-memoir genre, Dan Savage tells how he and his 51531v834CL.jpghusband navigated decisions on how to become parents and settled on open adoption. The book follows the harrowing journey of their son’s birth mother, Melissa, a homeless teen-ager who isn’t exactly going to Whole Foods and taking Pregnant Lady Yoga classes. Savage tells the story of their relationship with Melissa with great compassion, love and hope for all involved. This was a hugely important book for me to read, so long ago, because it showed me the complex, imperfect and ultimately loving dynamic involved in parenting through adoption.

Instant Mom

by Nia Vardalos

First of all, Nia Vardalos is just hilarious. She could write an Ikea assembly brochure and 51jzkonexjlit would probably be side-splitting. But in the book, she tells about being a rising star (a great story on its own) who had it all – except a baby. After a grueling battle with infertility, she eventually came around to the idea of adoption, and started to learn more about the fost-adopt process of taking an older child who is unlikely to reunite with their original family. With great heart, she tells the roller-coaster story of bringing a 3-year-old with attachment challenges into her life—and the inevitable universality of motherhood. “Nothing prepared me for the live I would feel for my child. Nothing prepared me for how quickly it happened for me. And here’s what I just figure out now: no one is ever prepared. In a way, we’re all instant moms.” She’s just so good.

Mommy Man

by Jerry Mahoney

When writer Jerry Mahoney and his husband decided to become parents, they didn’t 51gxbq0tnxlexactly adopt – but they did become dads to twins with the donation of eggs from Jerry’s sister and a borrowed uterus from a surrogate carrier. This funny, nail-biter of a book brings you along for the ride from hope to dashed dreams and back as Mahoney creates his sweet family with the support of his tribe. I think this is important because it highlights another common but not often-told story of how families are made with the complex weaving of love and biology.

Corduroy

by Don Freeman

This was one of the first books I ever bought my daughter, Grace, shortly after I became her mom through adoption. I’d not picked it up for a good 35 years, and didn’t 51siorh4jql._sy392_bo1,204,203,200_remember much except for a cute picture of a bear with a wardrobe malfunction. But when I lay down to read Corduroy out loud to Grace, I burst into tears as I realized the great beauty of this simple story. Nobody wanted this little teddy bear, Corduroy, who lived in a department store, because he was missing a button on his overalls. When a little girl, Lisa, sees him on the shelf, she loves him instantly. So much so that the next day, she brings her own money to buy him, bring him home, fix him a little bed next to her own, and yes, sew the button back on his overalls. He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for her and they belong together. Damn it, I can’t even think about this story without crying. There I go again.


“The love McGrady feels toward Grace, whom she has dedicated the book and her life to, is the sweet layer of frosting on top on a multilayered cake. An expressive and love-filled tale of adoption and of befriending the biological parents of the adopted child.”

Kirkus Reviews


woman and girl standing beside concrete wall
Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

mcgrady author photo (c) stephanie simpson 2016ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vanessa McGrady was born in Manhattan and raised there and on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. She holds a BA from New York University and is a former radio and newspaper journalist, waitress, playwright, actor, bartender, dating service owner, and corporate communications and social media strategist. She writes about personal finance, feminist parenting, and health, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Oprah.com, Jezebel, Forbes, Refinery29, Bust, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles with her daughter, Grace Magnolia.

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

f361308f-8e47-46bd-ab06-5662fe502b14LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#memoir #motherhood #adoption #amreading #readingrecommendations #family

rock needs river cover

[Cover and author image courtesy of ShreveWilliams and used with permission. Images of adoption book covers retrieved from Amazon on 1.19.19. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram.]

NYT Bestselling author Dani Shapiro talks about her sublime new memoir–finding herself, DNA, paternity, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Wildly thought-provoking medical, ethical, and genetic mystery, Dani Shapiro opens up about her journey of identity in INHERITANCE. 

Shapiro.jacket.jpg

Washington PostVultureBustleReal SimplePopSugar, and LitHub 

Most Anticipated Book of 2019 

A New York Times Bestseller

Dani Shapiro is the best-selling author of four memoirs, HOURGLASS, STILL WRITINGDEVOTION, and SLOW MOTION, and five novels including BLACK AND WHITE and FAMILY HISTORY. Her books span diverse subjects from her tumultuous upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish community and the tragic death of her father to her explorations of spirituality and the nature of our deepest relationships.

Praise for INHERITANCE call it ‘important and timely,’ ‘beautiful but heartbreaking,’ and an ‘introspective mystery’ that is both ‘captivating and traumatic.’

I finished INHERITANCE (Knopf, January 15 2019) in just two sittings (but it could have been one if I had been more disciplined). Here, she begins with a lovely childhood memory of waking in the morning hours and scurrying to the bathroom where she perches on the sink to gaze at her reflection in the mirror.

Who is this girl? 

Seems this question has pierced Ms. Shapiro’s consciousness all her life. Quite different in her appearance than other family members, Dani’s skin was/is lighter, her cheeks pink discs, and her hair–so golden she could have been used as a ‘bread-getter’ in Nazi Germany. But she was full-blooded Jewish. The only child of devout Orthodox Jews, Dani never had reason to question her paternity. Until her husband says, rather off-handedly, that he’s going to order away for one of those DIY DNA kits, and did Dani want one, too?

Shapiro_Inheritance_NYTBR_Sticker-aspect-ratio-5x2

What results is a medical/genetic mystery: Dani is not her father’s daughter. So, who’s daughter is she? And what of her personal identity, her culture, her religion?

Ms. Shapiro writes with a gentle hand in this lyrical and deeply moving memoir. I was absolutely captivated and felt right there with her as she spun through time and memoryI felt her anguish and confusion, her defeat. And yet, she rises above it all–and just as any ‘good’ character, she is transformed from the experience. 

Not only does Ms. Shapiro weave in childhood memories, but she also
 touches on the history of artificial insemination, flashbacks to her younger parents, and how family secrets and identity have played pivotal roles in her other memoirs, as well as novels. 

INHERITANCE is presented in such a way that I found very captivating and even a few gasp-out-loud moments. This is one of those books that would make a good book discussion group–how many of us have used the services of Ancestry.com or 23andMe, or a similar test? What about genetics and ethics, and paternity…what would you have done in a similar situation?

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Dani Shapiro to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Dani, you open INHERITANCE by gazing at your face in the mirror. It was if you wanted to know and understand your reflection, but never quite connected because it looked radically different from the family you knew. For me, the opposite was true. My face looks staggeringly similar to my own mentally ill mother’s. I thought, ‘if I could look more like my dad, maybe I won’t become crazy?’  Can you talk about this, and how we are more than our outward appearance?

Dani Shapiro:

When I stared at my own face in the mirror as a child, I was searching for something I couldn’t have possibly articulated. Of course, we’re much more than our outward appearance, but in my case, my appearance – which was so starkly different from my parents – was a clue to my identity. I couldn’t have dared the thought that my beloved dad wasn’t my biological father – I was so bonded to him (and not to my mother) that it was out of the question. But that’s what the staring was about. My outward appearance did not match my inward sense of self, and the family I believed myself to have come from. If I had always known the truth, this feeling would have been different, I imagine. The secret was reflected back at me in the mirror.

Leslie Lindsay:

Like you, I spit into a tube and mailed it in. I waited. I got the results. I thought I’d be half-German. I wasn’t, though it was there in smaller amounts. I felt some relief. Maybe I’m not my mother’s daughter after all. I also learned I’m a tiny part Jewish. And this cleared up a few things: like, why I sometimes call my daughter Bubbe. [a psychic once told me my daughter had once been my grandmother]. How do you think these DNA tests will affect future generations?

Dani Shapiro:

Well, I think that soon, there will be no more secrets, at least in this regard. Anonymity is a thing of the past. And I believe that in future generations, the idea that we ever kept such secrets from each other will seem ludicrous, unethical, just plain wrong. 

black and white photos of toddlers
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

You’ve been super-prolific in your writing career and INHERITANCE isn’t your first memoir. How does this one differ from the others? Or, does it?

Dani Shapiro:

I’ve written five novels and five memoirs. I turned from fiction to memoir because I was digging into questions about my family history (with the exception of Hourglass, my memoir before Inheritance, which is an inquiry into long-lasting marriage) and Inheritance answers those questions. In a sense, it’s as if all my previous books led to this one. With the discovery about my dad, and about the massive secret that was kept from me, I was given a lot of answers, and also a lot of questions. Which led to the writing of this book.

Leslie Lindsay:

INHERITANCE is obviously deeply personal, but it’s also universal. We all desire to feel at ease with ourselves, to know who we ‘really’ are. Do we ever? Aren’t we always evolving? How can writers—especially those writing memoir—make a deep and lasting connection with their readers?

Dani Shapiro: 

Writers of memoir would be well-advised to keep away from trying to write the “definitive” memoir, or, as I think of it, the “kitchen sink” memoir. Memoirs are stories. And good memoirs connect with readers when the specificity of a story connects with the universal thread. Though the writer can’t be sitting at her desk thinking “wait, is this universal?”  That kind of question sets off the inner censor – which I write a lot about in my book Still Writing – the censor will stop you in your tracks. Indeed, we are always evolving. What we’re trying to do is pin down a particular story from a particular moment.  The me-now examining what happened to the me-then. Therefore, there is never a definitive “got it” moment. And also, this is why it’s possible to write multiple memoirs, if one has that bent.


“Shapiro recognized that what she had experienced
was ‘a great story’—one that has inspired her best book.
“Before focusing on memoirs, Shapiro drew from her family life in her fiction. In her latest, she delves into an origin story that puts everything she previously believed and wrote about herself in fresh perspective.”

KIRKUS, a starred review


Leslie Lindsay:

I imagine the family you call Walden in INHERITANCE is supremely private. But I found them [mostly] warm and accepting in the narrative. Can you give us a bit of insight as to what is going on with them now that the book is available? How do they feel about this now?

Dani Shapiro:

Sorry, but I’m not talking about the Waldens beyond what happens in INHERITANCE. We are in each other’s lives, and they understandably would like our relationship to be private moving forward, as would I. It’s a lot for private people – even those whose identity I have protected – to have a book written about their experience. And I totally respect that.

close up photo of vintage typewriter
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Dani, it’s been such a pleasure and delight. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Dani Shapiro:

Well, I do think it’s interesting that so many people are making these discoveries because of easy and accessible DNA testing. Last year alone, twelve million people bought these kits. Many of those people – as much as 2% — are making discoveries that are intense for them. Hundreds of thousands of people are discovering that they didn’t know significant aspects of their own identities. It’s really staggering on so many levels

Leslie Lindsay:

Oh! One more thing: what’s obsessing you? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Dani Shapiro:

Oat milk. Seriously.

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

Order Links: 

Shapiro.photoABOUT THE AUTHOR: DANI SHAPIRO is the author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Also an essayist and a journalist, Shapiro’s short fiction, essays, and journalistic pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of the New York Times, and many other publications. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School, and Wesleyan University; she is cofounder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

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

f361308f-8e47-46bd-ab06-5662fe502b14LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#memoir #INHERITANCE #amreading #authorinterviewseries #DNA #identity 

IMG_0784

[Cover and author image courtesy of Knopf and used with permission. Family photos of the author courtesy of D. Shapiro and used with permission. Cover images of other Shapiro books retrieved from Knopf website. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram

 

 

 

Menacing, Melancholic debut from Emma Rous, THE AU PAIR, captures the English countryside, identity, and family secrets sublimely

By Leslie Lindsay

Entrancing, melancholic and atmospheric narrative alternating between two female perspectives about identity, family, and secrets. 

Au Pair COVER.jpg

Dark family secrets prevail in this debut from Emma Rous (Berkley Trade Paperback original, January 8 2019). There’s scandal, infidelity, a seaside estate, a nanny, and suicide. Plus, what about those mysterious twins? I fell in love with the setting–the Summerbourne Estate captured my heart because I absolutely adore homes in general. And what stories those walls may tell–or in this case, the nanny.

It’s 1991/92 and The Mayes family have hired Laura Silveira to help care for young Edwin, opening their lives up to some scrutiny. Laura is eighteen and needing a bit of respite from her failed A levels, taking a gap year to ‘sort herself out.’

Alternating perspectives dive into Seraphine’s present-day story in which she is struggling with the after-effects of her father’s recent death. When Seraphine–a twin–discovers an old photograph of her mother just after her birth, holding just one baby–who or where is the other twin? And why did her mother jump to her death just hours after giving birth? Seraphine finds herself quickly ensnared in a mystery and a web of family deceit–even threats–as she attempts to get to the bottom of this mystery.

I found the juxtaposition of Seraphine and Laura’s story, set approximately 25 years apart, a compelling structure. There’s so much to love about THE AU PAIR–the setting, the juicy scandals, the hair-raising twists and the almost-vintage Danielle Steel vibe of the late 1980s.

Please join me in welcoming Emma Rous to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Emma, welcome! I am still reeling after finishing THE AU PAIR. So curious about the origins of this story—was there a character, a situation, a place—that propelled you?

Emma Rous:

Thank you, Leslie. I guess, looking back, it was the situation that I started with – the events in the hours surrounding Seraphine’s birth. I had no agent or publisher at that stage, so my ambition was simply to write the sort of story I’d like to read, and I’ve had a lifelong fascination with tales about uncertain identities. The setting was firmly in my mind from the beginning too – this big, old, crumbling manor house on the coast. Everything else spiraled out from there in the planning stage – which is funny when I look back on it, because the characters soon came to feel like real people to me, and yet they only came to life once the other elements were in place.

Leslie Lindsay:

I loved Summerbourne. I love old homes in general—and then you placed it on a seaside cliff in England—swoon! Can you tell us more about that estate? Is it purely fictional or does it have some roots in reality?

Emma Rous:

It’s purely a product of my imagination, although I’m sure my subconscious stitched it together from all sorts of English country houses I’ve visited with my family over the years. I moved home a lot when I was growing up, and I wanted to explore the concept of having strong emotional roots in a place – something I’ve never experienced – so I needed Summerbourne to be the sort of house you could fall in love with, almost a character in its own right. I’m so glad you liked it!

architecture buildings countryside daylight

Leslie Lindsay:

There are a good deal of characters in THE AU PAIR—and I know this is a tough question—but is there anyone (or two) you felt a particular affection for? Was there anyone you had difficulty embracing?

Emma Rous:

I didn’t think about this aspect while writing the story, but with hindsight I do have a special fondness for Ruth. We only really see Ruth through Laura’s eyes, but it’s enough to give glimpses of both sides of her – the moody, mercurial, headache-claiming side, but also the incredibly strong woman who perseveres in trying to do the right thing for her little boy despite suffering a heart-breaking loss, and in the face of villagers gossiping that she doesn’t behave like a ‘real mother’. Poor Ruth!

I didn’t struggle writing any of them though – I’m fond of them all, despite their sometimes questionable actions!


‘Entrancing, compelling, atmospheric, reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier. A beautiful read that delivers a shocking and satisfying ending’

 –Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs Parrish


Leslie Lindsay:

What kind of writer are you? Do you carefully plot and cogitate or do you let the pen (muse?) guide you? Maybe a little of both?! Did anything surprise you?

Emma Rous:

I like to believe I’m a careful plotter right up until the point I actually start writing, and then I remember it’s never that simple and I see where my typing fingers take me!

Leslie Lindsay:

I understand you were first a veterinarian, but always wanted to write. Can you tell us a bit about your transition from vet to author? In terms of writing and securing an agent, what do you think you did right and what do you wish you had known before?

Emma Rous:

Yes, I worked as a veterinarian for over eighteen years, but I always had a desire to write fiction. I have three children too, and I found it impossible to juggle all three roles – mother, veterinarian and writer. I reached a point, after turning forty, where I decided it was now or never – I had to give writing a go, or I’d never know if I could do it. I left my vet job and threw myself into writing full time, and I discovered that I loved it. I’m so glad I took the leap!

I did as much research as I could into finding an agent (all online) and I took the submission process very seriously. I submitted the manuscript of THE AU PAIR to fifteen agents, and since they all asked for something slightly different (different numbers of pages or chapters, different length synopses) it took me about two weeks just to send them all off. What do I wish I’d known before? I agonised over writing ‘perfect’ synopses, but I think agents just take a quick look at them to see the overall shape and outcome of the story – it’s the writing in the manuscript that really counts.

animal beach clouds dog
Photo by Trinity Kubassek on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s next for you? Are you working on another novel?

Emma Rous:

I certainly am! It’s about a girl growing up at an isolated former artists’ colony, who’s always been warned that outsiders are not to be trusted, and it’s about the two sisters who went to live at that artists’ colony seventeen years earlier, and the secret that one of them has guarded ever since.

Leslie Lindsay:

What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Emma Rous:

I think you’ve covered the important stuff! People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever worked as an au pair, and I have to say no… But I did go off to live with farmers’ families for weeks at a time from the age of fifteen, to gain work experience for vet school, so I do have an inkling of how it feels to arrive all alone at a big house and to try to make yourself useful without getting into trouble!

Leslie Lindsay:

Emma, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time.

Emma Rous:

I enjoyed it too, Leslie, thank you.

clouds cloudy countryside farm
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Order Links:

author photo, emma rous, 2018ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Emma grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, then worked as a small animal veterinary surgeon for eighteen years before switching to full time writing in 2016. Emma lives in Cambridgeshire, England, with her husband and three sons.

The Au Pair is her first novel. It will be published in ten countries, in nine languages. She is currently writing her second book.

 

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#domesticsuspense #England #familysaga #twins #amreading #winterreads #TheAuPair

IMG_0738 (1).jpg

[Cover and author image courtesy of Berkley and used with permission. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1]

 

 

 

Can one ever escape the ‘family roles’ we’re given? Lynda Cohen Loigman explores this and more in her smashing historical family drama set in WWII

By Leslie Lindsay 

Captivating and stunning examination of family dysfunction, disharmony, sisterhood, and WWII in Lynda Cohen Loigman’s THE WARTIME SISTERS. 

 

wartime-sisters_-cover-1

I had such admiration for Ms. Loigman’s debut, THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE (2016), and was delighted to see that she chose to continue her writing journey into historical fiction; she truly shines when exploring complicated familial relationships, and it makes for such authentic writing.

Now, Lynda returns with her second novel, THE WARTIME SISTERS 
(St. Martin’s Press, Jan 22 2019) and it’s every bit as good–if not better–than her first. This is a mesmerizing tale of sisterhood, lies, betrayal, rivalries, motherhood, withheld communication, even religion.

Told in alternating POVs with distinct places and time periods (1930s Brooklyn; 1940s Springfield, MA), the voices truly sing. 

Ruth and Millie have never been close–not as toddlers sharing a bedroom in their Brooklyn apartment, not as teenagers navigating suitors and school (Ruth was the homely but smart sister and Millie the less-studious gorgeous sister), and certainly not as mothers with young children of their own. Ruth has always been the ‘responsible older sister’ who had to shoulder the burden of many of life’s struggles while Millie was doted upon and wanted by everyoneRuth has always resented the attention Millie garnered and so when she married, she was happy to get away from her sister.

With WWII on the horizon, Ruth’s husband is offered a job at the Springfield Armory. Life is great. They have a home, manicured lawns, friends, book clubs, twin daughters, and a great distance from Millie. But that all changes when Millie–three years younger and five years estranged–writes Ruth with news that her husband is gone.

Loigman’s pacing is mesmerizing, her descriptions spot-on; you can tell she spent a significant time researching the Springfield Armory, the time periods she worked in, plus the family dynamics were so carefully and thoughtfully rendered. Subtle references to Jewish customs are mentioned and this so enhanced the storytelling, making me feel so much closer to the characters.

Perfect historical fiction with a satisfying ending; I loved it.

Please join me in welcoming Lynda back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Lynda, I am in awe. I started THE WARTIME SISTERS on vacation and didn’t want it to end—the story or the vacation! I think it was the family dynamics you so deftly portrayed. And the swift pacing. Can you tell us a bit about your spark for this book?

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

Hi Leslie! Thank you for having me – I’m so excited to talk about THE WARTIME SISTERS with you!

This novel became a very different book from the one I originally set out to write. Although I always intended to write about sisters, I was planning to set the novel in a much later time period. My first wave of inspiration came from the move my mother’s family made in the early 1960’s from Brooklyn, New York, to Springfield, Massachusetts. Although my mother was only eighteen years old when she moved, I’m not sure she ever considered Springfield her home. To her, New York was the center of the universe, and Springfield might as well have been the North Pole. Her sisters and parents moved a few months before she did because she wanted to finish her senior year of high school in Brooklyn.

When I first thought about my novel, I wanted to capture the feelings my mother and aunts used to convey to me in the stories they told me about that time in their lives – I wanted to write about sisters in transition, the disappointment of leaving a big city, and the complications of being left behind.

I also wanted to include an unsuccessful marriage in my story. My grandmother’s marriage was never a happy one, and though she and my grandfather lived only fifteen minutes from us, we almost never saw him. She would have meals at our house a few times a week, but he never accompanied her.

As I began to piece my novel together, I had an idea for a minor character whose backstory would involve a job at the Springfield Armory during World War II. It was while I was engaged in that research that a second wave of inspiration hit me. I came upon the armory’s “Forge of Innovation” website, which included over a dozen recorded interviews with women (and a few men) who had worked and/or lived at the armory. They came from all kinds of backgrounds and held a diverse array of positions – one was an officer’s wife, and one a single mother tasked with assembling triggers. I couldn’t stop thinking about those women. Because of them, I decided to push the time period of my novel to the 1940’s and to expand my original cast of characters. What began as a novel about only two sisters was revised to include the sisterhood of women who worked and lived at the Armory during the early years of World War II.

old photos in the wooden box
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s something so compelling about multigenerational tales—they’re enough removed from the present, but woven into our DNA—and an intriguing exercise to reimagine the relationships and stories. What did you discover—about yourself or your family—while writing THE WARTIME SISTERS?

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

As I was writing the early Kaplan family scenes set in Brooklyn, I thought a lot about how the way parents treat their children shapes not only the parents’ individual relationship with that child, but also the relationships siblings have with each other. Florence Kaplan does not treat her daughters equally, and she has very different expectations for each of them. Her words and her actions impact Ruth and Millie in terms of how each one sees herself. But her treatment also has negative consequences for Millie and Ruth’s relationship as sisters. The scene where Florence gives Ruth her old earrings is a perfect example of this. When Ruth finds out that her mother is saving her most valuable piece of jewelry (an opal ring) for Millie, Ruth can’t help but feel resentment toward her sister. Millie doesn’t even know the ring exists at this point, but that doesn’t prevent Ruth from holding her partially to blame. Years later, the ring becomes an important symbol for Ruth, one that triggers the renewal of past anger and jealousy.

Writing about the different ways parents treat their children made me think a lot about the way I treat my own children now, the way my parents treated me and my brother when I was young, and what I remember of the way my grandmother treated her three daughters. Of course, I try to treat my son and daughter equally, but “equal” is an impossible goal to achieve because they are different people with completely different personalities. I wrote a scene about Ruth struggling with this issue for THE WARTIME SISTERS because I thought it would be fascinating to explore her fears of repeating the same mistakes her own mother made.

I’m not sure I had any real revelations or discoveries about myself or my family as I worked through these themes, but exploring them on paper made me much more aware of potential disparities. No parent is perfect and no two children are the same, but I do think it is important to keep parental influence in mind when we think about the relationships our children have with each other.

closeup photography of clear jeweled gold colored cluster ring on red rose
Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Also, the whole concept of familial roles is intriguing to me. “The Smart One,” “The Cute One,” “The Musical One,” it can go on and on. You do a fabulous job of bringing these attributes to the surface in Millie and Ruth and depicting the way their parents (and others) treat them. Even outside of fiction, and into adulthood, we continue to fall into these roles in the presence of our family of origin. Can we ever break free from those roles?

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

That question is one of the main themes I wanted to explore with this story. I think that in certain contexts, reinvention is attainable. Teenagers, for example, look forward to college in order to meet new people and have a fresh start. People leave jobs where they can’t move forward in their career paths. But in the context of a family, reinvention is much more difficult. Your relatives have known you since birth or early childhood, and they know (or think they know) everything about you. Siblings or cousins have nicknames for you, relatives have old photographs they like to display and stories they repeat at holiday gatherings. All of these pieces add up to a broader family mythology, and that mythology is almost impossible to revise.


“A riveting tale of sibling rivalry and the magnetic dissonance of family, filled with heart-stopping truths that are both tender and wise. One of my favorite books of the year.”

—Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece


Leslie Lindsay:

Yet—there’s an important distinction in THE WARTIME SISTERS. It’s not all about biological sisters, but the ‘sisterhood’ of all wartime women. Can you talk about that please?

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

I love the idea of writing about both kinds of sisters – biological sisters, and also sisters of circumstance and/or choice. When I first listened to the interviews of the real women who worked at the armory during World War II, I was struck by the wide range of their experiences. One was a single mother working in the factories, and one was an accomplished musician and the wife of the commanding officer. I listened to an interview with a woman who had been a teenager living at the armory with her family, and another with a woman who spoke about getting accepted to the armory training school to become a draftsperson. I read about the women who were nurses on site, the women who drove trucks, and who operated the machinery. There were high school girls who worked as messengers, and older mothers who had lost sons in the war. Together, they formed a powerful sisterhood, and I wanted to provide a glimpse into their world.

A common theme of the recorded interviews was the sense of community that working and living at the armory provided. Everyone mentioned how happy they were to work at the armory, to be connected to it somehow, and to be doing their part for the war effort. They felt a common sense of purpose that brought them joy and fulfillment even in a dark time in our history. I loved writing about Millie’s first day of work, and the woman who trains her to assemble triggers. Regardless of age or experience or background, the women in that environment looked out for each other.

army black and white gun military
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Let’s shift gears and chat about your fabulous research into the Springfield Armory.  I love this kind of research! But it can often get overwhelming. How do you know when to stop—because it can quickly turn into a rabbit hole!

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

It’s SO hard to stop! I started with the armory website and then began reading whatever I could find about the Springfield Armory during World War II. In the summer of 2016, I made my first of three visits to the armory to meet with the curator of the Springfield Armory Museum. He walked me through a former officer’s home and let me explore the inside of the commanding officer’s residence.

When I saw the area where the manufacturing buildings had once been located, I began to see the armory as two separate worlds – the pristine, park-like sanctuary of Armory Square and the manufacturing center of Federal Square, just across the street. The setting reminded me of the sisters in my novel: physically close, yet with distinct and opposite temperaments.

During my second visit to the armory, I looked through every issue of The Armory Newsletter–a monthly pamphlet that was written, illustrated, and published by employees from the fall of 1941 to August of 1943. The pamphlets were a window into daily armory life, and I honestly could have kept on reading them forever. Each newsletter was 30-40 pages long, and each page was full of wonderful material: articles recapping an employee’s first day on the job; gossip pages listing engagements and weddings; sports pages detailing the scores for armory sports teams; hand-drawn cartoons poking fun at the war; and spotlight pieces about employees with special talents and backgrounds. It took a lot of willpower to finally put them away.

I also listened to a lot of the music from that time period. The music was an important building block for Arietta’s character and all of her scenes. For months, I kept my car radio tuned the 1940’s Sirius Radio channel.

I’m not going to lie – burying yourself in research is a lot of fun. It gives you a perfect excuse to avoid writing – you can pretend that you’re working when you’re really just procrastinating. I did this several times, and each time I had to force myself to stop and go back to the story. At one point, for example, I became obsessed with how armory residents received their mail. They didn’t have mailboxes, so where was it delivered? Was there a separate mail room? Mail slots in the doors? I never found the answer, but ultimately, I knew it didn’t matter. Detailing the specific path of a letter from the post office to my character’s hands wasn’t going to move my plot along. I had to let it go.

brown paper envelope on table
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

THE WARTIME SISTERS is your second novel. It’s wonderful, it’s fabulous. But there’s always so much anxiety over the second one. What do you think you did right? Who or what kept you going?

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

This book was more difficult to write than my first, partly because I wrote it in less than half the time, and partly because of the story itself. It’s a more ambitious project than THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE because it doesn’t focus on only one family and one setting. There are more plotlines and characters, and weaving together the different timelines was extremely complicated. Setting the novel in such a historically significant place added to the pressure. I pushed myself with the research because I didn’t want to get anything wrong.

With THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE, some readers felt that the big secret was revealed too early, so with this book I was very careful to reveal information to the reader in a more controlled way. That kind of precision made the writing process more intricate.

I guess we’ll find out whether readers think I got it right!

Two Family House 003

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s next for you? More historical fiction?!

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

My next book is set in the early 1900’s and is about a trio of immigrants who make their way to this country and settle in Boston’s North End. None of them know each other when they arrive, and they have all fled from dangerous or unhappy circumstances. Two are from southern Italy, one is from eastern Europe, and each one of them possesses a unique skill or talent. There are complicated family relationships (of course), two love triangles, and some very colorful characters.

Leslie Lindsay:

Is there something I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Like, what you’re reading, if you have any travel plans? What you’re most looking forward to this year…

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately, which is unusual for me.

I recently finished Sisters of The Winter Wood by Rena Rossner, a historical fairy-tale about two Jewish sisters that was inspired, in part, by Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market. It has a Hansel and Gretel meets Fiddler on the Roof feeling to it, and the writing is lush and beautiful. It is Rossner’s debut, and I’m so excited to see what she will write next.

I also read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This book was such a clever and smart re-imagination of the traditional Rumpelstiltskin story. The main protagonist is a young girl who follows in her grandfather’s footsteps to become a successful moneylender. I love Novik’s take on spinning straw into gold, and I thought the way she wove Jewish themes into her novel was absolutely brilliant.

Leslie Lindsay:

Lynda, it was a pleasure and delight. Thank you for chatting with us!

Lynda Cohen Loigman:

Leslie, thank you so much for your thoughtful questions. You are such a careful and insightful reader, and I so appreciate it!

blur book girl hands
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

lynda-loigman_credit-randy-matusowABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a law degree from Columbia Law School. Lynda practiced trusts and estates law in New York City for eight years before moving out of the city to raise her two children with her husband. She wrote The Two-Family House while she was a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. The Two-Family House was chosen by Goodreads as a best book of the month for March, 2016, and was nominee for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards in Historical Fiction. The Wartime Sisters is her second novel.

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

f361308f-8e47-46bd-ab06-5662fe502b14

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#historicalfiction #sisters #amreading #authorinterview #WWII #family #secrets #tallpoppybogger

IMG_2087.JPG

[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Kathleen Carter Communications and used with permission. Artful cover image designed and photographed by L. Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @LeslieLindsay1]

What if you stole someone’s identity then lied about it? Thomas Christopher Greene explores this, madness & despair in his stunning new novel, THE PERFECT LIAR

By Leslie Lindsay

Gorgeously written, all-consuming, literary thriller had me flying through the pages to its disconcerting and haunting conclusion. 

perfect liar.jpg
Thomas Christopher Greene has been a go-to for me for years. He has a seemingly effortless way with words, poignant insights into the human psyche, and his stories just naturally consume and propel. THE PERFECT LIAR (January 15, 2019 St. Martin’s Press), is no exception; I loved every minute.

Max W. is a charismatic imposter living in Vermont. He recently accepted an appointment as an art professor at a local college and they ‘give them a house.’ What’s not to love? All along, Max W. (who was born Phil Wilbur) has carefully shrouded his meager origins in fraud–easily ‘borrowing’ the identity of a wealthy, unsuspecting art school graduate. He insinuates himself into Max W’s world and before you know it, he’s in too deep.

But his wife, Susannah, has deep secrets of her own. She’s a young widow and a single mother who has married well, but thendisconcerting things start happening–menacing letters delivered to the home:

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE and others follow: DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT? And yet a third: I SAW YOU DO IT. 

I found the pacing relentless, the set-up subtleyet clearly there all along, making THE PERFECT LIAR a smart, all-consuming domestic thriller. Greene writes with such chilling beauty and somberness that reminds me much of Anita Shreve (there’s also that small New England town reminiscent of Shreve making this a wholly atmospheric read). THE PERFECT LIAR encompasses so many layers of deceit and dysfunction, leading the reader right up to the chilling and haunting conclusion; I was spellbound.

Read an excerpt here.


“Beautifully written and sharply insightful, The Perfect Liar is a captivating, stay-up-late thriller about dark secrets, dangerous passions, and the perilous pursuit of a picture-perfect life.”

–Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her


Please join me in welcoming Thomas Christopher Greene back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Tom, this book! I loved every minute. THE PERFECT LIAR is a bit genre-bending in that it’s very literary, yet highly dysfunctional, and encompasses a predatory vibe making it so compulsive. In the background is your trademark academia. Can you tell us about the origins of this one, please?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

Leslie, first thank you for the kind words and your close reading of my work. I am grateful for it. I think the thing that got me going with this was the idea of someone leaving handwritten notes on a door. We live in such digital age, and this is such an analog way to stalk someone.  Somehow that makes it more terrifying. I confess I’ve always been fascinated, too, by the idea of imposters, grifters and con men. So I’ve wanted for a long time to write a character like Max. And what I was also trying to do here was write a book that, as you suggest, can be read on a number of different levels—a straight up page-turning domestic thriller, but also an homage to the great suspense writer Patricia Highsmith, and further, a tongue-in-cheek critique of the contemporary art world.

daylight environment forest idyllic
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s madness, there’s despair. There’s almost a second story that unfolds in the ‘white space’ of the narrative; to me, this is the best kind of writing—and reading. I felt like a very active participant in this chilling tale; thus a partnership between author and reader. I’m curious what your take is on that?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

Well, I am glad you felt this, since that is certainly something I try to accomplish. I do see it as a partnership, a contract of sorts. Good fiction is all about revealing things at the right time—I am not trying to trick you, but rather since you have pulled up a chair to hear my story, make sure I keep you locked in to what I am saying. And frankly, people behaving badly are far more interesting than people behaving well, in my opinion. And in the space between the narrative, as you call it, I think there are opportunities, in small ways, to explore different ideas, things that are important to me. For example, in the beginning of the book, Susannah thinks: men fear death, while women fear something far more important: losing their minds.  Why is that? Or is that even true? In some ways by putting ideas in the book that contribute to the narrative but also raise larger questions, I am asking you what you think, and if you agree with me.

person holding and reading book during daytime
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Deceit and identity are core themes of THE PERFECT LIAR. Was there a question you were seeking when you set out to write—and did you find the answer? Or maybe you discovered something else in the process?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

I don’t think I was seeking to answer a specific question, but I find myself in all my fiction returning again and again to specific themes, that I suppose you wouldn’t imagine being explored in a typical thriller. For instance, I am little obsessed with class in America, and the false idea that we live in a meritocracy, the old myth of the American dream. The fact is most of us remain in the station we were born, to be British about it. Some people who puncture that ceiling fascinate me, and when someone, like Max, takes a shortcut to it, even better. Identity, of course is a part of this as well. And then there is love, my other great obsession. Each of my books asks the question: what is significance? And can we find it in the arms of another. I would submit this one does that as much as a love story like my last book, IF I FORGET YOU, albeit in a very different and darker way.

Leslie Lindsay:

Speaking of process…was there any particular scene or moment in the narrative that made your heart beat a little faster, the pads of your fingers sweat? That’s how I always know I’ve hit the sweet spot of the story I’m trying to tell.

Thomas Christopher Greene:

The actual art of writing is a bit of an out-of-body experience for me, to be honest. I spend so much time turning the story over in my mind before my fingers actually hit the keyboard that by the time they do, the process is for me is more a matter of just getting it out of my head and onto the page. That said, without giving too much away, the scene where Max and David Hammer go for the second trail run through the woods was definitely intense. I knew the reader would know something terrible was about to happen, but I love the tension of that, the black flies in the forest, the beating sun, Max running as fast he could when he wasn’t a runner, and how close we are to his point of view, so we are seeing it all cinematically through his eyes.

cascade creek environment falls
Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What are you looking forward to reading this winter?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

Well, I am working on a new novel and when I am writing, I don’t read fiction. I’m currently reading a non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick about George Washington and the naval battles around the revolutionary war. It’s quite riveting. But this summer I’ll catch up on all the good fiction coming out this winter.

Leslie Lindsay:

As always, it’s been a delight. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Like, how you balance writing with your super-busy day job of college president…how Hugo the dog is doing, your favorite place to write…

Thomas Christopher Greene:

I balance running a college and writing by not really having any hobbies. I work a lot and I’ve learned to write differently over the years, more efficiently, in small bursts rather than long, glorious stretches of time. I often write at night at the bar at this restaurant my brother-in-law owns here in Montpelier. Everyone in town knows I write there and they are kind enough to leave me alone as long as my fingers are moving. Otherwise, I love being social.  I do better writing with noise around. As for Hugo, my two-year-old Labrador, he is always one year away from being a really good dog.

landscape photography of tree and sea
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

Thomas Christopher Greene by Beowulf Sheehan  www.beowulfsheehan.comABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Christopher Greene is the author of six novels, including the bestseller THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE. His latest is a domestic thriller, THE PERFECT LIAR. In 2007, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top graduate fine arts college where he still serves as President. His fiction has been translated into 11 languages. He lives in Vermont.

 


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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#psychthriller #literarythriller #amreading #Vermont #secrets #imposters #grifters #identity 

IMG_1171.JPG

[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission. Artful cover photo of The Perfect Liar designed and photographed by L. Lindsay. Follow on Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1]

 

Special Pub Day Edition: EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mira T. Lee now in Paperback

By Leslie Lindsay 

Now in trade paperback!

A brave, unflinching debut about the tenuous bonds of mental illness, how we define ‘family,’ immigration, and so much more. 

9780735221970.jpg
EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL is one of those literary masterpieces that will captivate and enthrall readers everywhere, perhaps for very different reasons. There’s so much about this book I love–the razor-sharp writing, the way I was transported to another world (South America/Ecuador, Switzerland), and back again (NYC, Minnesota), and then there’s the breadth of scope: mental illness, sisters, love, who we call ‘family,’ life and death, as well as loss and rejuvenation.

Told in alternating, highly distinct POVs from several main characters: Miranda: the older sister who has always been the “responsible one;” Lucia: whose free-spirited nature is dampened by her mental illness; Yonah: the Israeli shopkeeper and first husband of Lucia; Manuel: Lucia’s boyfriend, and father of her child.

EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL may be best described as a literary family drama (spanning years and continents) with a mental illness theme (and its treatment) as well as an immigration (and cultural displacement) undercurrent. 

I’m in awe with Mira T. Lee’s ambitious novel. I found it emotional and touching, raw and brave, and skillfully drawn. EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL is about trying to do our best without fully losing ourselves. 

I am thrilled and honored to welcome Mira to the blog.

Leslie Lindsay:

I just finished reading EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL and I have so many thoughts rumbling around. This is a very multilayered, complex novel, but it’s so well done. I have to ask: what sparked this particular tale, why now?

Mira T. Lee:

Hi Leslie, thank you so much for your kind words! So I started off writing short stories, and found that many of them dealt with the same recurring themes – family dynamics, illness, the interplay of different cultures. One story in particular, How I Came to Love You Like A Brother (published by The Missouri Review) contained characters I loved, who I knew I could develop further. Then when my kids were very young, I went through a fallow period where I didn’t write for almost two years, but I had a series of predicaments brewing in my head. I’ve always been drawn to “gray areas,” those murky kinds of situations where good people are in conflict with each other even though no one’s at fault, and I’m forced to see things from more than one person’s perspective. By the time my younger son turned one, I was ready to write, and what emerged was this big, messy, cross-cultural family drama that explored several different relationships, and how the ripple effects of mental illness test family bonds.

abstract painting
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Much of the book deals with what it’s like to have a mental illness—and what it’s like to love someone with a mental illness—I so appreciate both of those perspectives because they are often not explored in literature (though we often see the manifestations of ‘crazy behavior’). You take a slightly different angle, that of a more interior experience of mental illness. Can you expand on that, please?

Mira T. Lee:

I’ve seen mental illness up close through the struggles of my own loved ones, and I’ve also heard countless stories of mental illness in family support groups I’ve attended. From these experiences I can say that psychotic illnesses (like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder) differ from most physical illnesses in one very significant way: the patient, loved ones, and medical professional(s) often disagree on what should be done. Sometimes this is because the patient doesn’t believe they have an illness at all, other times it may be because they disagree with the recommended treatments.  This makes for a tremendous amount of conflict, and creates situations that are fraught and intractable, with no clear right or wrong answers. I wanted to explore multiple sides of multiple conflicts, so this involved delving into the interiors of my main characters and understanding their frustrations, as well as embedding Lucia’s illness within broader storylines. You’re right, the issues involved with psychotic illnesses (e.g. medications, “lack of insight”) are rarely explored in literature – it’s not that surprising, because they’re tough concepts to understand, but that’s part of the reason I felt compelled to tell this story.


“An incredibly moving and thoughtful exploration of mental illness and its toll on family and loved ones [told] with empathy and tenderness.”

BuzzFeed


Leslie Lindsay:

Along those lines, I really like how you’ve taken the experience of mental illness and shifted it culturally from a white, middle-class incident to that of someone who is Chinese-American. Sadly, mental illness does not discriminate, yet it’s often not represented in other demographics. How did that come about in EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL?

Mira T. Lee:

Narratives of mental illness (both memoir and fiction) have been getting a lot more attention in general, which is fantastic, but most do still center around white, middle-class families. I think partly this is because stigma can be especially strong in non-white communities. I didn’t set out to explore mental illness in communities of color, but I’m Chinese-American myself, and multicultural worlds like the ones in the book are what’s most familiar to me. I do hope conversations around the topic become less taboo.

assorted color led lights
Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

My own mother (white, middle-class), had schizoaffective/bipolar with psychotic features/narcissist personality disorder…I saw many of her symptoms overlap with Lucia’s. Yet in the narrative, the diagnosis is a bit abstract. Was this intentional on your part?

Mira T. Lee:

Yes, the vagueness was intentional for a couple of reasons. First, diagnoses often fluctuate from one doctor to the next and change over time, and nowadays schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar with psychotic features are often thought of as being on one continuous spectrum (rather than discrete illnesses). Second, I didn’t want this novel to be pigeonholed as a “mental illness book” or Lucia to be thought of only as “that schizophrenic woman.” There is so much stigma attached to those labels, and so many preconceived notions about what they mean. So by foregoing clear labels, I hope readers will be more open to seeing Lucia as an individual, and will come to understand the illness in the context of her entire life, as well as the lives of the people who love her most. I do hope this book will reach readers who might not typically pick up a “mental illness book.”

Leslie Lindsay:

I know you’ve said you don’t want this book to be ‘about’ mental illness and here, I’ve asked all kinds of questions about that very theme! There’s also immigration, cultural differences and displacement. Those are some big issues and yet they’re handled so well. How did you structure this novel? Did you know ahead that this was the direction you were headed, or did it sort of evolve?

Mira T. Lee:

Oh, that’s okay! I think you’re right in saying that this book appeals to different readers for different reasons. Some people gravitate toward the bond between the sisters, others to Lucia’s struggle to balance family and career, still others to the sisters’ relationships with the men in their lives. One interesting thing I’ve found is that I can almost always tell whether a reader has had personal experience with mental illness by the way they comment on the book. It just hits differently, and I’m glad for that. I hope the book finds its way to many more readers like you!

But back to your question: the novel evolved pretty organically. I rarely sat around making conscious decisions about who my characters were or what the plot would be. I also never consciously thought about “big issues” like immigration or cultural displacement, or wrote with any kind of agenda, for example, around mental illness. People from all different backgrounds have always been a staple of my adulthood, so to me, my characters are very much a reflection of America. My focus was purely on exploring how my characters would cope with the dilemmas they faced, and how their decisions would affect their relationships with the people they loved. I always thought of this as an intimate family story – albeit a messy one!

black and white photos of toddlers
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

I could probably ask questions all day, but I won’t. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Something you hope others take away from reading EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL?

Mira T. Lee:

I do hope readers will gain a sense of the issues surrounding schizophrenia, which is perhaps still the most severe and stigmatized of all the mental illnesses, but one deserving of just as much compassion. And I hope people see that these illnesses are only one component of a person’s life, and can relate to the humanity at the core of each of these characters – as sisters, mothers, husbands, lovers, as modern women, as deeply flawed human beings who yearn for love and belonging. But most of all, I hope readers will disagree over what these characters should or shouldn’t have done. The world is gray, full of ambiguity. Where is the line between adventure and recklessness? Compromise and resignation? Selfishness and self-preservation? Fiction is a great place to examine nuances, and to challenge ourselves to exercise our powers of empathy.

Leslie Lindsay: 

What’s on your TBR list for 2018?

Mira T. Lee:

My TBR list is ridiculously long. Anne Raeff’s Winter Kept Us Warm, Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, Jillian Medoff’s This Could Hurt, Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists, Claire Goenawan’s Rainbirds, Shanthi Sekaran’s Lucky Boy, for starters. I wish I could spend an entire year just reading!

Leslie Lindsay:

Oh, and one last question: are you working on anything new?

Mira T. Lee:

I have bits and pieces of a few different projects, including some childrens’ picture books. We’ll see what happens…

teal ceramic cup and saucer
Photo by Julia Sakelli on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL, please see: 

Order Links: 

NOW IN PAPERBACK!

mira t. lee - © liz linder photography (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was selected as a Top 10 Debut and Indie Next Pick by the American Booksellers Association, and named a Best Fiction title of 2018 by Amazon, O Magazine, Real Simple, and the Goodreads Readers Choice Awards. It was also named a top Winter Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Poets & Writers, New York magazine, and Buzzfeed, among others. Mira’s short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Missouri Review, and Harvard Review, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. She has also been the recipient of an Artist’s Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

In her previous lives, Mira has also been known as a graphic designer, a pop-country drummer, a salsa dancing fanatic, and a biology graduate student. Mira is an alum of Stanford University, and currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#fiction #mentalhealth #sisters #mentalillness #literaryfiction #paperback #amreading #family #immigration

ad2pb.jpg

[Cover and author image courtesy of Viking/Penguin and used with permission. Footer image retrieved from the author’s website on 1.10.19. Original interview posted January 2018]. 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Writing Duo is back this winter with wickedly smart and compulsive psychological thriller featuring therapist-client relationships in AN ANONYMOUS GIRL

By Leslie Lindsay 

Absolutely gripping and stunning thriller that will have you frantically flipping the pages, AN ANONYMOUS GIRL is a wicked delight.

One of:

Cosmo’s “Best New Books of 2019”

Bookish’s “Must-Read Books of Winter”

An Anonymous Girl.jpg

I enjoyed the first collaboration between Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, THE WIFE BETWEEN US (St. Martin’s Press, January 2018), but I have to say, AN ANONYMOUS GIRL (January 8 2019) is EVEN BETTER.

I was completely taken with the psychology study on ethics and morality and dove right in. And let me say, the pace of AN ANONYMOUS girl is relentless; I couldn’t put it down. There’s a beautiful dance of psychological intensity meets thriller intrigue as 28-year old Jessica Farris wriggles her way into a psychology study conducted by the mysterious–and slightly sinister–Dr. Shields. All Jessica is led to believe is that she will answer a few questions, get paid, and leave.

But there’s so much more at stake. The questions grow increasingly more invasive and personal–does Dr. Shields *know* Jessica? Could there be a secret agenda? Is something else going on? Jessica is asked to complete more demanding and challenging tasks–more than just sitting in front of a computer screen and answering questions–but going out into public where she is told what to wear, who to interact with, and so much more. It’s disturbing and completely discordant as to being ‘moral and ethical,’ the very construct Dr. Shield’s claims to be studying.

Jessica is caught in a web of deceit and jealousy and absolutely must find a way to outsmart Dr. Shields–who is always two steps ahead–or she might not survive.

Seeking women ages 18-32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

There are so many good twists and deceit in AN ANONYMOUS GIRL–in fact, I wasn’t sure *what* (or whom) to believe for a while, but definitely had my theories. The ending came a little abruptly for me, but maybe that’s just me–I didn’t care because I absolutely loved the ride. Also, this is a relatively ‘clean’ thriller–the language is spot-on, no graphic details, the ‘game’ is all in the mind, and that, for me is exactly my favorite kind of thriller.

I found the writing completely propulsive and intelligent. Although AN ANONYMOUS GIRL is a fast-paced thriller, I was awed by some darn good lines and amazing psychological insight. Read an excerpt here.

Please join me in welcoming Greer and Sarah back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Greer and Sarah! It’s such a pleasure to reconnect. I am completely smitten with AN ANONYMOUS GIRL. It’s smart, compulsive, gripping, and oh-so-disconcerting—so what is wrong with us?! And what inspired this particular avenue?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:

Thank you so much for your kind words. We love an interviewer who relishes the creepiness factor we bring to the page!

It’s tricky for us to answer exactly what inspired us because our ideas percolate over a long period of time. Every day, when we are brainstorming our plot, we throw out about a hundred suggestions…and the next day, we reject 99 of them. However, we recently realized we have four main goals for our books. We want them to be entertaining, strike an emotional chord, tell a story in a unique way and generate discussions.

In particular there are a few key elements we can point to that inspired part of the foundation of AN ANONYMOUS GIRL. We wanted to explore the therapist/client relationship. And we wanted to create a sense of intimacy for the reader, so, in addition to having Dr. Shields’ voice be in the second person, we structured the ethics and morality quiz that Jessica took in a way that allows readers to consider how they would answer the same questions. This interactive element was really appealing to us, and we’ve heard from a lot of early readers that they loved answering the ethics questions and learning how their friends or book group participants would respond.

abstract art black and white books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

When I was in college, I participated in psychology studies—though never as intense (and invasive) as the kind Jess did. There’s so much psychological research that went into in AN ANONYMOUS GIRL even though it’s a thriller. Can you talk about that, please?

Sarah:

Oh my gosh – so did I! I did a bunch through NIH (the National Institutes of Health) in college to earn extra money. At first I did pretty innocuous tests, but the ones that paid the best were a little more invasive. The final one I did involved being given something that made me super groggy – I can’t remember what the test entailed, but I think I had to answer questions. My dad found out about it, and that was the end of my time as a guinea pig.

Greer:

I was a psychology major (and English minor) and my mother was a practicing psychotherapist for many years, so this is an area of keen interest for me. One of my favorite parts of working on AN ANONYMOUS GIRL was researching the psychology experiments we incorporate into the novel.

people notes meeting team
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Since AN ANONYMOUS GIRL is co-authored, I am so curious how you collaborate? It’s hard enough to write as a single author on one title, but…is it really true you write every sentence together? Is one you more the plotter and the other more character-driven? How do you divvy up the various pieces of a narrative?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:

It’s true we do write every single line together! This is why we joke that the third partner in our collaboration is Google Docs and Hangouts. These tools let us write our manuscripts in real time while we simultaneously talk. We start our days as soon as our kids get off to school and we’ve had a chance to exercise – around 9 AM – and we work through lunch, wrapping up when the kids come back home in the late afternoon. Although we do all of our plotting and writing together, we also go back into the manuscript individually – often late at night or early in the morning – to do small edits and tweaks in “suggested” mode for the other to review. We’re also constantly emailing and texting each other with ideas, articles for the other to read, photographs of what we think one of our characters might look like, etc.

Additionally, we meet at a hotel in Philly every month or so. We camp out for 48-hour stretches – working through every meal and literally not leaving the hotel – and we “Homeland” the walls with giant Post-it notes while we talk through our plot and organize the manuscript. We accomplish so much on these marathon trips, often writing 20 or 30 pages, yet we still find that there’s never enough time and we are often sprinting through 30th Street Station to make our trains home.


“Slickly twisty [with] gasp-worthy final twistsmajor league suspense.”

 —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Leslie Lindsay:

What—if anything—did you find the most challenging in writing this one? Did you ever disagree on the direction of the story?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:

THE WIFE BETWEEN US and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL were challenging in different ways. In WIFE, the essence of the concept for the story came very quickly – it was a lightning bolt idea – but we also changed big chunks of the plot as we wrote, and rewrote, the manuscript. Perhaps our biggest challenge was figuring out the logistics of writing a book together, since we live in different cities. There was a learning curve to setting up our systems – we needed to become familiar with Google Docs, in order to write together in real time, and Google Hangouts, so that we could simultaneously talk and write. THE WIFE BETWEEN US also had a very complicated structure that required us to keep multiple timelines and charts, and it used every bit of our combined brain power to juggle all of the elements!

For AN ANONYMOUS GIRL, we spent months talking every day and exploring different ideas in order to pin down the story we wanted to tell. We also devoted a lot of time to working out the best way to tell it. In our early drafts, we wrote Jess and Dr. Shields’ sections in the first, second and third person in order to determine which would be the most compelling point of view for each character. We made a pact that we could not give our editor a book that did not feel as strong or stronger than our first book so we really pushed ourselves. In the end, we feel books are like kids – each is rewarding and challenging in its own way!

reflection of building in puddle
Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s a good deal of backstory in AN ANONYMOUS GIRL, but it doesn’t distract from the present story. Do you believe our personal backstory shape our present behavior? What might be the trick to weaving in backstory without it being too ‘in-your-face?’

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:

Absolutely, we believe personal backstory informs the way we react to events, and in a broader sense, the way individuals view the world. In our initial drafts, we tend to load backstory into the opening chapters. It’s always a challenge to let readers get a tantalizing sense of our characters without overwhelming them or veering away from the plot. That’s one reason why we love the revision process. We go back in and start pruning away and moving around different chunks of our manuscript until it flows smoothly.

Leslie Lindsay:

I understand AN ANONYMOUS GIRL is already in development by eONE for a television series—yay! Can you give us a little glimpse into that process and when we might expect to see it?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:

We are so thrilled eONE, which developed SHARP OBJECTS (Gillian Flynn) for HBO, is developing our novel. We are attached as executive producers, which means we get to be involved in key creative decisions. eONE hired a fantastic writing team to craft the pilot (we chatted with them about their ideas for the storyline) and we hope to have some more good news after AN ANONYMOUS GIRL releases in January.

apartment chair clean contemporary
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Sarah and Greer—it’s been a delight! Thank you, thank you for popping over. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:

We’re hard at work on our next novel, another psychological thriller featuring strong, relatable female characters. Thank you for having us!

For more information, to connect with the authors via social media, or to purchase a copy of AN ANONYMOUS GIRL, please see:

Greer Hendricks:

Sarah Pekkanen:

Order Links: 

Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks_credit Bill MilesABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Greer Hendricks is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us. Prior to becoming a bestselling novelist, she spent over two decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster. She obtained her master’s in journalism from Columbia University and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publishers Weekly. Greer lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally and USA Today bestselling author of eight previous novels. A former investigative journalist and award-winning feature writer, she has published work in The Washington PostUSA Today, and many others. She is the mother of three sons and lives just outside Washington, D.C.

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

 

 

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#psychologicalthriller #domesticthriller #AnAnonymousGirl #amreading  #authorinterview

 

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