OMG! This book–y’all have GOT to read SUCH A FUN AGE, about race, class, and how everything can be misconstrued

By Leslie Lindsay 

A striking, surprising debut from from an exhilarating new voice, SUCH A FUN AGE is a compulsive page-turner. 

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AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A REESE’S BOOK CLUB x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK PICK

“The most provocative page-turner of the year.” –Entertainment Weekly

“A great way to kick off 2020.” –Washington Post

 

~FICTION FRIDAY: SPOTLIGHT!~

You guys! I cannot stop thinking about–or talking about–this book! It’s a bit like Jennifer Weiner meets the pacing of a psychological thriller meets Kim Brooks’ SMALL ANIMALS, but there’s so much more, too. SUCH A FUN AGE (Putnam, December 30 2019) is compulsively readable; it’s like a bad car accident you just can’t take your eyes from. And I am so grateful to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for this review copy.

Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old attractive black babysitter trying to make ends meet between her part-time jobs. She out at a friend’s 26th birthday party when the mother of her young charge calls–it’s nearly eleven p.m.–requesting her babysitting services–NOW. She doesn’t look like a babysitter at the moment. She’s had a few drinks. She doesn’t really want to leave the party to babysit, but she’s broke.

“I urge you to read Such a Fun Age.” –NPR

A 2020 NAACP Image Award Finalist

A Marie Claire #ReadWithMC Book Club Pick

A Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick 

A WNYC Get Lit With All of It Book Club Pick

Mrs. Chamberlain hands off the toddler and Emira and Briar head to the local, uppity supermarket. Little Briar loves looking at the bulk foods. It’s bright and shiny, safe, so why not? But soon she’s confronted by the store’s security guard. A young black woman out late with a white child…this doesn’t look good. He accuses Emira of kidnapping the two-year old. A small crowd gathers. A bystander films everything. Emira is furious and embarrassed. All ends…or does it?

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com
Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of SUCH A FUN AGE, please visit: 

Order LInks: 

2194829.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kiley Reid earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded the Truman Capote Fellowship and taught undergraduate creative writing workshops with a focus on race and class. Her short stories have been featured in PloughsharesDecemberNew South, and Lumina. Reid lives in Philadelphia.

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

I hope you do!

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series.

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#literaryfiction #womensfiction #race #class #privilege #debut #alwayswithabook #bookreviews #bestseller

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 1/14/20. Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this]

Master storyteller Diane Chamberlain is back talking about her new novel, BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, featuring strong women, art restoration, WPA, mental illness, and more. Plus, kitchen renovations and dog stories.

By Leslie Lindsay

Diane Chamberlain skillfully weaves dual timelines in BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, which carefully straddles the line between women’s fiction meets mystery and historical fiction.

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I’ve been a longtime fan of Diane Chamberlain, so no surprise I jumped at the chance to read her her newest title, BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN (St. Martin’s Press, January 14 2019). She always takes big issues and spins them into an immersive story with all the feels.

BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN introduces two very strong, competent, and complicated young women across a dual timeline, 2018 and 1940, in small town Edenton, North Carolina.

In 2018, we meet Morgan Christopher, a 22-year old woman who has gone to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Her dream of an art career has been put on hold–until a mysterious visitor (and her attorney) approach her with a ‘get out of jail free card,’ that she would be a fool to pass up. Her assignment: to restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan doesn’t think she can do it–she’s not *that great* of an art student, and she knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts.

1940, North Carolina: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey wins a national contest from the Treasury Department’s Great Depression-era 48 State Mural Competition. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts, much to the dismay of the residents of Edenton. For one, she’s an ‘outsider,’ from ‘up North,’ and two, the town already has an artist, Martin Drapple, who entered the contest, but did not win. The town holds prejudices and stereotypes, loyalties run deep, and secrets abound.

The mural is coming along.
But strange images begin to appear in the wholesome mural: drops of blood from an ax, a knife in a woman’s mouth, the wheel from an Indian motorcycle. It’s dark and perplexing. And then something happens. Anna Dale is missing.

Diane Chamberlain expertly weaves these two time periods–and stories–together in a seamless whole. I loved the connection to art, small towns, conspiracies, madness, and violence.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Diane Chamberlain back to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Diane, welcome back. I am so taken with this story on many levels, but I really love the small-town vibe. Edenton, North Carolina is a very real place; you were inspired to write a story there after visiting. Can you tell us more about that initial visit and the seeds of inspiration for BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN?

Diane Chamberlain:

Thank you so much for having me again, Leslie! Many years ago, I met a woman from Edenton who invited me to visit the town, telling me I was certain to “find” my next story there. While I did love the little town and its dozens of beautiful old homes and sweet waterfront, I wasn’t inspired to write about it. However, when I came up with the central idea for BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN—the painting of a post office mural in 1940—I immediately thought that Edenton would be the perfect setting. And indeed, it is.


“Chamberlain’s writing is reminiscent of a quilt made up of pieces from different people, places, and times, stitched together into a single, emotional story.”
-Booklist


Leslie Lindsay:

Race relations play a very heavy role in BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN. Morgan Christopher is white, but her benefactor, Lisa Williams, is not. Nor is/was Lisa’s father, Jesse Jameson Williams. In 1940, when Anna Dale began work on the mural, race was an issue in Edenton. Can you talk a little about race relations then and now? Have there been any changes? What kind of research did you do to inform your writing?

Diane Chamberlain:

Edenton had and still has a large African American population most of whom can trace their ancestry back to the days of slavery in the area, so race relations have been at the forefront of the town, past and present. As I started my research, I learned about a “Race Reconciliation Group” that a few people had started in the area. I contacted them, wondering if they might know of someone who could remember the area in the forties. I was invited to come to a meeting of the group, where I found 30-40 people of both races sharing the friendships that had been formed over the four-year life of the group. It was immensely touching. There were two older men in the group, African American, who were willing to let me interview them so I could understand what it had been like for Jesse to grow up in Edenton during Anna’s time. I also interviewed a white gentleman who had an encyclopedic memory of the town. I thoroughly enjoyed my research.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Really, you tackle a lot of ‘big issues’ in this book. There’s also mental illness and its connection to art. Anna Dale’s mother suffered from what you refer to as, ‘lively spells,’ and also ‘fits of melancholy.’ All along, Anna observed this in her mother. I think it’s safe to say she worried the same behaviors may befall her. What can you tell us about the connection to bipolar and art?

Diane Chamberlain:

Psychiatric studies do show a link between bipolar disorder (particularly the manic phases) and creativity and I think that was definitely the case with Anna’s mother. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine if that’s also true of Anna.

Leslie Lindsay:

I am intrigued with the process of art restoration. I am sure you had to do some research as you wrote BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN. What can you tell us about the process? Do you have any images of what you believe the post office mural may have looked like? How might we learn more about the Treasury Department’s Great Depression Mural Competition?

Diane Chamberlain:

I had a great deal to learn about restoration and was lucky enough to know an  art conservator in my area. She gave me an in-depth tour of her studio and the work she does. My problem was putting only enough in my story to allow the reader to “see” what Morgan is doing to the mural without making it a book about “how to restore art.” Anna’s mural is only in my imagination, as well as in the imaginations of my readers. There is quite a bit of information online about the Treasury Department’s murals, as well as several books on the WPA murals in general. Ironically, just this last year the US postal service issued post office mural forever stamps. (There may not be any left, since I think I may have bought them all!)

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Leslie Lindsay:

What three things can you not stop thinking or talking about? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Diane Chamberlain:  

1) Playing and singing with my friends in my weekly guitar circle. For most of my writing career, I had no hobby. It’s a joy now to have a few hours each week when I think of nothing other than “what song should we play next?”  2) Pilates. I’ve never been a committed exerciser and once I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis, it was even harder for me to work out. But four or five years ago I discovered Pilates—a type of exercise I can actually do and enjoy. I love it. 3) Right now, kitchen renovation. So many choices to make! So much work. So much dust!

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s so much hard work that goes into writing. What do you find yourself doing—or contemplating–when avoiding the page? And do you have any cute dog stories?

Diane Chamberlain:

Social Media is my downfall. I love posting on Facebook and Instagram and seeing what everyone’s up to. With the kitchen remodel, I can lose myself in Houzz and Pinterest pictures for hours. The Internet is a real productivity killer. It’s amazing how quickly time flies when you’re avoiding hard work!

Cute dog stories. . . hmm. Our Sheltie Cole is a mischievous little fellow. One night he clearly had a terrible tummy ache. We rushed him to the emergency vet, where an x-ray showed a mass in his stomach. They immediately did surgery. We’d been through that before with his brother…and with devastating results. This time, though, we were left laughing when the vet handed us a baggie full of thirty hair elastics. I now have a better lock on that bathroom drawer.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Diane, this has been delightful, as always. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Diane Chamberlain:

I think you did a great job! Thank you for the wonderful questions and for sharing Big Lies in a Small Town with your many readers.

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Artist cover of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow @leslielindsay1 on Instagram

For more information, to connect with Diane Chamberlain via social media, or to purchase a copy of BIG LIES SMALL TOWN, please visit:

Order links:

Diane Chamberlain_credit John PagliucaABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 26 novels published in more than twenty languages. Influenced by her former career as a social worker and psychotherapist, she writes suspenseful stories that touch both heart and mind.

 

 

 

 

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

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

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#fiction #alwayswithabook #art #artrestoration #historicalfiction #NorthCarolina 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission. Stamp images and Cole the Sheltie photo courtesy of D. Chamberlain. Image of Edenton, NC retrieved from on 11.26.19. Artist cover of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. ollow @leslielindsay1 on Instagram]

Mother-daughter duo brings STEM to life in darling new picture book about an inventive little girl who wishes to fly in FLY FLY AGAIN

By Leslie Lindsay 

A clever and uplifting story of a girl named Jenny who dreams of flying…plus, the illustrations! 

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Books on Monday: Children’s Literature Series| Always with a Book

When I was younger, my dad would read to me, his arm draped around my tiny shoulders, blonde ponytails. And this time was special. It was when I learned I could do anything, be anything. It was then I first thought, “Hey–I want to be an author, too!” I fell into the rhythm of books and imagination at an early age. And like little Jenny in FLY, FLY AGAIN (January 7th Greenleaf Book Press), I was given the message, that if I work hard, I just might get to where I want to go.

From mother-daughter duo, Katie Jaffe and Jennifer Lawson comes a darling and delightful read about the concepts of flight–lift, gravity, thrust, and drag. Plus, pitch, roll, and yaw. Little Jenny is clever and creative, and she wants to fly. Along with her neighbor friend, Jude, and a menagerie of pets, Kitty and Hawk, the pair work together to build a flying machine. FLY, FLY AGAIN is a fun story of adventure, teamwork, and perseverance that begins to lay a foundation for aerodynamics in an adorable picture book format. Seriously, these illustrations are so warm and engaging, I guarantee you’ll feel transported…if not to the skies, but in your mind.

FLY, FLY AGAIN brings concepts of STE(A)M to life, starting with ingenuity, perseverance, and basic household items. It’s ‘play’ at it’s best. 

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Katie Jaffe to the author interview series. 

Leslie Lindsay:

I always want to know what sparks a book idea. What was it for you? 

Katie Jaffe:

FLY, FLY AGAIN was inspired by my husband Jordan, who has had a love of flight since he was a child.  Our family is in the aviation industry and our three children have consequently developed a love for flying. We are constantly teaching them the basics of flight in our day-to-day life, and FLY, FLY AGAIN was the perfect way to do just that. 

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Leslie Lindsay:

Have you always wanted to write? Can you share a little about your education and background? 

Katie Jaffe: 

I grew up in El Paso, Texas and then moved to Austin to attend UT where I studied Government and Film, but yes–I have always loved to write, since I was very young.  I’ve also had a passion for children’s causes from a very young age, and writing FLY, FLY AGAIN was a great way to give back to children’s education. Our proceeds benefit UNICEF and Buzz Aldrin Ventures.

Leslie Lindsay: 

And you have kids…what do they think about this?

Katie Jaffe:

I have three kids and two dogs and I think they’re all pretty pumped about the book.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Katie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? 

Katie Jaffe: 

Don’t be afraid to dream!

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1.

For more information, to connect with the authors via social media, or to purchase a copy of FLY, FLY AGAIN, please visit: 

Order Links: 

Copy of KJ-20171114-04-0734-C2ABOUT THE AUTHORS: As Creative Director and Design Consultant of Aviation for Spectre Air Capital, Katie Jaffe has aided in the design of several high-profile aircraft. Currently, she is leading the marketing and design efforts of an overseas airline. She also has a passion for children’s causes, and has committed herself to helping several charities for children around the world. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.

Lifelong educator and advocate of the Children’s Literacy Program, Jennifer Lawson seeks to bring knowledge to students through creative curriculum and technology on a global level. As Owner and President of Decision Tree Technologies, she is currently endeavoring to teach using technologically advanced solutions that excite today’s students. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.  IMG_0274

 

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

I hope you do!

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Common Ground Review, Cleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The Waking, Brave Voices Literary Magazine, Manifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series

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#childrenslit #kidlit #readingwithchildren #alwayswithabook #LiftoffLearningStudios #FlyFlyAgain #PRbytheBOOK #STEM #STEAM #aviation #airplanes #children 

[Cover, author, and interior illustration images courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this.]

This book! Women everywhere must read Ada Calhoun’s WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP about the new midlife crisis of GenX women, plus how we’re a resilient bunch, reading list, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A searing exploration of stresses that keep GenX women up at night (literally and metaphorically), I raced through this book, which completely resonated.

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So, so grateful to have received an early copy of WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP: Women’s New Midlife Crisi(Grove Atlantic, 2020) by memoirist/journalist Ada Calhoun. I was feeling especially down the day it arrived–you know, that existential angst–and was immediately gleeful after reading the book’s description: we are a group of women with outward markers of success and personal fulfillment, but still feel lousy.

Work and marriage, kids, houses, parents, all of that…we might look ‘successful’ and ‘happy,’ but underneath of that is well, a struggle. Money isn’t very flow-y, work isn’t as easy or satisfying. The marriage gets dull. The kids zap your energy. And what about all of that ‘aspirational labor?’ What then?

WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP mostly focuses on women in GenerationX (GenX), that is, those born roughly between 1967-1980, with a median birth year of 1976. I’m sitting right there. And I feel this, deeply. Calhoun delves into a soulful investigation of women in this cohort. She talked with many women from all walks of life–married, single, divorced, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, childless, partnered, with children, wealthy, not-wealthy, black, Hispanic, white, Asian. It is WELL researched. Her sentences and paragraphs flow effortlessly and I read in awe. I found this entire book wholly consuming and was thinking, I really should give a copy to my [Boomer] parents. Then they might ‘get’ me.'” And I thought of my book club (we’re all GenXers). And I thought of the woman who does my massages. My HS girlfriends I’m still in contact with.


“Ada Calhoun’s soulful investigation into the complex landscape women in midlife face today is downright stunning. Calhoun has captured the voices—some broken, some resilient, many barely staying afloat—of over 200 women from around the country and in doing so, shown us how much we share in divisive times. You will recognize yourself in these pages, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I’m not alone.”

—Susannah Cahalan, author of the New York Times bestselling Brain on Fire


Calhoun investigates housing costs, workplace trends, credit card debt averages, divorce data. At every turn, there’s a familiar pattern: GenX women face unique concerns and challenges that other generations don’t. It’s about that analog to digital world, the way women/mothers were when we were growing up (working mothers/latchkey kids, at-home mothers, hands-on mothers, hands-off mothers), divorce (latchkey kids), and our Boomer parents chanting: “You can have it all.”

Why? And what can we do about it when we fall short? Or perceive we do? At times, I was a little panicked reading WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP. It was a bit of gloom and doom, but *insightful* gloom and doom. There is hope, but this title doesn’t exactly go into many details–other than–we can prevent the next generation from falling into the abyss. We can dig ourselves out. And it’s not about scheduling more ‘me time’ or creating a chore chart.

Such a unique and compelling read. I don’t typically re-read books, but this one, I think I will.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Ada Calhoun to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Ada! Oh my gosh. I flew through this book nodding in complete agreement. Nearly everything you wrote resonated. Can you tell us, in your own words, what WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP IS ABOUT and why you were compelled to write it?

Ada Calhoun:

Hi, Leslie! That’s so lovely of you. I was asked by Oprah.com to look at what was up with Gen X women in midlife and the emails I got from women as a result of that article made it clear that I should expand on it. The book is primarily for middle-aged women who feel overwhelmed and possibly also confused by why they’re having a hard time. We’re so lucky! We’re so well-educated! We were told our whole lives that we could do anything! How is it possible that we could be broke or feeling depressed or disappointed? The book is an attempt to answer that question.

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Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I fit the GenX demographic to a T. I was raised largely in the 1980s by Boomer parents who got divorced. I was a latch-key kid in my later years, and then acquired a working step-mother. I was torn by the idea of the ‘perfect’ at-home mother versus the working woman/mother and also heard, “You can be anything you want,” but also, what that equates to is: “You get to do it all.” Can you speak to that, please?

Ada Calhoun:

Yes, as I say in the book, we heard two really powerful messages as Gen X women: “Reach for the stars!” and “You’re on your own.” We were told to do everything—go for the corner office, have kids at the same time, do all the work stuff and all the family stuff and stay in shape, too, and have social lives on top of it. And yet nothing changed significantly in ways that would make any of that easier. The result is that, with very little support, we are doing a ton of work and a ton of caretaking (whether kids or aging parents or community-related) while being deluged with emails all day long and hitting perimenopause. It’s no wonder a lot of the women I interviewed talked about feeling sleepless or sad or full of rage.

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Photo by Radu Andrei Razvan on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I graduated college during the beginning of the recession, but I had a nursing degree, and there was a nursing shortage, so I was safe. We bought a house, had a family…then housing market crashed. We bought high, sold low. It was demoralizing. I had two babies. One had a speech disorder requiring frequent speech therapy. And now what? I think this is a phenomenon not so unique after reading WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP. I ended up staying home with my kids, dropping the nursing career, and trying to ‘start over.’ You mention this endless cycle in the book. What more can you say?

Ada Calhoun:

Oof, I’m sorry. Yes, a lot of experts told me that Gen X is cyclical in this way and I heard these kinds of stories over and over from women. There’s no institutional support, no job stability, minimal social support, and so you have to keep starting over again and again. One thing I noticed in the course of doing interviews was that so many women not only felt like they were starting again from the bottom all the time but also shame that they weren’t further along. This book won’t fix the starting-over issue, but I think it might help with the shame. I think hearing other women’s real stories can counteract that low feeling social media often provokes–that everyone else has it all figured out.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Sometimes, as I was reading WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP, I felt panicked. Everything rang true, but I thought, “Oh gosh—what can we do?” Chore charts and “me time” don’t work. Because, guess what—we get to *create* those chore charts and schedule that “me time,” plan what to do. And that’s just more work. What piece of hope can you give us?

Ada Calhoun:

Ha, I know, sorry about that. For a while I felt that way writing it, too! I think the good news comes out of facing up to all the bad stuff, though. Like, Wow, we’ve dealt with all these headwinds and we’re still alive and mostly functional! Gen X women are phenomenally resilient. And I do think that armed with this knowledge we are better able to advocate for ourselves, get support from other people, and cut ourselves some slack.

Leslie Lindsay:

It’s obvious this book—and the research that went into it—completely captivated you. What has your attention now? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Ada Calhoun:

Well, writing the book helped me in so many ways and I felt like a fun new age was dawning. Then this fall I’ve dealt with one family crisis after another. As a result these days I’m consumed with caregiving. But the good news is that I was better prepared to handle it all because of steps I took as a result of writing this book. Oh, and a happier obsession is my new cat, Claude, who we got at a shelter a couple of months ago. He is joy incarnate.

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Photo by Kirsten Bühne on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s on your reading list this year? Oh, can you believe it’s a new decade?!

Ada Calhoun:

Ha, I am ready for 2019 to be over so YES, please bring on the new decade. I got an early copy of Emma Straub’s great Spring 2020 book ALL ADULTS HERE and devoured it in a day so I will be buying copies of that for many friends. I’m psyched that Jenny Offill has a new book because I loved DEPT. OF SPECULATION. I am looking forward to having more bandwidth for reading once everything calms down because these days I do a lot of staring blankly at local news on NY1.

Leslie Lindsay:

Ada, this has been so illuminating and thought-provoking. What question might I have forgotten to ask, but should have?

Ada Calhoun:

I can’t think of a thing! But I will say I am so grateful to all the women who have talked to me so honestly. I really believe that talking with one another about these issues is what will get us through this stage of life. I hope the book gets used as a conversation starter for book clubs and wherever women gather!

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Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Please follow me @leslielindsay on Instagram

For more information, to connect with Ada Calhoun via social media, or to purchase a copy of WHY WE CAN’T SLEEP, please visit: 

Order Links:

Ada Calhoun (c) Gilbert KingABOUT THE AUTHOR: New York City-based journalist Ada Calhoun is the author of three nonfiction books: the New York City history St. Marks Is Dead, named a best book of the year by the Boston Globe and Kirkus Reviews; the collection of marriage essays Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, named one of the top ten memoirs of the year by W; and the Generation X-defining Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, out January 7th.

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

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#nonfiction #narrativenonfiction #women #GenX #stress #work #generations #midlife #crisis

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Grove Atlantic/Dewey Decimal Media and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Please follow me @leslielindsay on Instagram for more like this]

 

Leslie’s 2019 Reading Round-Up: From memoir to speculative fiction, you’ll find all of my favorite reads right here

By Leslie Lindsay

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

It’s that time of year again–I start reflecting on my favorite reads. For the last several years, I’ve set pretty ambitious reading goals for myself. Fifty books? Sure. Seventy-five? Bring it! Eighty? Okay. Eighty-five? Yep. Once I thought I could eek out ninety books in one year, and no. That cannot be done. Not with a busy writing and reviewing schedule.

I’m so very grateful for all of the wonderful books I’ve had the opportunity–the privilege–to read, review, and often, host their authors right here on my Wednesdays with Writers Author Interview Series.

I could list every book I read this year here–because they ALL have merit. But a few absolutely stand out, for various reasons.

Here are those reasons: 

  • It makes me want to talk about it with someone who is not reading it. My husband knows it’s an ‘it’ book when I say, “Babe, I gotta tell you about this book I’m reading.”
  • It makes me *want* to write.
  • It makes me fly through the pages at lightening speed. Because, OMG!
  • It makes me savor those pages because OMG–the prose–and I don’t want it to end.
  • It makes me sit up and take notice of a bigger event, circumstance, issue. And then it makes me want to *do* something instead of just read about it.
  • It makes me think, “I’ve never read anything like this before in my life and–wow!”
  • It makes me a little jealous that I didn’t write that book.

Leslie’s Top Reads of 2019*

*Most of these books were released in 2019, a couple are older titles, but a first-time read in 2019 for me.

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL | Greer Hendriks & Sarah Pekkanen

An Anonymous GirlWhy I loved it:

Propulsive, consuming. Dark. Twisted. Smart. Couldn’t. Stop. Reading.

Read my interview with the authors.

See my GoodReads Review. 

Get a copy. 

“Hendricks and Pekkanen are at the top of their game – you won’t see the final twist coming.”

People magazine’s Book of the Week


ASK AGAIN, YES | Mary Beth Keane

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Why I loved it:

The lush writing. Restrained yet so authentic. The time period(s). The cover! The conflicts. The characters. How it resonated on so many levels. Love and discontents. Mental illness. Such a fabulous book for discussion.

Read my interview with Mary Beth Keane here.

See my GoodReads Review.

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“Mary Beth Keane takes on one of the most difficult problems in fiction – how to write about human decency. In Ask Again, Yes, Keane makes a compelling case for compassion over blame, understanding over grudge, and the resilience of hearts that can accept the contradictions of love.”

– Louise Erdrich, winner of The National Book Award for Fiction


THE BOBCAT|DEBUT!|Katherine Forbes Riley 

Why I loved it:

Consuming. Completely unique. Gorgeous writing. Medicine meets art meets nature. Made me want to write. Hypnotic. Languid. Tranquil but also traumatic. Had to talk with someone about this book as I was reading it because it was just so good–and different and mesmerizing.

  • Read my interview with Katherine Forbes Riley
  • See my GoodReads Review
  • Plus! Katherine shares a fabulous reading list.

GET A COPY! 

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This novel is mesmerizing! Completely unpredictable and engaging. I loved the sentences and the descriptions and the characters.

~Sarah Blake, Author of NAAMAH


THE BUTTERFLY GIRL| Rene Denfeld 

IMG_2808Why I loved it:

Lush, lyrical. Heartbreaking  but redemptive. Made me sit up and take notice of a bigger issue(s). Inspired by true events.

Read my interview with Rene.

See my GoodReads review.

GET A COPY!

“A heart-breaking, finger gnawing and yet ultimately hopeful novel by the amazing Rene Denfeld.”

—Margaret Atwood


ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER| DEBUT!| Hazel Prior

IMG_3034 (1)Why I loved it:

Sweet. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Full range of emotions. The characters! And a pet pheasant. Plus, I wanted to talk about this book–and found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading.

Read my interview with Hazel Prior

See my GoodReads review.

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“How I loved this book! An uncommonly lovely story told with elegance, insight, and so much heart. Hazel Prior’s brilliant debut will delight.”

—Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck With That


THE DEARLY BELOVED|DEBUT!| Cara Wall 

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WHY I LOVED IT:

Oh the writing! The story! The backstories. Friendship. Faith. Marriage. Near-historical. Great for book clubs!

Read my interview with Cara

See my GoodReads review

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Today show “Read with Jenna” Book Club Selection***

“A moving portrait of love and friendship set against a backdrop of social change.”

The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

Entertainment Weekly calls The Dearly Beloved “the best book about faith in recent memory.”


HOUSEBREAKING|Dan Pope

WHY LOVED IT:

Suburbia gone awry. Houses and homes. Disturbing at times but so authentic. Multiple generations. Powerful and provocative. Great for book clubs–plenty to discuss!

Read my GoodReads review. 9781476745916_p0_v2_s600x595

Desire, discontentment and unrealized dreams propel the likable lost souls in this empathetic cut-to-the-bone look at multigenerational suburban malaise.”

–Family Circle

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Aristic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, L. Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram from more like this


INHERITANCE|Dani Shapiro 

Why I loved it:

I’m a sucker for a well-written, lyrical memoir. And this one resonated personally on several levels. Family. Paternity. Soul-searching. Genetics and biology.

Shapiro_Inheritance_NYTBR_Sticker-aspect-ratio-5x2Read my interview with Dani Shapiro

See my GoodReads review.

GET A COPY! 


MRS. EVERYTHING| Jennifer Weiner 

                                                                         Why I loved it: 

DCACA1ED-48AD-4841-B0FB-22DF98EA7DD7A slight diversion from Weiner’s typcial style and she rocked it. Near-historical, spanning several decades and touching on several big issues as well as historical events from hippies and communes to divorce and #metoo. Great for book clubs. So much to discuss. So many layers.

GET A COPY!

Named a Best Book of Summer by:

 

 

Entertainment Weekly, 

Cosmopolitan

Woman’s Day

 PopSugar

HelloGiggles

Refinery29 

“A multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant.”

People


MY LOVELY WIFE | DEBUT!| Samantha Downing   

WHY I LOVED IT:

Deliciously dark. So compelling. Jaw-dropping. Couldn’t Stop. Reading. And that ending…

IMG_2342Read my interview with Samantha Downing

See my GoodReads review.

“Wow! My Lovely Wife is a stunner – full of twists, well-drawn characters, and riveting suspense.”

-Harlan Coben

#1 New York Times Bestseller

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All artistic book photos designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. You can follow me at leslielindsay1 on Instagram. I hope you do!


NAAMAH| DEBUT!| Sarah Blake

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WHY I LOVE IT:

So compelling. So unique. Speculative fiction. Gorgeous, poetic writing. A modern take on a historical tale. Some scenes might be a little disturbing, but this book will make you think.

“Comprised of mesmerizing prose poem-esque sections, the novel explores themes of sexuality, purpose, loss, love, and faith. A poetic debut of biblical proportions.”

 —KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review

Read my interview with Sarah Blake

See my GoodReads review

GET A COPY!


THE NEED|HELEN PHILLIPS

WHY I LOVE IT:

Dreamy, hypnotic. Made me fear small things. Nature and the environment. Motherhood and madness. Speculative fiction. And the writing. Perplexing and disturbing.

Read my interview with Helen Phillips

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See my GoodReads review.

Get a copy! 

“An enthralling book. With its short chapters, unsettling prose, and riveting suspense, it feels designed for binge-reading.”

-The Economist

 

 


SOMEONE WE KNOW| SHARI LAPENA

INSTANT UK SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

NOTABLE BARNES & NOBLE JULY 2019 PICK

image001 (7)Why I love it:

Relatable because: suburbs and neighbors. Relentless pacing. Gripping. Twitsy. Plenty of theories. Great for discussing with your book club!

Read my interview with Shari Lapena

See my GoodReads Review

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“Slyly plotted . . . Lapena skillfully maximizes suspense with her dual story lines that eventually collide, as well as some deft misdirection . . . many fans of domestic suspense will be satisfied.”

Publishers Weekly


THAT TIME I LOVED YOU| Carrianne Leung 

Winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 

(Writers’ Union of Canada)

 An Amazon Best Book of the Month 

(Literature & Fiction)

WHY I LOVED IT:

Such delightful–but dark–writing. Again, houses and homes and suburbia–this is clearly a theme. ; ) Interlinked stories that tell a bigger truth. Mental health, families, coming-of-age. Slight-historical (1970s-1980s).

Read my interview with Carrianne Leung

See my GoodReads review

All artistic book photos designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. You can follow me at leslielindsay1 on Instagram. I hope you do!

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“Heartbreaking…. Leung’s stories lift the veiled curtain of late 1970s suburbia to reveal the sadness and isolation of its residents…. Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung’s debut story collection marks the career of a writer to watch.”
– Kirkus Reviews [starred review]


THE PERFECT LIAR|Thomas Christopher Greene 

WHY I LOVED IT: 

Such a gorgeously told story. The atmosphere! The layers! The backstory! Deceit and secrets and much more. Plus, it got me itching to write.

Read my interview with Thomas Christopher Green

See my GoodReads review

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“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


THE WARTIME SISTERS|LYNDA COHEN LOIGMAN

WHY I LOVED IT: 

Deeply moving exploration of sisters, a dysfunctional family in historical times, children, marriage, plenty to discuss, fabulous backstories.

Read my interview with Lynda Cohen Loigman

See my GoodReads Review

GET A COPY!

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“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

All artistic book photos designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. You can follow me at leslielindsay1 on Instagram. I hope you do!

WHEREVER SHE GOES| KElley Armstrong

WHy I loved it: 

IMG_3027Oh my gosh! The pacing! Relentless! Had to read on soccer sidelines instead of watching my daughter play. I mean, REALLY. Characters doing stupid things. You can’t help but want find out why.

This fast-paced standalone thriller from Armstrong unfolds to reveal complex truths, not only about the boy’s disappearance but about Aubrey’s past.” 

—Booklist

Read my interview with Kelley Armstrong

See my GoodReads review

GET A COPY! 


WILD GAME| DEBUT!| Adrienne Brodeur6C60F82A-CB3D-40EF-91D9-6944B6E356AD

WHY I LOVED IT:

Fabulous writing. Disturbing at times. Outrageous unfolding of events. Mothers and daughters. Narcissism. Vowing to do things differently. Resonated on many levels. Family dysfunction.

See my spotlight 

Read my GoodReads Review

GET A COPY! 

“Shocking, poignant, unputdownable.”

— PEOPLE MAGAZINE

 

 


WITHOUT A MAP| Debut!|Meredith Hall 

9780807072738.jpgWHY I LOVED IT:

Lush, poetic, but no-nonsense writing. Empathy and worry for the characters. Just so darn good. Resonate and relatable events that go beyond the obvious.

Read my GoodReads review.

GET A COPY!

Hall’s memoir is a sobering portrayal of how punitive her close-knit New Hampshire community was in 1965 when, at the age of 16, she became pregnant in the course of a casual summer romance . . . Hall offers a testament to the importance of understanding and even forgiving the people who, however unconscious or unkind, have made us who we are.”

—Francine Prose, O Magazine

…AND THAT’S A WRAP!

It’s been my pleasure–and privilege–to bring these titles to you. Hope 2020 brings you joy and plenty of reading time.

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

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#fiction #memoir #2019roundup #literaryfiction #favoritebooks #goodreads 

DECEMBER SHORT STORY SERIES: Karen Russell’s exquisite imagination flares with mundane moments turned surreal in ORANGE WORLD

Stunningly surreal and mystical stories from literary great, Karen Russell, captures a vibrant imagination with a dash of outlandish.

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DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES

From the Pulitzer finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellersSWAMPLANDIA! and VAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE, a stunning new collect ion of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell’s extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination. 

I’m a little late the the game here on Karen Russell, but rest assured, she’s been on my radar for some time. Russell’s her wild, brilliant imagination (which is completely unique) fuels my own (more tame) vault of weirdness. ORANGE WORLD (May 2019) completely captured and intrigued me. Eight stories in all–almost all have an ecology connection, they also interweave a series of surreal moments, almost as a melding of Salvador Dali meets literature.

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Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

I enjoyed all the stories in ORANGE WORLD–even the hard-to-fathom ones–because Russell’s writing and observations are razor-sharp. But they’re not for everyone. I found I ‘connected’ most with “The Prospectors,” and the title story, “Orange World,” most, but you may feel differently. I also enjoyed “Bad Graft” because I’ve been to Joshua Tree National Park and could easily visualize the space. “Bog Girl” was entirely unique, but also had a mythical, ancient literature feel as well.

“Bog Girl: A Romance”

a young man falls in love with a 2,000 year old girl he has extracted from a European bog, a mass of peat. He loves this girl and plans to take her to school ala “Mary had a Little Lamb” meets “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

“The Prospectors”

two enterprising young women leave Depression(era)-soaked Florida for new territory in Oregon. But what they don’t know is they’ve stumbled upon an haunted lodge populated by gold prospectors.

“Bad Graft”

starts out relatively normal–guy and girl on a road trip out west and decide to visit Joshua Tree National Park. But they meet a man and swallow a seed and…something (or someone) takes over. We bicker and argue, live in a ramshackle desert cottage, and more.

“Orange World”

presents new mothers in a support group-type location at a natural grocery store. Oh, but one woman is having difficulty with nocturnal feedings. When really, she’s nursing the devil in order to keep her infant safe, a promise she made to the devil.


Orange World and Other Stories is so much more than fresh plots. Russell ties these seemingly disparate tales together with a pervading theme of alienation: from the past, from family, from nature…underlying all of this is the exquisite beauty of Russell’s sentences, which will repeatedly surprise readers with their imagery and masterful language.”

Bookpage, Starred Review


ORANGE WORLD showcases Russell’s fertile and complex imagination, while bringing in the mundane and spotlighting it with the mystical and bizarre. It’s a little of what your brain might do on hallucinogens or in a dream. It’s a little like Helen Phillips meets Margaret Atwood.

3D81D258-C4E3-46FE-88B4-EC460761805AArtistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1

For more information, to connect with Karen Russell via social media, or to purchase a copy of ORANGE WORLD, please visit:

Order LInks: 

Karen-Russell-Final-3-200x300.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: KAREN RUSSELL won the 2012 and the 2018 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and one of The New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2011. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim award and is a former fellow of the NYPL Cullman Center and the American Academy in Berlin. She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University and received her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. She is the Endowed Chair of Texas State University’s MFA program, where she teaches in the fall semesters.

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

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#literaryfiction #speculativefiction #alwayswithabook #OrangeWorld #shortstories #storycollection #nature #environment #ecology  

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Author photo by Dan Hawk. Special thanks to the publicity department at Alfred A. Knopf. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1]

Polly Samson talks about her enchanting collection of stories, PERFECT LIVES, how it was influenced, in part, by being a new mother living near the sea

By Leslie Lindsay 

Eleven interconnected stories set in the bucolic English seaside town in which everyone is a little skewed and searching …for love, belonging, pleasures, and more.

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~DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES~


Lately I’ve had a love affair with wry, enchanting short stories that bring to mind nature and our connection to it–and also the inner lives of deliciously flawed characters. PERFECT LIVES (Bloomsbury, 2010) by Polly Samson absolutely fits the bill. Her writing is keenly observed in the nuances of family life and also the small town feel of this enmeshed seaside community.

There’s a broken egg dropped through a mail slot, a boy who glances his babysitter at a circus on a trapeze, a struggling postpartum mother, a piano tuner, some gorgeous architecture, and more. The stories meander and trail along in a fashion that is both exquisite and nuanced, and at times, I struggled to find the connections between them, but characters do resurface, and like a true-life village, ‘bump’ into one another time and time again. Samson’s strength lies in details and observations. It made me want to be a voyeur on Evrika Street.


 “A cycle of intersecting stories describes the lives that make up an English seaside community—their joys, regrets, and various embarrassments. Samson is gifted in her understanding of and patience for the variety of human experience.”

–Kirkus 



PERFECT LIVES may not be very long–my edition is 194 pages–but the prose is dense and the stories deep, leaving a residue. It’s not the kind of book you read in a rush; take your time to savor, and perhaps re-read, looking for themes and motifs, because they are most certainly there.

PERFECT LIVES has been recognized as one of the best books of the year (2009) by the Sunday Times (London), the Evening Standard, the Spectator, and the Telegraph, as well as a recognition from O, The Oprah Magazine.


Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Polly Samson to the author interview series.


Leslie Lindsay:

Polly, thank you so much for taking the time. I am always interested in beginnings. What prompted this collection? Was it singular story that you decided to stay with a little longer, a character, a situation, a place? Something else?


Polly Samson:   

Thank you for inviting me Leslie, and for your kind words about PERFECT LIVES.  I wrote the stories over a period of almost a decade in the hiatus following the publication in my thirties of my first collection of stories and my first novel.  The reason I took ten years was that I had a houseful of small children and had taken a decision not to shut myself away while they were so young, a luxury I know.  The first story I wrote was the last in the collection, Remote Control, and was commissioned by the BBC as part of a series.  The other great influence was that I had decided to take piano lessons alongside my children. It was much harder for me! Being in my forties meant hacking through forests along the neural pathways and I practiced for hours. Pianos found a way into many of the stories and provided a link between Richard, the failed concert-pianist turned piano tuner, and some of the residents of other stories.

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Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com


Leslie Lindsay:

Also, I am curious if there is a difference between ‘interlinked/interconnected stories’ and a ‘novel in short stories?’ They sound a bit the same, but maybe not. Can you explain?


Polly Samson:

Publishers have long been disappointed when an author turns in a collection of stories rather than a full-blown novel.  I think there’s a rather self-fulfilling prophecy that “stories don’t sell” so I was pleasantly surprised when Virago didn’t package PERFECT LIVES as “a novel in stories” for which there was quite a vogue at the time I find it slightly dishonest as stories are such different beasts to novels.  That said, I do love collections of stories with links. OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout, Alice Munroe’s  THE BEGGAR MAID, Melissa Banks’s THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING are three that come to mind and remain firm favourites.


Leslie Lindsay:

As for Evrika Street, can you set the scene a little? Is it located in Brighton, where you reside, or a made-up place? Were did you draw your inspiration?


Polly Samson:   

Evrika Street is a made up place.  I named it in memory of a recently-deceased friend’s boat, a place he was always happy.  It means “eureka” in Greece so fits with the sudden  realisations that take place in the lives that I’ve set there.  The stories are all take place in and around Brighton although I didn’t yet live there. My children were all about to start school in Brighton and, as we didn’t want them to spend all their free time traveling, we had decided to move.  I wasn’t feeling entirely optimistic about this as I was wedded to our life in rural England and was nervous about living in a town again.  Writing stories set in Brighton helped me to come to terms with the town, and to get to know it, and, as it turned out, as soon as we did move there I found I loved it,  with a passion, particularly having the sea on our doorstop.

blue ocean photograph
Photo by Stacey Gabrielle Koenitz Rozells on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:


I love, loved these descriptions of the homes and architecture in PERFECT LIVES, “The porches of the houses had fluted pillars; there were curlicues and garlands. The plasterwork reminded Rose of her first wedding cake, the one she’d cut […]” But I have a ‘thing’ for architecture and design and especially neighborhoods. What is it about homes that you think draw us in? We’re all a little voyeuristic, aren’t we?


Polly Samson:  

 I think the only really important thing about houses are the people who live in them.  I do enjoy setting the scene – I have to be able to visualize every aspect of the home before I start writing.  There are often more telling details on a coffee table, for example, than there are in what someone may volunteer to reveal.  Objects often speak louder than words, I find.  I remember once reading a novel by a good friend, someone whose books I loved, which featured a woman who worked in an attic. In Chapter Three she rises from her desk and walks out of French Windows into her garden.  I had to stop reading.  A mistake like that  signals to me that the writer hasn’t fully imagined the world.

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Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:


One of my favorite stories was ‘A Regular Cherub.’ Even though my own children are 12 and 14 years old, I am suddenly very interested in those early postpartum days. Can you talk about what inspired this one and also—do you have a story in this collection you feel a particular affinity toward?


Polly Samson:

I didn’t realise it at the time but looking  back I did have a (luckily mild) depression following the birth of one of my sons.  I can remember despairing that he wasn’t a bonny baby.  I would cry when people visited if they said something like “oooh, I love his little hat,” as all I would hear is “what a shame the baby is so ugly”!  Later, I looked at his baby pictures and could see that he was gorgeous: a regular cherub.  I don’t think I can claim a greater affinity towards one of the stories, it would be like picking a favourite child!


Leslie Lindsay:

Maybe you see what you want to see, because reading and writing is sort of a partnership…but in terms of themes and motifs, I kept finding eggs. Maybe it’s about beginnings. Or life. Or maybe I’m completely off. Can you speak to that, please?


Polly Samson:   

Oh goodness, it all feels like another lifetime.  I’ve written two novels since PERFECT LIVES  was published so the data has been wiped to make way for the new things.  I can say that the egg shell scene in the first story, The Egg, still makes me feel quite nauseous.  I do have a shell-phobia and I can remember reading that story at festivals and really struggling to get the words out without retching in front of the audience.  I suppose children figure in all the stories because they were the people I was spending most time with in the years before these stories poured out.

seven white eggs
Photo by ge yonk on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What three things can you not stop thinking or talking about?


Polly Samson:  

My new novel, A THEATRE FOR DREAMERS, which is being published in the UK in April 2020.  I am currently doing final corrections to the proofs.  It’s been a few years but I can’t stop thinking and talking about the characters, some of whom are real people, Leonard Cohen, Marianne Ihlen, Charmian Clift and then, of course, there’s the island of Hydra in Greece where the action takes place.

Leslie Lindsay:

Polly, this has been most intriguing. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Polly Samson:  

Thank you Leslie for these excellent questions.  I can’t think you’ve forgotten a thing and it has been lovely to be reminded of the stories in PERFECT LIVES.  

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Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this

For more information, to connect with Polly Samson via social media, or to purchase a copy of PERFECT LIVES, please visit: 

Order Links: 

PS lower res.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: Polly Samson was born in London in 1962. Her father, Lance Samson, was originally from Hamburg but came to London in 1938 on the Kindertransport. Her mother, Esther Cheo Ying, is the author of Black Country to Red China, a memoir that moves from Shanghai to Dr Barnardo’s and back to China where she became a Major in Mao’s Army.

In the seventies the family moved first to Cornwall, then Devon. A solitary child, Polly began writing and illustrating stories and poems from an early age. Eventually, after many attempts, a story about a lonely badger won a Blue Peter badge. It was the high point of her childhood. There were few high points at school and she was eventually asked to leave the sixth form of Newton Abbot Grammar School after which she spent a year working as a telex operator for a clay company.

At eighteen she moved to London and at her grandmother’s insistence got a job in publishing. Eighties publishing turned out to be a world she loved and thrived in and at the age of twenty-four she was appointed to the board of Jonathan Cape.

Polly Samson’s first collection of stories, Lying in Bed, was published by Virago in April 1999 and was picked as a “Book of the Year” by both Susan Hill and Cressida Connolly. Her first novel, Out of the Picture, was published by Virago in April 2000 and was short-listed for the Authors’ Club first novel award. Perfect Lives, Polly Samson’s second collection of stories, published by Virago in October 2010 was a Sunday Times Fiction Choice of the year, was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize and was read on BBC Radio 4. The story Ivan Knows was shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Award. In 2011 Polly wrote the introduction to Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll and Other Stories. She has been on the judging panel for many literary prizes including the Costa Novel of the Year Award and the overall Costa Book of the Year.

Polly Samson wrote the lyric to Louder Than Words on Pink Floyd’s The Endless River which reached the top of the charts in 2014. Her latest novel is The Kindness.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these online platforms: 

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#fiction #stories #storycollection #linkedstories #literaryfiction #Brighton #seaside#children 

[Cover and author image courtesy of P. Samson and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this] 

Jennifer Chiaverini talks about her new book, THE CHRISTMAS BOOK, how quilting binds friendships and community, her next book about Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmakers, and so much more in this delightful winter read

By Leslie Lindsay 

New to the Elm Creek Quilts series from bestselling author of THE QUILTER’S APPRENTICE, MRS. LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER, and RESISTANCE WOMEN comes this warm story brimming with nostalgia.

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On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of THE QUIILTER’S APPRENTICE, the novel that launched the Elm Creek Quilts series in 1999, comes an update on the quilters we’ve come to know and love. THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE by Jennifer Chiaverini(William Morrow, Oct 1 2019) is a heartwarming tale steeped in nostalgia, old friendships and new. And I completely have a cover crush—you, too?!

It’s a snowy day in mid-December when we awake and begin the day with Sylvia, master quilter, and recently remarried…but there’s been a blizzard and the temperatures have plunged…water pipes at the local church have burst. The wooden floor at the community hall is warped and ruined and those plans for the Christmas Boutique—an annual sale of baked goods and handcrafted items to benefit the county food bank—is thwarted. Sylvia offers to host the event at Elm Creek Manor, her ancestral estate and also the summer home to her quilting camp.

We meet a host of different characters, of which the chapters are told in alternating POVs. There’s Sylvia Bergstrom Compson, once a young wife on the World War Two home front, and her second husband, Andrew. Sarah, co-founder of Elm Creek Quilt Camp an expectant mother. Agnes, who reflects on a beloved antique quilt, and empty-nesters, Gwen and Diane, who are sometimes at odds, but also contemplate family heirlooms, unfinished projects, and more.

THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE is a lighthearted, tender exploration of friendships, and much of it is told in the past, as a series of recollections. There’s charm and wisdom here and it might feel as if you have settled in for a story with past generations. I especially loved the manor and wanted more about the house (I always do!) and found I relished in the idea of being snowed in with a cup of tea and a roaring fire.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Jennifer Chiaverini to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Jennifer, welcome. Twenty years! How did the Elm Creek Quilts begin, and can you give us a few reflections as you look back on twenty years with this series?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

It certainly has been an exciting and unexpected journey from THE QUILTER’S APPRENTICE two decades ago to THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE today! Beginning writers are often advised to “write what you know,” and when I was starting out, I took this advice seriously. Since I knew about quilters—their quirks, their inside jokes, their disputes and their generosity, their quarrels and their kindnesses—the lives of quilters became a natural subject for me. I also wanted to pay tribute to the quilters of ages past who had preserved and handed down their traditions through the generations.

When I first began writing about quilters, I had two audiences in mind. The first included my quilter friends, who I thought would enjoy reading about contemporary women like themselves with problems and dreams like their own, overcoming obstacles in their lives by taking strength from their own moral courage and from the support of faithful friends. I also believed quilters would appreciate a depiction of modern quilters and quilt-making free of the usual stereotypes. Yet I also intended to write for non-quilters, to give them some insight into the quilting world, so that they might better understand how passionate we quilters are about our art and why we love it so.

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Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I am always so intrigued to know what inspired a particular title. After you wrapped up the series in 2012 with THE GIVING QUILT, what inspired you to resume the series with THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE? Was it a location, a situation, a character, or something else you wanted to explore?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

Although many of the Elm Creek Quilt novels are historical fiction—my favorite genre—eventually I reached a point where the historical subjects I found most compelling and the stories I most wanted to explore simply didn’t fit within the framework of the series. So after twenty Elm Creek Quilts novels, I wrote several stand-alone historical novels, including Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and Resistance Women. As a few years went by, readers continued to ask for another visit with Sylvia, Sarah, and their friends, so I decided to write The Christmas Boutique as a gift for these loyal fans. The twentieth anniversary of the series seemed an especially fine occasion to continue the Elm Creek Quilters’ story.


“Devotees of the Quilts series will relish these new episodes, and new fans will delight to discover such a well-stocked back catalog. A warm portrait of women bound by craft—perfect for fireside reading.

─Kirkus


Leslie Lindsay:

I love this longstanding American tradition of sort of ‘piecing together’ our stories into a collected whole. There’s friendship and community that I think bind us—and these quilts—together. Can you speak to that, please?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

I absolutely agree with you. In fact, one of the things I’ve always hoped readers would take away from the Elm Creek Quilts series is a greater understanding of how quilting is a wonderful creative outlet that can draw you into a wider community of talented, welcoming quilters who support and encourage one another. Perhaps more importantly, I hoped readers would discover how quilting can bring together people from different generations, nationalities, races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds into a patchwork of friendship.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I loved, loved Elm Creek Manor. Here’s a passage I noted in THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE:

“Sarah’s ingenious and unlikely suggestion [to turn] Elm Creek Manor into a retreat for quilters, a place for them to stay, to learn, to find inspiration, and to enjoy the companionship of other quilters.”

Can you give us some more details of the manor? I always want to know about houses and architecture. Is it inspired by an actual home?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

I’ve described Sylvia’s ancestral estate in so many novels that sometimes it almost feels like a real place that I’ve visited in the distant past. Unfortunately—and I hesitate to admit this because I know it will disappoint many readers—Elm Creek Manor is fictional. Only the red banked barn on Sylvia’s estate has a real-life counterpart, a barn in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania that has been restored and turned into a theater-in-the-round for a local community theater company. I’ve provided a detailed floor plan of Elm Creek Manor in my illustrated guide to the series, An Elm Creek Quilts Companion.

Leslie Lindsay:

There are a variety of characters and stories within THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE. Is there a storyline or character you feel most aligned with?  A story that might have come more organically for you?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I’ve set several novels during this festive season, including THE CHRISTMAS QUILT—another Elm Creek Quilts novel—and CHRISTMAS BELLS, a historical novel exploring how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was inspired to write his famous poem of the same name (which is better known today as the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”) during the tragic years of the American Civil War. I suppose it’s the holiday itself—its traditions and customs, its music and flavors—that I aligned with while writing THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE rather than a particular storyline or character.

A common thread running through all of my novels, contemporary and historical alike, is the dynamic of the family, how those we are closest to and love most can be a source of both our greatest strength and our deepest insecurity and regret. Perhaps because of the expectations we have that Christmas is a time of joy and peace—and the effort we will make to create the mythical “Perfect Christmas”—the holidays tend to bring family conflicts to the surface, forcing us to deal with them at the least opportune moment. While this can make the holiday season difficult and stressful in real life, it offers wonderfully rich potential for storytelling.

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Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What are your plans for the winter and holiday season?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

I’m going to spend the holidays at home with my family, enjoying all of our favorite traditions. My mother, brother, and sister will be joining us from sunny Southern California, so I hope the weather will cooperate by giving us a lovely picturesque Wisconsin winter landscape outside the window but sparing us the artic temperatures. Best of all, my eldest son will be home from college for semester break. It will be so wonderful to have him home again!

Leslie Lindsay:

It makes sense that everyone asks about quilting and writing, but do you wish you got asked more often?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

I honestly never thought of it like that. I’m perfectly happy with how often readers ask me about quilting and writing as it is.

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Photo by Julia Sakelli on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What is your next project? What are you working on now?

Jennifer Chiaverini:

My next novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters, explores the fascinating and often fraught relationships between Mary Todd Lincoln and her sisters and half-sisters. It’s often said that the American Civil War pitted brother against brother, but in reality, in many families, all were pulled into the conflict even if they did not take up arms. Opposing loyalties often divided sisters from sisters, parents from children, and such was the case in the Todd family. Mary, of course, was married to Union President and Commander in Chief Abraham Lincoln, and some of her brothers and brothers-in-law served in his administration or in the Union Army. However, other siblings and in-laws served in the Confederate forces, and some of her sisters and half-sisters were wed to Confederate officers. Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters reveals how Mary’s relationships with her sisters influenced her from childhood as she grew to be a charming, intelligent belle and future bride of the poor but brilliant ambitious Illinois lawyer who would become the nation’s sixteenth president. The novel shows how her sisters supported her (or otherwise) and benefitted from their kinship (or suffered for it) when Mary ascended to the White House as first lady, and how they comforted her or kept their distance in the terrible, sorrowful years of her widowhood after her beloved husband was murdered right before her eyes.

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time. Wishing you all the warmth and good cheer this holiday season.

Jennifer Chiaverini:

Thanks! I hope your holiday season is merry and bright!

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Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow me at @leslielindsay1 on Instagram

To learn more, connect with Jennifer Chiaverini via social media, or order a copy of THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE, please visit:

Order LInks:

Jennifer Chiaverini Author Photo (1).JPGABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels including Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and Resistance Women, and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information please visit: www.jenniferchiaverini.com or follow Jennifer on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JenniferChiaveriniAuthor

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

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#fiction #women #quilting #holidayreads #Christmas #winter #winterbooks

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Jennifer Chiaverini | THE CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE: https://leslielindsay.com/2019/10/25/warmth-friendship-quilting-a-darling-manor-home-in-pennsylvania-lend-to-a-heartwarming-tale-by-jennier-chiaverinin-this-holiday-season/

[Cover and author image courtesy of WilliamMorrow and used with permission. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow me at @leslielindsay1 on Instagram]

 

The street lights have come on, it’s time to go inside…Carrianne Leung on her sublime novel-in-short-stories, plus what happens behind closed doors, suicide, mental illness, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Brilliant collection of intertwined/interconnected short stories about a suburban subdivision in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

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Winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 

(Writers’ Union of Canada)

 An Amazon Best Book of the Month 

(Literature & Fiction)

Such a striking and brilliant collection of short stories from Canadian author Carrianne Leung. I absolutely adored THAT TIME I LOVED YOU (Liveright Publishing, February 2019), and felt a bit melancholy when it was over; I wanted to stay with these characters longer.

 ~ DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES ~

When I finished this collection, sat the book down, I said, “Five glorious stars,” and I don’t do that often. These stories are about children losing innocence, adults burying their pain. They start off with a ‘rash’ of parent suicides, one right after the other, in this new development, where everything appears ‘perfect.’ The characters are flawed but endearing. Leung’s prose is absolutely glimmering and lucid. I couldn’t get enough.

THAT TIME I LOVED YOU is a harrowing and stunning portrait of suburbia in that tender period of adolescence and new promise (the neighborhood is brand-new, heaps of dirt still remain in some of the yards, chain-link fences go up, but the paint is still fresh). The first story starts with the end, quite literally: it’s the year the parents in the neighborhood begin killing themselves.


“Heartbreaking…. Leung’s stories lift the veiled curtain of late 1970s suburbia to reveal the sadness and isolation of its residents…. Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung’s debut story collection marks the career of a writer to watch.”
– Kirkus Reviews [starred review]


Each street in this Scarborough neighborhood is teeming with children and families of all races and cultures (Italian, Chinese, Jamaician)–our main protagonist is June, a Chinese-Canadian girl on the cusp of young adulthood.

We meet so many neighbors with various personalities and quirks
–there’s a ‘lovely’ kleptomaniac, a new wife who dreams of a baby–but also the man next door—there’s the mother who swallows bleach and is found on her garage floor, the father who shoots himself with his hunting rifle.

Each story is a shift in POV, another look into a home, a different perspective on the suicides, and it’s so gorgeously done.
 THAT TIME I LOVED YOU is about moods and blistering desires, it’s about grief, and innocence, culture and class. This is one that deserves to be revisited time and time again. I loved it.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Carrianne Leung the to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Carrianne, I loved how you took these events with the parent suicides and wove them into this glorious collection of stories. There’s tension, logic, imagination, and so much forward momentum. What haunted you into writing this collection?

Carrianne Leung:

The stories began as a love letter to a particular time and place of my childhood. I felt like there was so much to say, so many stories to tell that haven’t been written about growing up in the suburbs from the point of view of a racialized child. The stories take place in the late 70s and early 80s which was an optimistic time in Canada. I remembered growing up a new subdivision in suburban Toronto, among many other new immigrants as an ambivalent time. Many of the issues we see today like racism, gendered violence, mental illness were present, but we didn’t have the language or understanding that we do now to discuss. I wanted to try to give language to those experiences in the sensibility of that period. Like a lot of young people, I longed to leave and find a bigger world, but when I revisited this childhood, I realized how much this place and time shaped me. The stories, while fictional, were my way of recording this memory.

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Photo by David McBee on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What I really love is how the neighborhood in THAT TIME I LOVED YOU is so intricately connected–it’s a messy web of consequences of past mistakes, ideals, personalities. Can you give us a sense of where—and how—these characters were derived? Is there one or two you felt a particular affinity for?

Carrianne Leung:

As a child, I used to wonder what all my neighbours did behind the closed doors. Being new immigrants, my family and I were intrigued by how people who were not Chinese lived. The characters just came pretty fully formed. I guess they started as fragments of people I knew while growing up and grew from there. I love all of them! It would be like picking a favourite child! Haha. But I do feel that while these are linked stories, June is central. She has 3 stories – the beginning, the middle and the end, and only her stories are told in first person. I have a lot of affection for her.

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

In terms of process, did you plan to create a novel-in-stories? Do you outline/plot, or did the characters sort of ‘take over?’ I’ve long yearned to create a similar collection—houses, homes, neighborhoods, the families that inhabit them have always intrigued. But I fear it wouldn’t hang together. Can you give us a some ‘nuts and bolts?’

Carrianne Leung:

I wrote the first story, “Grass” many years ago. It was published, but it lingered for me. I returned to it and considered developing it into a novel. However, so many other characters appeared, all jostling for space. They all needed their own stories to be told, and I followed their lead. While writing them, I found that they jumped into each other stories. It was a lot of fun to build. It wasn’t until I had a full draft of the book that I was able to polish and tighten how they were linked. I suppose my advice is to just write a full draft and then go back to see how the stories braid together. I believe so much of writing is in the revisions!

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

The end of each story sort of ends in motion, on the exhale. It feels like these characters keep moving and interacting, even after the last line. What compels you to know when you’re at ‘the end,’ of a certain story?

Carrianne Leung:

I wanted to show compassion for each of the characters, however flawed and messy they and their lives were. Each story ends in a way that I hope gives some kind of redemption to them. They do not wrap up with tidy endings, but I wanted to leave that for readers. We experience our lives as being “in the middle of things”, and that was the way I began and ended the stories.

The image of the streetlights turning on as night fell stayed with me throughout the writing of the book. When I was a child, this was the signal that I had to go inside. So I knew this was how I wanted to end the book.

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Photo by Muffin on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

How did growing up in Toronto influence the way you write, both formally and in content? Are there certain authors or works that have influenced your writing? 

Carrianne Leung:

This is a great question! I am so inspired by what is happening in Canadian literature. I feel like I am in the company of such exciting work right now. I am lucky to live in a city that is very multi-racial and multilingual. I just googled how many languages are spoken here, and I found 200! This kind of diversity in race, gender identities, languages, etc. (and also the marginalization comes with difference) makes for a creative energy that I draw from. I am especially indebted to the work of Black, Indigenous writers and writers of colour for the inspiration and sense of building new representations of this place we call Canada. Among some of the fiction, non-fiction writers and poets who are especially important to me are David Chariandy, Catherine Hernandez, Katherena Vermette, Lindsay Wong, Jenny Heijun Wills, Alicia Elliot, Gwen Benaway, Cherie Dimaline, Canisia Lubrin… oh my goodness, I can go on and on. Now I fear I am forgetting a bunch of people! But please check out what is happening in the Canadian literary scene! It’s a very generative moment.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I have to ask about suicide, because it is a focus of the novel and not a light subject, but one I think people have an innate, somber curiosity about. There’s complicated grief for the survivors, but also someone who reads THAT TIME I LOVED YOU might also be struggling with their mental health. Can you speak to that, please?

Carrianne Leung:

I wanted to treat mental illness and suicide with compassion, respect and dignity. For people who have never experienced depression or suicide ideation, it may be unfathomable. As a child, I knew a few people who did commit suicide. You know, it’s a rupture of sorts for a child who may be hungry for the world to get larger, to feel alive with intensity to confront the reality that some people want to leave the world, to end their lives. I explored that in the book. What remains for the survivors? How do their perceptions and sense of self and stability necessarily shift in order to understand what has happened.

For those readers who are struggling, I hope that they get solace. I hope they do not feel alone. I hope they feel seen in some way and acknowledged that for many of us, the work of living is tremendously difficult. Within that, I hope they are also able to glimpse beauty.

Leslie Lindsay:

Carrianne, I so enjoyed this. Thank you, thank you for the insight (and inspiration!). Is there anything you’d like to add, that maybe I forgot to ask?

Carrianne Leung:

I just want to thank you for reading the book, Leslie. It’s gratifying to hear from readers that they connected with the stories and the characters. I feel so much love for them, and it’s the greatest joy for a writer to know that others may care about them too.

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Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this]

For more information, to connnect with the Carrianne Leung via social media, or to purchase a copy of THAT TIME I LOVED YOU, please see: 

Order LInks:

5a942a89b10ec30001a043ca_headshot_green-p-500ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carrianne Leung is a fiction writer and educator. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and Equity Studies from OISE/University of Toronto. Her debut novel, The Wondrous Woo, published by Inanna Publications was shortlisted for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. Her collection of linked stories, That Time I Loved You, was released in 2018 by HarperCollins and in 2019 in the US by Liveright Publishing. It received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, and was named as one of the Best Books of 2018 by CBC, That Time I Loved You was awarded the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 2019 and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Awards 2019 and long listed for Canada Reads 2019. Leung’s work has also been appeared in The Puritan, Ricepaper, The Globe and Mail, Room Magazine, Prairie Fire and Open Book Ontario.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these social media channels: 

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#literaryfiction #interlinkedstories #collection #shortstories #storycollection #mentalhealth #mentalillness #suicide #suburbia #1980s #1970s #comingofage #families #secrets #neighborhood #subdivision

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[Cover and author image retrieved from C. Leung’s website 10.15.19. Special thanks to Liveright Books. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Please follow on Instagram for more like this]

Lisa Tognola talks about self-comparison,wish fulfillment, the American Dream, the book she ‘had’ to write and so much more in AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT

By Leslie Lindsay 

The all-American Dream to build the most perfect home comes crumbling down–and then up again–in this relatable tale about one woman’s obsession with home remodeling.

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Suburban mom, Janie Margolis is feeling cramped in their small-ish home with three children and no garageShe wants bigger and better and she wants it now. AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT (SWP, October 2019) is all about that quest for the bestJanie starts watching HGTV shows and dreaming of the most perfect place. Finally, she convinces her husband, Wim, that it’s time to move. Together, they start house-hunting. They have a long list of ‘wants.’ Nothing and everything is right. Finally, a real estate agent shows them a house on the ‘perfect’ street, it’s a bit out of their price range and a little dated…but…the location is right.

Still, it’s not quite right. Wim and Janie make plans for a tear-down. After all, they have to have the American Dream, the house that’s ‘just right’ for their family. But soon, the details of building a home from the ground up become a bit overwhelming. Wim and Janie bicker and argue. Money becomes tight. Their list of wants is bordering on pretentious.

Along the way, we experience crushes on contractors, frenzied shopping expeditions, the erection of a cupola that looks a little too much like…well. Plus, kitchen design woes an in-law suite, in-home theater dreams and more.


“With wit and empathy, Lisa Tognola unpacks the all-American dream of the perfect house. Tognola had me turning pages to see whether Janie’s journey would end in happily-ever-after or the poorhouse.”

–Pamela ErensAward-winning author of Eleven Hours, a Best book of 2016 by NPR


Much of AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT reads like a memoir. And with good reason. In the acknowledgements section, the author mentions this story was inspired by real events.I felt like I was right there alongside these characters–a fly on the wall.


Ultimately, AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT is about what it’s like to be lured by temptation
…to lose one’s financial security, and is there a difference between ‘fulfillment’ and ‘having it all?’


Please join me in welcoming Lisa Tognola to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Lisa, welcome! I am always so interested in beginnings; that seed of an idea that propels writers forward. What was haunting you when you set out to write AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT?

Lisa Tognola:

Thank you, Leslie! It’s great to be part of the author interview series. What was haunting me when I set out to write my book was that I’d been a stay-at-home mom for twelve years and while I loved it, it was frustrating that people who hadn’t ever parented full time often didn’t understand how challenging the job was. They’d ask, what do you do all day? It made me feel unproductive and unimportant, even though I think it’s the most important job in the world. I felt lost and maybe even unfulfilled. I’d lost myself in motherhood and was flailing. It wasn’t until my husband and I started building our house that I began to rekindle parts of my identity. Once I started writing, my house became my muse, and the creative release was exhilarating. When I popped awake, often between 4 and 6 am, writing was the first thing I thought about doing. I’d scurry downstairs to my writing chair and start tapping at the keys. Writing my book made me feel alive and awakened a part of me that had been hibernating. Honestly, I couldn’t not write the book. I had to write.

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Like in AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT, we had an issue around the 2007 financial crisis.  My husband’s job took us from Minnesota (kind of a relief) to Chicago. We put the house on the market. Got some nibbles. Then a buyer. And then…that deal fell through. On moving day. We had two babies. Our house was packed. We moved. We had to. And then. Two house payments. It took another two years for that Minnesota house to sell. Seems everyone has a story about that time. Can you expand on that? 

Lisa Tognola:

That must have been a terribly trying time for you. It was a stressful period for so many of us. The lack of control over the timing of buying and selling a house had a major negative effect on houses as investments during the financial meltdown. Many people bought houses at the top of the market because that was the time that they needed a home for their families. But still others were stuck having to sell after the market collapse, due to a negative change in their own personal financial situations. That forced them to buy high, and sell low.

The question for Janie is, does she really “need” a new home for her family? It’s a question she and Wim grapple with, but in the end, her obsession with “keeping up with the everybody’s” propels her forward. Nothing will stop her. She realizes her mistake of “wanting it all” and ignoring reality only after it is too late and they hit rock bottom. This is the point when she says, “I longed to return to our pre-house-building life. Where our existence hadn’t revolved around an endless construction debacle. Where we hadn’t struggled to pay two mortgages. Where I hadn’t had to look under sofa cushions for spare change.” Eventually, Janie come face to face with her flaws and realizes she can no longer hide from her problems. She must dig herself out of a hole.

I want the reader to connect to Janie and Wim, who, like millions of other people in America, lost their financial bearings at the peak of the housing boom and were forced to deal with the crisis that followed. My hope is that the reader will be left feeling uncertain but hopeful about the future, because adaption, learning, and growth, enabled by imperfection, are what allow us to progress in life, to move forward, and to succeed.

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Leslie Lindsay:

In 2007, we left an adorable 1920s home in Minnesota with tons of charm for something that was ‘better.’ This is a theme I see in AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT. We wanted wall-to-wall carpeting instead of wood floors (babies). The clawfoot tub was charming, but…not practical. Can you speak to this idea of wish fulfillment and personal fulfillment?

Lisa Tognola:

My book explores themes I think a lot of us can relate to: longing, desire, and image. This book is about Janie’s struggle with who she is in the world and how she appears in the world versus how she is really and whether there is a reconciliation with these things.  When is it okay to stop trying to create a certain image? When can I just be who I am?

I’ve spent my life worried about what people think of me.  I think many of us do. We want things because we want to feel good enough. At one point in the book, Janie says, “I think we’re ready for an upgrade.” She’s not just looking to upgrade her house, of course, but she’s either unaware of that or unwilling to admit that she’s looking for more emotional fulfillment in her life.

Her obsession over building a perfect house while simultaneously ignoring the consequences eventually force her to re-evaluate her life and her marriage. She eventually becomes more self-aware of a void she’s trying to fill. The person she is at the end understands her bigger need. She wanted a house, but she needed fulfillment. And a house alone won’t bring fulfillment. Genuine fulfillment comes from contributing to others—engaging in family life, charity work, spiritual life, being productive and making a difference in the world. Regarding your point about wish fulfillment: I think you can have wall-to-wall carpeting and a claw foot tub AND be emotionally fulfilled. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think it becomes a problem when we become too focused on material things and lose sight of what’s important. That is when we tread dangerous ground.

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Photo by William LeMond on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I’m curious about your process and structure in writing AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT. It’s not a memoir, but in some ways, reads like one. You chose to fictionalize names and some characteristics, but it’s also written in first person. Did you try to write in third person? How do you think the story would have been different?

Lisa Tognola:

It felt natural for me to write in first person because, like Janie, I’m a mom of three living in the suburbs, so it was easy for me to get into her character.  I didn’t try to write in third person because I think first person gives a story a feeling of immediacy and being in the moment and feels more authentic.

Case in point, my book ends with Janie and Wim lying naked in their newly constructed, sawdusty bedroom atop a plywood table on two sawhorses, pondering their fate. Often after people read my book their first reaction is, did this really happen to you? By which they mean, did you really have sex on a sawhorse? I tell them that’s between me and my hairdresser.  I think readers are curious about what’s true because when we read about a situation or feeling, it’s almost as if we’re experiencing and feeling it ourselves. But my job was to do the exploration and let the reader do the interpretation.

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Leslie Lindsay:

What can you tell us about the Decoration & Design Building in NYC? I nearly passed out from excitement when Janie and her interior decorator went there in AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT.

Lisa Tognola:

I have been to the D&D building and it is the mecca of interior design— an earthly paradise of furniture and fabric, textiles and porcelain—a place where you’re gobsmacked by magnificent crystal chandeliers, exotic rugs and python skins and exotic wallpapers that sizzle with color. Everything is wildly expensive and for all practical purposes, untouchable. But just browsing is fun!

Leslie Lindsay:

Do you still think about moving?

Lisa Tognola:

All the time, but for different reasons than I used to. I think what makes a place “perfect” changes depending on where you are in your life. When my kids were younger, we wanted a good school system, access to the city and proximity to family (grandparents, cousins, etc). But now that my kids are older and scattered around the country and my husband and I are edging closer to retirement we are starting to value other things in life such as lower taxes and a slower paced life. Instead of wanting more, we are starting to want less. Less house, less yard, less taxes!

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Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Lisa, thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Lisa Tognola:

I’d like to share my hope for my book—that it might serve as a cautionary tale. The final message being: Live well—and always within your means. Live a fulfilled life. Janie and Wim went from living with a manageable mortgage in a house too small to living in a big house with a mortgage too big. They ended up more comfortable in a bigger house but more stressed by a bigger mortgage.

It may sound corny, but books do have the power to change lives and influence people and I hope people learn from my character’s mistakes.

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 For more information, to connect with Lisa Tognola via social media, or to purchase a copy of AS LONG AS IT’S PERFECT, please visit: 

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Lisa Tognola author photo_TND.pngABOUT THE AUTHOR: LISA TOGNOLA is an author, freelance writer, social worker, wife, and mother of three who always dreamed of getting married and living in the perfect house—until she discovered that passion comes with a mortgage. A former humor columnist at The Alternative Press, based in New Jersey, she is now a contributor to More.comSalon.com and Kveller. Her book reviews have appeared in ParadeKirkus Reviews and SheReads. She has contributed essays to five anthologies in the Not Your Mother’s Books series as well as My Funny Valentine: America’s Most Hilarious Writers Take on Love, Romance, and Other Complications and My Funny Medical: Off the Charts Humor from an All-Star Cast. Tognola hails from California but now lives in New Jersey, where she spends most of her time fantasizing about sunny skies, palm trees, and In-N-Out Burger.

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

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[Cover and author image courtesy of SheWrites Press and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. For more like this, and other bookish news, please follow me at @leslielindsay on Instagram].