Mom and Speech-language pathologist talks about how you can make the most of the morning routine with your kids, speech devlopment, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Super-cute board book for use with toddlers in a home or clinic setting to help with early language development, plus kids will delight in the lift-the-flap feature.

fe5cdf12325c6e89c6c2eb5edf693e17_original

~Books on Monday, Part 2|Always with a Book~

Last week, we chatted with Dr. T. about her hands-on, practical, and FUN board book for kids–and their caregivers to read and manipulate. Today, she presents some fab ways to use your morning routine to increase your child’s language skills. I love these ideas because they are accessible, plus children will delight in collaborating with you. The key here is to make it feel natural, as if it’s part of your normal day-to-day routine, not a ‘sit and learn’ or another ‘chore’ on your to-do list. Kids are smart, they pick up on this stuff. Best to ‘sneak it in’ in a way that makes it feel like fun and play. 

5 ways to use your morning routine to increase your toddler’s language skills

by Tinita Kearney, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

As a wife, mother of two children under 2 and a business owner, I am all too familiar with just how busy each day can get! There are a million things to check off of the daily ‘To-Do’ list and not a million hours in which to do it all. But, like any parent, my children are always at the very top of my priority list, and this means that I am purposeful about finding creative ways to fit them into my hectic schedule. And since I just happen to also be a speech-language pathologist, this often takes the form of games and activities that are designed to build language and communication skills (in super fun ways!).

Mornings at my house are typically fast-paced and very routine. It’s very easy to get caught-up in the automaticity of it all in the effort to make sure that everyone gets out the door on-time. But morning routines are also a great way to get in regularly scheduled language-building practice. If you’re anything like me (and I’m betting you are), then preparing your children to achieve their very best is your ultimate goal as a parent. Growing their language and communication skills is the greatest way to set them on the road to success and this list of five quick and easy ways to use your morning routine to build these skills will help you navigate the way!

Sing Songs (or make them up!)

Songs are a great tool to help grow vocabulary and to teach basic concepts. Pair a song with a routine morning activity and feel free to get silly with it!

Try: Sing a ‘brushing teeth’ song during this part of your morning routine (e.g., “This is the way we brush our teeth, so early in the morning.”).

Tips & Tricks: Add words/lines to the song to teach specific vocabulary (e.g., “This is the way we brush our tongue”) and basic concepts (e.g., “This is the way we brush up top/on bottom”).

man in gray shirt holding baby in white onesie
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Tag Team Dressing

You’re probably already familiar with the growing independence of your toddler! Encourage this important development and also build language skills by getting your toddler involved in the dressing process.

Try: Play “I choose, you choose,” where your child gets to select one clothing item that they would like to wear for the day, and you select another until a complete outfit is created.

Tips & Tricks: Present your child with only 2 clothing item choices at a time to speed things up and keep your morning on track. Also, try giving your child 1 ‘silly’ option (e.g., a thick sweater as a choice in the middle of summer) and encourage your child to tell you why it’s a silly choice (e.g., Parent: “Is this sweater a good choice? No, it’s silly! It’s too hot outside! Tell daddy why this is silly.”).

toddler girl wearing long sleeved top reading book while sitting on bed
Photo by Kha Ruxury on Pexels.com

Mirror Time

Increase your little one’s vocabulary and expressive language skills by having them take a look in the mirror and describing what they see.

Try: After dressing, have your child stand in front of a mirror and describe 1 or 2 things that they are wearing. Introduce them to new vocabulary words when describing (e.g., colors, textures, patterns, shapes, materials, etc.) and encourage them to use these new words each day.

Tips & Tricks: Lay the foundation for more mature sentences and teach new vocabulary by restating and adding to what your child says (e.g., Child: “Ooh, pretty shirt!” Parent: “Yes, your polka dot shirt is pretty!”).

funny boy brushing teeth in morning
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Assign a Job

One way to use your toddler’s “I-can-do-it-by-myself!” spirit is to assign a job that they can in fact complete by themselves, while simultaneously helping you to keep your morning routine running smoothly! This is also a good way to grow your toddler’s following directions and comprehension skills.

Try: Keep your child’s shoes in an easy-to-access area and instruct them to put on a specific pair each morning a few minutes before you’re ready to head out the door (e.g., “Go put on your red sneakers.”).

Tips & Tricks: Grow your child’s skills even more by giving a two-part instruction (e.g., “Go get your red sneakers and bring them to me.”).

crop little girl swinging on swing
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Play-by-Play Commentator

The easiest way to build your tot’s language skills is to model good language yourself! You are their first (and best!) teacher, and how YOU communicate is how they will learn to communicate.

Try: Talk-out every action that you take involving your child throughout the morning (e.g., “It’s time to wash your face! Let’s get a washcloth and dip it in the water. Now we have to wring it out. Look at all that water coming out! Squeeze, squeeze, all done! Let’s wipe your face now. Ok, nice and clean!”).

Tips & Tricks: Talk-out your actions even when your child is half-asleep and you’re convinced that your play-by-play commentary is 100% useless — you’d be surprised how much actually gets through!

For more information, to connect with Dr. Tinita Kearney via social media, or to purchase a copy of LOLA THE KOALA, please visit: 

Order Links:

headshot2 (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Tinita Kearney (Dr. T) is a speech pathologist who wants to empower kids and their parents by teaching foundational language skills in a way that is fun and interactive. With the first book in her new lift-the-flap Lola Koala Travel Adventures series, Dr. T and Lola Koala teach kids to answer WHO, WHAT, WHERE and YES/NO questions. Kids will be delighted and enchanted as they help Lola pack her suitcase and find clues to mystery destinations.

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

IMG_1175Leslie Lindsayis the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing 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. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded 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.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#lolakoala #alwayswithabook #prbythebook #speech #speechdevelopment #kids #parents #receptivelanguage #SLP #speechdevelopment #morningroutine #toddlers #songs #play #parenting #SpeakingofApraxia

fe5cdf12325c6e89c6c2eb5edf693e17_original

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

THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES

By Leslie Lindsay

A twisty literary thriller set in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

THE+TWO+MRS.+CARLYLES_cover+art_revised+copy

~Wednesdays with Writers|Always with a Book~

Historical Fiction Spotlight

San Francisco, 1906. Violet is one of three people grateful for the destruction of the big earthquake. It leaves her and her two best friends unexpectedly wealthy — if the secret that binds them together stays buried beneath the rubble. Fearing discovery, the women strike out on their own, and orphaned, wallflower Violet reinvents herself.

When a whirlwind romance with the city’s most eligible widower, Harry Carlyle, lands her in a luxurious mansion as the second Mrs. Carlyle, it seems like her dreams of happiness and love have come true. But all is not right in the Carlyle home, and Violet soon finds herself trapped by the lingering specter of the first Mrs. Carlyle, and by the inescapable secrets of her own violent history.

“If you loved Rindell’s THE OTHER TYPIST, if you adored Jane Eyre, if you were riveted by Rebecca, you will be enthralled by THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES . . . Eerie and suspenseful . . . Rindell reminds her readers how quickly trust can be shattered.”

AMY POEPPEL, author of Small Admissions

 

IMG_1694 (1)

Artistic cover of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookstagram.

For more information, to connect with Suzanne Rindell via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES, please visit: 

Order Links:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

Suzanne+Rindell+Author+Photo+copy+3ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Suzanne Rindell earned her PhD in English literature from Rice University. She is the author of the historical mysteries THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES (2020), EAGLE & CRANE (2018), THREE-MARTINI LUNCH (2016) and THE OTHER TYPIST (2013). THE OTHER TYPIST has been translated into 17 languages and optioned for TV by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Keira Knightley, and Hulu.

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry 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, Coffin Bell Journal, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded 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.

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood & Madness a Daughter’s Memoir. Available soon: 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA from Woodbine House. 

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #historicalficiton #SanFrancisco #women #thriller #literary 

IMG_1694 (1)

[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Artistic cover of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookstagram]

Dr. Tinita Kearney talks about her new lift-the-flap book designed to help kids with yes/no Questions, WHO+WHAT+WHERE and speech development

By Leslie Lindsay 

Darling lift-the-flap board book for toddlers and their caregivers to teach basics of yes/no questions, receptive language skills, asking questions, more. 

fe5cdf12325c6e89c6c2eb5edf693e17_original

~Books on Monday, Part 1|Always with a Book~

I’m so jazzed about this book! Not only did I love, love reading to my two when they were babies (even in utero!) and afterward, I love working with them on lift-the-flap books, too. The surprise and delight is such a fun way to bring a story to life, to give it a tactile approach and bring the world of the story a little more in grasp…quite literally! When I learned about Dr. Tinita Kearney’s new book, LOLA THE KOALA’S TRAVEL ADVENTURES, I knew I had to get in on the action–and share it with you, too! 

The illustrations are bright and engaging. Plus, this is just the first in a series of Lola Koala travels. Join her as she treks across the globe…you and your little explorer will undercover fun developmental concepts and foundational language skills along the way!

Each “Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures” lift-the-flap book is designed to:

  • Teach your child or student a specific language skill

  • Support your child’s or student’s communication and language skills with each read

  • Encourage creativity and imagination

  • Foster a love of reading and learning

In this adventure with Lola, your child (or student) will learn how to answer ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where’ and yes/no questions. They’ll also enjoy lifting the flaps to uncover clues that will help them figure out where in the world Lola has traveled to this time!

But first, join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Dr. T. to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Welcome! I am so excited to chat with you and share LOLA! First, I want to know the inspiration behind the series, can you fill us in?

Titina Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

School year after school year, I am met with a caseload of unique, eager-to-learn elementary-school-aged students with not-so-unique speech and language issues. And while a percentage of these students have difficulties that require intensive therapy (plus the dedicated involvement of the family and school team), a good portion requires much less involvement from me. It’s this group that I aim to help with my books — by empowering their families to build their language skills at home with consistent, fun practice and resources!


“This is such an adorable book. I appreciate the thought that went into creating this story. It will definitely assist parents in becoming intentional with facilitating the asking and answering questions skill with their little one(s). Looking forward to the continuation of this storyline, or additional books.”

 Nikki B., Elementary School Teacher


Leslie Lindsay:

What I find so fascinating is sometimes our passions lead us right to where we’re supposed to be. Can you talk about your education/career background, please?

 

Titina Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

I have had a desire to work with young children since high school and have done that for every job I’ve had since that time. I am now a pediatric speech-language pathologist and I take great joy in helping little ones improve their speech and language skills both in my private practice and in the public school system that I work with. It is this love of children and my vested interest in their progress that drove me to create the Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures book series. 

pexels-photo-1148998.jpeg
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

And along the way…we often meet people who help us along? Who might have helped you the most in your career development?

Titina Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

My third-grade teacher, Kristen Potter, played a crucial role in teaching me that I could achieve anything that I could imagine. She was one of those teachers from the storybooks — patient, kind, encouraging, fun — the kind you think don’t really exist! I wish every student in the world could benefit from the amazing effects of having an awesome teacher who sows greatness into your future. I just love that lady!

person reading a book
Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Since we’re on the topic of childhood and books (obviously!), what were some of your literary influences as a kid? 

Titina Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

As a child, I loved the A Wrinkle In Time I also loved the American Girl: Addy book series (and all things ‘Addy’) by Connie Rose Porter.

Leslie Lindsay:

Writing and getting a book into the world is such an arduous process. What was your greatest challenge in writing LOLA KOALA’S TRAVEL ADVENTURES?

Titina Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

Rhyming! It was so much harder than I anticipated — coming up with rhyming words that naturally fit within the story was a huge challenge in and of itself!

0ff21d3ff9a1edce5cac142dd174d442_original

Leslie Lindsay:

I have such a special interest in childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), particularly because my oldest daughter struggled with this as a toddler and preschooler. She’s a sophomore in high school now and doing so much better–in fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to discern any problem. But rhyming is a big deal to kids with apraxia. Can you talk about why and how we can help?

Tinita Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

You are so right — rhyme awareness, an early literacy skill, is a big deal for children with apraxia. Unfortunately, the ‘why’ is not clearly understood, but what we do know is that early literacy skills are strong indicators of reading and writing success. Ways that we can help to increase rhyme awareness in kids is to introduce them to rhymes! Using rhymes in your everyday language (e.g., “Okie dokie,” “See you later, alligator!”) and reading stories that use rhymes are great ways to build this skill!

Leslie Lindsay:

How can parents and caregivers use LOLA THE KOALA’S TRAVEL ADVENTURES with their children who have apraxia?

Tinita Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures: Who, What, Where & Yes/No Questions is a great tool to grow phoneme awareness skills! It features 1, 2 and 3-syllable words, which present great opportunities to practice segmenting and blending skills. Parents can also use the vivid illustrations on every page (including the flaps!) to target identifying sounds in words. And since the story of Lola Koala’s exciting adventure is told using rhyme, this lift-the-flap book is an excellent tool to build rhyming awareness as well!

Leslie Lindsay:

What are some other stories or topics you hope to explore in your LOLA series? 

Tinita Kearney, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP:

Great question! As a speech-pathologist, there are dozens of skills that I can think of to target, and narrowing it down has been quite a challenge and I’m still working on it! Some language skills that I’m considering for the next book include following directions, answering ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions and describing, to name a few! Each story will continue to follow Lola Koala, the globetrotting main character, and children can expect to be taken on a journey to another mystery location with fun clues included along the way in the next book.

For more information, to connect with Dr. Tinita Kearney via social media, or to purchase a copy of LOLA THE KOALA, please visit:

Order Links:

headshot2 (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Tinita Kearney (Dr. T) is a speech pathologist who wants to empower kids and their parents by teaching foundational language skills in a way that is fun and interactive. With the first book in her new lift-the-flap Lola Koala Travel Adventures series, Dr. T and Lola Koala teach kids to answer WHO, WHAT, WHERE and YES/NO questions. Kids will be delighted and enchanted as they help Lola pack her suitcase and find clues to mystery destinations.

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

IMG_1175Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing 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. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded 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.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

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

#lolathekoala #speech #receptivelanguage #SLP #parenting #kids #readingwithkids #kidlit #speechdevelopment #SpeakingofApraxia #PRbytheBook

fe5cdf12325c6e89c6c2eb5edf693e17_original

[Special thanks to PRbytheBook. Author and cover image courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission].

THE PULL OF THE STARS A historical novel that is strikingly similar to our current pandemic, set in 1918 Dublin, by the bestselling author of ROOM

By Leslie Lindsay 

Pregnant women quarantined in a Dublin hospital during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

9780316499019-1

~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Historical Fiction Spotlight

Barnes & Noble Book Club choice for August

Reader’s Digest Book Club Pick

Australian Women’s Weekly Book Club Pick 

Oprah Magazine Best Book of Summer 2020

Chapters Indigo Best Book of 2020

AudioFile Earphones award for the unabridged edition

I’m always alert to the work of the the lovely and talented Emma Donoghue, especially since I fell in love with her disturbingly good, ROOM.

The Pull of the Stars (New York: Little Brown; July 2020), seemed to be vying for my attention, whispering, “Read me, read me,” when I came across this historical fiction set in 1918 Dublin. For three days, we are midwives in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. There’s work, and risk and a claustrophobic sense of the world browning at the edges; and yes, it has so many parallels with today’s pandemic.

multi floor stairs grayscale photo
Photo by Guduru Ajay bhargav on Pexels.com

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new flu are quarantined. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

THE PULL OF THE STARS is Donoghue’s thirteenth novel (and seventeenth book of fiction), she is also a playwright. As a former R.N. myself, I was amazed and awed at the obvious medical research Donoghue must have done to pull off such an effortless and sustaining read, teaching me many things about historical medicine and midwifery. The last bit had an unexpected turn that I didn’t see coming at all, and almost felt oddly tacked-on, without set-up, but others may feel differently. THE PULL OF THE STARS does end on a slightly devastating but equally hopeful note. 

3827

A personal note from Emma Donoghue:

I began this novel in October 2018, inspired by the centenary of the Great Flu of 1918-19, and I delivered the final draft to my publishers in March 2020, two days before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. As soon as I began researching the Great Flu, one fact that leapt out at me was that women before, during and for weeks after birth were particularly vulnerable to catching and suffering terrible complications from that virus. I’ve put into this story some of the labor dramas of women I know (and one of my own), and all my gratitude to frontline health workers who see us through our most frightening and transformative experiences. I could have set The Pull of the Stars anywhere, but I went for my home town of Dublin partly because Ireland was going through such a fascinating political metamorphosis in those years, and because I wanted to reckon with my country’s complicated history of carers, institutions and motherhood.


A visceral, harrowing, and revelatory vision of life, death, and love in a time of pandemic. This novel is stunning.”

– Emily St John Mandel


Worn down to the bone. Mother of five by the age of twenty-four, an underfed daughter of underfed generations, …

Always on their feet, these Dublin mothers … living off the scraps left on plates and gallons of weak black tea. The slums in which they somehow managed to stay alive were as pertinent as pulse or respiratory rate, it seemed to me, but only medical observations were permitted on a chart. So instead of poverty, I’d write malnourishment or debility. As code for too many pregnancies, I might put anaemia, … low spirits, … torn cervix, or uterine prolapse.

IMG_1692

Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookstagram. FUN FACT: the pocket watch in this image is a family heirloom from IRELAND, c ~1875.

For more information, to connect with Emma Donoghue via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE PULL OF THE STARS, please visit: 

Order Links: 

~EXCERPT from THE NYT~

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

THE PULL OF THE STARS reminded me of the PBS/BBC period drama CALL THE MIDWIFE, but also the work of Christina Baker Kline, particularly her new historical fiction (featured later this month), THE EXILES. But in also of Donoghue’s earlier work, THE WONDER, featuring Catholicism and a similar time period and setting. In terms of historical medical novels, you might also like the work of Sara Donati

 

redbulrushes-webABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, Emma Donoghue is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic). She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one eye-opening year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin (unfortunately, without learning to actually speak French). Emma moved to England, and in 1997 received her PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. From the age of 23, she has earned her living as a writer, and have been lucky enough to never have an ‘honest job’ since she was “sacked after a single summer month as a chambermaid.” After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with Chris Roulston and son Finn and daughter Una.

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry 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, Coffin Bell Journal, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded 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.

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood & Madness a Daughter’s Memoir. Available soon: 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA from Woodbine House. 

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

 

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#literaryfiction #historicalfiction #pandemic #influenza #Ireland #Dublin #pregnantwomen #midwives #medical #nursing #women #1918FluPandemic

IMG_1692

[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 8.29.20. Historical image of women making face masks retrieved from Guardian article on 8.29.20. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookstagram]

 

Renee Rosen about her spring 2021 historical fiction featuring the vanderbilts & Astors in THE SOCIAL GRACES, plus fancy houses, what she learned, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Longtime feud between NYC’s upper-crust women, Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor, THE SOCIAL GRACES is an atmospheric and gorgeous tale of the Gilded Age.

SocialGraces_FCO.indd

~WEDNESDAYS WITH AUTHORS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

HISTORICAL FICTION SERIES

Renee Rosen, bestselling author of PARK AVENUE SUMMER, delivers readers a peek behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age in THE SOCIAL GRACES (Berkley: April, 2021).

In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbandsinfidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor–the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? When it carries on just as it has done for generations? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this gripping novel follows these two women as they try to outdo and outsmart each other at every turn. As Caroline comes closer to defeat and Alva closer to victory, both will make surprising discoveries about themselves and what’s truly at stake.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Renee Rosen to the author interview series: 

Leslie Lindsay: 

I’m always curious about why we write–what inspired THE SOCIAL GRACES?

Renee Rosen:

THE SOCIAL GRACES is the story of Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.  That’s my elevator pitch, but it’s also the story of mothers and daughters, of sisters, of husbands and wives, of class and examining one’s shifting values. 

In terms of inspiration, it was more of a “who” rather than a “what”. I was brainstorming on new book concepts and my agent mentioned Consuelo Vanderbilt. Right after that, my editor suggested doing something in the Gilded Age. So really it was the two of them who inspired me, and after some preliminary research on New York in that time period, it was obvious that the rivalry between Mrs. Astor and Alva Vanderbilt had the makings of a really interesting novel.

classic photo of a woman holding a tea cup
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

“Rosen’s novel opens with a sly wink to that grande dame of the Gilded Age, Edith Wharton, before she deftly spins a captivating tale of her own, based upon the legendary rivalry between Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt. And what a rich story it is, full of opulent balls and monstrous mansions, yet firmly rooted in the parallel struggles of two very different heroines as they fight for their dignity and rights as wives, as mothers, and as women.”

Fiona Davis, bestselling author of GMA Book Club Pick The Lions of Fifth Avenue


Leslie Lindsay:

Can you go into details about what it was like to write the feuding Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt, two of America’s wealthiest and most powerful women? Did you relate more to Mrs. Astor, or Mrs. Vanderbilt?

Renee Rosen:

Bringing Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt to life on the page was far more challenging than I had anticipated.  When I first started working on the novel, I looked at my cast of characters and realized I had a group of rather unlikable people. On the surface, they came across as spoiled, entitled, greedy and superficial. I knew that if I wanted to engage the reader, I was going to have to really drill down to find the humanity in these people and find a reason for us to root for them. Once I started to see Alva and Caroline as wives, mothers and daughters themselves, they started to come alive for me. I found myself able to relate to both of them in different ways and for different reasons. I related to Caroline reaching the prime of her life and worried that her youth and significance were slipping away. With Alva I related to her passion, her drive, her unconventional spirit.  In the end, I’m happy to say that I found them both women to be fascinating and bewildering characters to work with.

abstract art background blur
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

My editor tells me is that I should always discover something–about myself or my characters–as I writer. Did you discover anything in your research that surprised you?

Renee Rosen:

I was really surprised by how understated the knickerbockers (the old money) were early on, before the nouveau riche began exerting their influence. For example, Caroline Astor and other society matrons of her ilk found those wonderful Worth gowns to be very gauche and pretentious. They never wore them and instead favored more plain gowns. The knickerbockers lived in very refined, nearly identical townhouses. It wasn’t until Alva Vanderbilt embarked on her architectural masterpieces (such as Petit Chateau and Marble House) that the rest of society began trying to out-build one another with their palatial mansions. The same goes for their extravagant entertaining. It wasn’t until the new money began throwing such elaborate and outlandish balls that the knickerbockers felt they needed to compete and became a matter of keeping up with the Joneses.

close up photo of vintage brown typewriter
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I always love asking this: If THE SOCIAL GRACES was made into a movie, who would you choose to cast as your two leading ladies?

Renee Rosen:

Such a fun question! I think Kathy Bates would be a fabulous Mrs. Astor and I could see Julia Garner bringing Alva to life. After seeing her portrayal of Ruth Langmore in Ozark as well as a few other performances, I’m convinced she’d be brilliant in any part she plays.

SocialGraces_FCO.indd

For more information, or to connect with Renee Rosen via social media, please visit: 

Pre-Order Links: 

Note:

THE SOCIAL GRACES is a Spring 2021 release. If you think this is a book you’ll love, it really does help authors and publishers to pre-order. It will arrive on your doorstep the day it becomes available. 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

Readers who love the historical fiction world of Fiona Davis (especially THE ADDRESS) will enjoy THE SOCIAL GRACES, but I was also reminded of the work of Sara Donati, and also Suzanne Rindell, particularly THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES. 

CgFM3ljIeQKc2jvM-Jii_LuW9CEfX6ayIip4UQjGCLMABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Renée Rosen is the bestselling author of Park Avenue SummerWindy City BluesWhite Collar GirlWhat the Lady Wants and Dollface. She is also the author of Every Crooked Pot, a YA novel published in 2007. Renée lives in Chicago.

IMG_6816ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry 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-StationCoffin Bell Journal, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded 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.

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood & Madness a Daughter’s Memoir. Available soon: 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA from Woodbine House. 

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #authorinterview #historicalfiction #literaryfiction #womeninhistory #uppercrust #TheGildedAge #TheSocialGraces #Astor #Vanderbilt #feud 

SocialGraces_FCO.indd

[Author and cover image courtesy of PRH and used with permission. Author photo cred: Charles Osgood. Special thanks to Berkley Publishing]

Caroline Leavitt will send you a watercolor painting if you buy her new book, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, how this ties in with the narrative, reinvention, going home, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A thoughtful, incisive meditation on what it means to transform, following a coma, with intimate and complex relationships hinging in the balance. 

Leavitt_WithorWithoutYou_HC_HR_rgb

~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

New York Times Bestselling author

One of She Reads’

“Most Anticipated Reads of 2020”

Public Library Association Buzzed Book

Starred Kirkus Review

A Fall Title of Note, Publisher’s Weekly

Good Morning America, A Zibby Owens August Book Club Pick

One of Popsugar’s Incredible Books of August

Bustle Best Books Out This Week

One of LitHub’s Best Books to put on your TBR pile right now

Caroline Leavitt’s books always inspire and intrigue. WITH OR WITHOUT YOU (Algonquin, August 4th 2020) is no exception, but this one seems much more interior than her more recent novels, and perhaps that’s because it almost has to be–one of the main characters is in a coma. Told with precision and insight and emotion, this is a literary examination of what happens when life is altered by a single tragic moment, a clear delineation between ‘before’ and ‘after.’

Stella and Simon are in their early-forties, they’ve been together for some time and Stella is getting restless: are they ever going to get married? Buy their apartment? Have a child? Simon is restless, too, but in his own way; he is a bass player and songwriter for his band and still yearns for freedom and fame. Is their life at an impasse? The night before Simon is to leave town for a gig that could re-start his career, he and Stella argue, and then they take a pill together, to ‘relive the old times,’ only Stella doesn’t wake up. She had been fighting a cold and so, in addition to the mystery pill and wine, she also had Sudafed on board. Stella is in a coma, derailing Simon’s plans to go on the road.

While hospitalized, we get a good dose of backstory–which I always love–
I think it speaks to the character’s motivations, providing the reader with an insight not always provided in the ‘real time’ narrative. Simon is at Stella’s bedside, as is her mother and best friend, Libby, also a doctor at the hospital.

Leavitt_WithorWithoutYou_Edelweiss-Banner
Two months later, when Stella wakes from her coma, she has a significantly altered personality. She wants to draw.This newfound talent seems to come from nowhere, but, the doctors assure them that sometimes this happens. I found the brain and neurological insights quite fascinating, all of which are peppered throughout the narrative. What’s more, Stella is drawn to painting portraits of people. She seems to see within, beyond, capturing their innermost feelings and desires, even struggles. She becomes a sort of sensation, eliciting a bit of jealousy from Simon.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is told in such lush, yet stark prose from the POV of these three main characters; there’s a tragic beauty here, a filmy cohesion much like what it might feel like to be underwater, in a dream…in coma, touching on such topics and themes as self-discovery, insecurities, reinvention, loyalty, and more. Leavitt shines when depicting intimate portrayals of relationships, fragmented families, desire, and the grit to keep going.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Caroline Leavitt back to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Caroline! Welcome back. I always love chatting with you because your passion for all things literary is so evident. But first—inspiration. Often your books are born of an event or circumstance that happened in your life. In CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD, for example, you knew of a girl in high school who ran off to a commune with a teacher. You always wondered about that, so you wrote fiction about it. In WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, you experienced a coma yourself following the birth of your son, Max. This is a different kind of story, a different kind of coma, but still…can you talk about the inspiration, please? And why, do you think so many of our stories need to percolate before we dive in?

Caroline Leavitt:

Great question. For me all my novels sort of hibernate for years, or maybe germinate is a better word for that. I simply didn’t know enough to write it at first, so my first book about my coma (Coming Back To Me) was very much about someone like me, who couldn’t remember, and it was a much darker book than WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.  I kept having these PTSD things going on—certain smells would give me panic attacks, the stripes that had been on the hospital curtains set me off.  And then I kept having them—less, but I still had them. Jeff, my husband, went to Norway as a journalist for a week, and I kept all the lights on and watched movies until 7 in the morning, and I thought, this has to stop. So a friend of mine who was a psychologist told me that I needed to create new memories, that the brain doesn’t really know the difference because if you tell someone under hypnosis that they have a flame on their arm, their skin will blister. So I started to create Stella. Unlike me, she remembered EVERYTHING in her coma, which made her calmer. Unlike me, she came out a changed personality with a new talent, and writing about that just filled me with this incredible sense of wonder. I began thinking about my coma differently. I know this sounds off, but I began to be grateful for it, because having gone through that, it made me braver, more compassionate.

yellow leaf
Photo by NEOSiAM 2020 on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Stella wakes up from her coma and has this newfound artistic ability. She wants to paint. Portraits! She’s never painted before. She’s astounded with this new talent. What’s more, she can seemingly ‘see’ what’s on the inside of these folks. Can you give us a few ‘fun facts’ about comas, because I found the brain science within the narrative really fascinating.

Caroline Leavitt:  

Oh, it is TOTALLY fascinating. One woman woke up and she was speaking fluent Mandarin. She quit her job and moved to China. Another man, who couldn’t find Middle C on a piano if you paid him, woke up a virtuoso and began playing concert halls. My fave story is about a man who woke up convinced he was a famous actor, and it took him six months to believe well, maybe he wasn’t.  I researched with this scientist who told me in coma, everything rewires and refires and anything can happen. Who knows? It could be cellular memory from generations back!


“Old secrets, healed wounds and surprising futures. One character’s coma is only the first surprise in this satisfying story of middle-aged love.” 

~STARRED Kirkus Review


abstract background blur bokeh
Photo by Maegan Neufeld on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I think WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is a lot about reinvention. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about, going home. And since home is such a fascination of mine, I have to ask about the Silverwood, the fictional home in Woodstock, NY and also, the childhood home Libby goes back to. Can one ever really ‘go home?’ It is more of a feeling, or a place?

Caroline Leavitt:

I love that you asked that question because home is a fascination of mine, too. I called the house I grew up in the horror house because I was so unhappy and I always thought it was haunted. It took me a very long time to move into a real home. All my apartments were transient and I didn’t want to fix them up because home to me meant bad times. But then I got married and we both liked this big old house and renovated it and I began to realize that I LOVED the house. I still do. I think you can go home as long as you realize it is NOT the home you lived in before, that things are different depending on how different you are. Simon hated Silverwood, because of things that had happened there, but to Stella, when she went up there with him, she felt happy. And Libby—I think home is always going to traumatize her.  I think we reinvent ourselves with our homes. I never would have ever imagined that I would have a home with adult furniture and decorations and that it would feel so welcoming to me!

interior of dining room
Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

One thing I love about you is your love for backstory. It helps, I think, to understand our characters and where we’re going with the story. But it can be a headache, too. And it can slow down the pacing and tension of our work. Can you talk about how we can make backstory fabulous and why we writers tend to get ‘stuck’ in it?

Caroline Leavitt:

Another excellent question. I went from an editor at Algonquin who loved backstory to one who did not, and we had long discussions and compromises about how to do it. I learned something incredible from my editor. The trick to backstory is that it has to trigger something, and while the character is remembering the past, just the act of remembering is going to change them, and trigger something new in the present. If you look at it that way, it’s a lot easier to weave it in. But I still LOVE backstory with a passion. You just want it to amplify your main narrative line, like branches on a tree, rather than taking it over.

Leslie Lindsay:

I know you’re writing a new column for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, “Runs in the Family” and I’m so jazzed about that because, oh gosh, yes—I get it. There are these legacies and truths we were told to believe and maybe they don’t actually exist; or maybe they do. Perhaps it’s about breaking free? Back to that theme in WITH OR WITHOUT YOU of reinvention.

Caroline Leavitt:

It is!! It is definitely about reinvention and breaking free. So much of what we’re told, or how we’re molded as we are young starts to define us, but it doesn’t have to be OUR particular truths. We can break free. I know this is true, because I did it, and I created a family of my own, with a husband and son, and we raised our son completely the opposite of how I was raised. I wonder though how he feels about how he was raised! But it is fascinating to me. I was told growing up to stay safe, stay at home, that I was bashful and I should not be independent. And I didn’t’ realize I was none of those things until my teens when I began to be wild and strong and brave and my parents were very, very unhappy about that!

Leslie Lindsay:

Caroline, this has all been so great. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Caroline Leavitt:

Q: So will you give me anything if I buy your book?
A: Yes, as a matter of fact I will! If you show me your receipt at my biz email carleavitt@hotmail.com, I will mail you a handpainted bookplate, make you a small watercolor of your favorite coffee cup, or write you a letter from your favorite character!

Thank you for these wonderful questions.

IMG_1732
Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1.

For more information, to connect with Caroline Leavitt via social media, or to purchase a copy of WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, please see:

ORDER LINKS:

Caroline Leavitt (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of 12 novels including Pictures of You, Is This Tomorrow, Cruel Beautiful World and With or Without You, which is a Good Morning America pick and a best book from Popsugar, Bustle, Aarp, People Magazine, Lithub, and more. Her work has appeared in The Millions, Modern Love in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Real Simple, The Daily Beast, and more. She has a column/blog on Psychology Today called Runs in the Family.

She teaches writing online at Stanford and UCLA and to private clients, and she is a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow in Fiction, as well as a finalist in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in pilot and in feature film. She is also the co-founder, with Jenna Blum, of A Mighty Blaze.

 

IMG_6816ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry 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, Coffin Bell Journal, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded 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.

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood & Madness a Daughter’s Memoir. Available soon: 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA from Woodbine House. 

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

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #amreading #literaryfiction #WithOrWithoutYou #coma #relationships #musician #reinvention #home #love #selfdiscovery #painting #portraits #talents 

IMG_1732

[Cover and author image courtesy of author and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1.]

Madeleine Ryan talks about her stunning debut, about a sharp autistic woman, how nature is very revealing, plus the collective expression of home, how we are mirrors to that doorway, and more in A ROOM CALLED EARTH

By Leslie Lindsay 

A charming and delightful read about a neuroatypical woman at a party, the man she meets, and her magical, slightly quirky view of the world. 

9780143135456

~WEEKEND READING|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

A ROOM CALLED EARTH (Penguin Original, August 18 2020) by debut author Madeleine Ryan is at once hilarious and heartwarming. The plot is fairly straightforward:  A young autistic woman in Melbourne, Australia attends a house party.

She navigates the festivities, has brief exchanges with others, and meets an intriguing man in line for the bathroom. Just like this man, we are invited back to the narrator’s unique and magical home. This premise, however, belies what a gift this book is, for what appears to be an ordinary night out is, through the prism of her mind, extraordinary. 

This is such a delightful and charming read, a glittering glimpse into the sparkling and strikingly intense and unique mind.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Madeleine Ryan to the author interview series. 

Leslie Lindsay:

Madeleine, welcome! You trained as an actor and performed in theater for years. Could you talk about that time? What led you to shift towards writing fiction?

Madeline Ryan: 

I grew up in a household with journalists, and for a long time I didn’t want to be a writer, even if I enjoyed writing immensely. I wanted to be an actor. My parents were (and still are) film and television critics. So, naturally, I wanted to be the person that they were watching, and adoring.

Then around the age of 20 I went to a psychic, and when I entered the room she was like, “ah, the actress!” and I felt super validated, before she corrected me, and said, “oh, no, no. You’re an actress in everyday life, and in all of your relationships. You’re a writer and a director when it comes to what you’re supposed to create in this lifetime.”

Then, as my twenties unfolded, I kept being drawn toward writing more, and more. I also made life choices that, although I didn’t realise it at the time, were leading me in the direction of writing, too. Like, my partner and I moved away from the city, and deeper into rural Victoria. I became a vegan. I was diagnosed as autistic. I weaned myself off hormonal birth control, and I adopted animals.

It was only after all of that that fiction started calling out to me, and I had the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical space to listen to and care for it.

notebook writing pencil start
Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

The protagonist has a deep connection to nature. How do you think our relationship to nature as humans impacts our connections to ourselves?

Madeline Ryan: 

I think how we relate to nature parallels how we relate to ourselves. So if we’re accepting of nature, and it’s inherent cycles, and idiosyncrasies, we’re more likely to be accepting of ourselves, and our own inherent cycles, and idiosyncrasies. If we fight nature, and try to control it, and manipulate it, and exploit it, there are probably ways in which we’re trying to fight, control, manipulate and exploit ourselves – and each other.

Nature is very revealing.

photography of leaves under the sky
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com


“Ryan’s novel covers less than 24 hours, but by book’s end, readers are left feeling remarkably bonded with this fiercely independent young woman . . . Her sharp, unfiltered thoughts—compellingly presented by Australian director and debut novelist Ryan, who herself is #OwnVoices neurodiverse—never seem to pause as she skips between describing her present and divulging her past, meticulously processing her actions, and regarding herself and others from unexpected perspectives . . . Her piercing insight is relentless.”

Booklist


Leslie Lindsay:

You chose to center much of the novel around a house party. What led you to explore this type of social gathering over others?

Madeline Ryan: 

There’s something very intimate and very disarming about a house party. It’s more vulnerable and exposing than an event that’s orchestrated in a public space. On an unconscious level we probably enter a house party and, to some extent, feel more at home.

I also see houses, mansions, apartments, and all of our personal living spaces, as beautiful reflections of our psyches. They’re extensions of us. Communal spaces are probably more of an extension of our collective consciousness, and its preferences, and values. Whereas someone’s home, and all of its rooms, and centre pieces, and darkened corners, and sun-filled spaces, is symbolic for who they are – and how we enter into it mirrors who we are.

brown wooden table with chair
Photo by Nugroho Wahyu on Pexels.com

Madeline Ryan: 

There are so many ways A ROOM CALLED EARTH broadens the conversation about representations of autism in literature. Are there other books, plays, or even television shows, or films that feature autistic characters that you enjoyed?

I think that every portrayal of autism has its place. Netflix original series Atypical, and Barry Levinson’s Rain Man, and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, and Rachel Israel’s 2017 film Keep the Change are all important, eye-opening portrayals of autistic people, and I’m super grateful that they exist.

Because a dynamic story is a dynamic story, no matter who is at the centre of it, or what labels you could use to categorise them.

That said, there haven’t been many depictions of autism that I’ve related to especially deeply, or that I’ve been able to see myself in. Obviously, this raises the question of whether or not the value of a film, theatre, book or television character rests on whether or not we can see ourselves in them. Maybe it’s perfectly natural to only see a bit of ourselves here, and some of ourselves there, and nothing more. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations of what a TV show, film, or protagonist in a piece of literature might be able to offer me! I’m not sure.

Although, it’s probably important that I have unrealistic expectations. They keep me fresh.

stack of books placed on seat of wooden swing
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

How do you hope literature will evolve to feature more neurodiverse authors and characters? What impact do you think this will have for readers and the autistic community at large?

Madeline Ryan: 

Neurodiverse authors and characters help open everybody up to different ways of relating to the world, which is the single greatest and most undervalued power on the planet. How we see ourselves, the earth, and other people, defines every experience that we have, everything we create, everything we believe, and everything we participate in perpetuating.

Wanting to expand on and develop our perspective is the key to prosperity, wisdom, peace, and all of the good stuff. Allowing for and welcoming every complexity, and nuance, is a gift, not something to resist, or fear.

And, in my experience, when neurodiverse and neurotypical minds come together, the results are very, very magical. This book is an example of that. A Room Called Earth wouldn’t exist without the input of a whole range of people, and a whole range of viewpoints. Because in honouring one viewpoint fully, and with love, you harness the power to honour many.

3A9B285A-DBC1-4FE0-8BBA-21F7447E44F1

Artistic photo of book designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook.

For more information, to connect with Madeleine Ryan via social media, or to purchase a copy of A ROOM CALLED EARTH, please visit: 

ORDER LINKS: 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I was reminded, in part, of the delightful story of ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER (Hazel Prior), which also features a neuroatypical character, but also GINNY MOON (Benjamin Ludwig), OTHER PEOPLE’S PETS by R.L. Maizes has a similar style and cadence; also, the blunt, simplistic (but not simple) storytelling style of Emma Donoghue’s ROOM came to mind, though the premise is much different.

madeleineryanABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Madeleine Ryan is an Australian writer, director and author. Her articles and essays have appeared in SBS, The Daily TelegraphThe Sydney Morning HeraldVice, Bustle, Lenny Letter, and the New York Times, and she is currently working on the screen adaptation of A Room Called Earth. Madeleine lives in rural Victoria.

IMG_6816

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing 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. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded 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.

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

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #authorinterview #neuroatypical #literaryfiction #contemporaryfiction #autism #Australia #OwnVoices 

3A9B285A-DBC1-4FE0-8BBA-21F7447E44F1

[Cover and author image courtesy of Penguin Random House and used with permission. Author image credit: Hector H MacKenzie.  Artistic photo of book designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook] 

A mesmerizing tale that reads almost like a lucid dream, Ursula Hegi’s THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS is about the cacophony of grief, a freak accident, wanderlust, and so much more; plus an excerpt from her NER essay on craft

By Leslie Lindsay 

Three mothers, one circus, a one-hundred-year wave, a drowned town, coupled with grief, parenting, and the ways women hold each other up through challenging times.

9781250156822

~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

It’s the summer of 1878 and the Ludwig Zirkus has come to the island of Nordstrand in Germany. Big-bellied girls from the nearby St. Margaret’s Home for Pregnant Girls are thrilled to see the parade and the show as are the Sisters who care for them, so begins THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS by Ursula Hegi (forthcoming from Flatiron Books, August 18 2020). Lotte and her husband, Kalle, a toymaker are near the ocean when a one-hundred-year-wave roars from the Nordsee and claims the lives of three of their young children. Lotte is holding Wilhelm, the baby, and he is spared. Yet, Lotte and Kalle, childhood sweethearts are bereft with grief.

On the beach that day are three mothersLotte, whose children are gone except Wilhelm, Tilli, an 11-year old girl who just gave birth at the home and had her baby adopted, and Sabine, a seamstress for the Zirkus, and single mother of Heike, a mentally disabled young woman. Each experiences heartbreak in their own unique ways…which is what I would say is the overarching theme of THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS. Kalle leaves his wife and infant son and joins the Zirkus, Lotte is unable to nurse her remaining child and so Tilli steps in and becomes his wet nurse, but also bonds with him in ways his mother is unable to.

There are some very tough themes in THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS, which is told in a deeply moving, metaphorical manner, with a good many POVs, rich voices, and plot lines in a meandering narrative; vacillating between past and present, various characters and their experiences.

Part folklore, part literary fiction, part historical, THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS is a luminous and powerful story of friendship and heartache.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Ursula Hegi to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay: 

Ursula, welcome. It’s such an honor. You are a German-born writing living and working in the U.S. and so it’s no surprise THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS is set in Germany, which I really enjoyed. This tale is so rich, so detailed, and filled with many aspects of parenting, friendship, motherhood, and darker things, too. What inspired this story?

Ursula Hegi:

I didn’t plan to set half of my work in Germany and the other half in America, but that’s how the pages have opened for me, reflecting what it’s like to be an immigrant.

Burgdorf is the setting for several of my books. It’s a town I imagined. A town I discovered through my writing.  A town loosely based on my hometown, Büderich; a composite of small towns where I’ve lived in Germany and America.

Burgdorf has taken on characteristics beyond what I remembered and invented. It has developed certain neighborhoods. Has become the home of my characters. I’ve made maps to place the school, the synagogue, the church, the market square, the meadow where the Circus sets up once a year. The windows of the church are the ones I used to stare at as a child.

With each novel, I’ve revised this map, adding streets, houses. I know where Trudi Montag cuts through the meadow behind her house when the synagogue is burning; where Emma Blau falls into the brook; where Hanna Malter almost drowns while swimming out to the barges in the Rhein.

scenic view of snow capped mountains from across the rocky seashore
Photo by stein egil liland on Pexels.com


“Compassionately observant…The offbeat characters enhance the quasi-dreamlike effect, but the scenarios they face are starkly real…Their emotional hardships are satisfyingly leavened by softer moments of romantic and familial love.”
Booklist


Leslie Lindsay:

Parental bonding–or lack thereof–is a theme in THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS, as is childhood incest and pregnancy, shunning, wanderlust, adoption, mentally challenged individuals, single mothers, and more. There’s also a nun who was forced to give up her child 41-years prior. Was there a particular character or storyline you felt a particular affection for? One that might have been more of challenge to write?

Ursula Hegi:

Sabine who travels with the Ludwig Zirkus, is a seamstress, and the mother of Heike who looks like a woman but has the mind of a seven year old. To protect Heike, Sabine wants to find a kind husband for her, a husband to protect Heike if Sabine were to die first. The beekeeper from Nordstrand is kind and protective and unsettlingly gorgeous, but he falls in love with Sabine, not Heike.

You mention the nun who was forced to give up her newborn 41 years earlier, Sister Franziska. I didn’t know that she had a son until I was in the final drafts of my novel. Sister Franziska is the midwife at the St. Margaret Home for Pregnant Girls and has great empathy for the pregnant Girls, some as young as eleven. “Each child that passes through her hands becomes her son. She has never spoken of him, not even in confession; yet, she holds him with every newborn who passes through her hands—that swirl of hair on the back of his neck, that tiny pucker of lips, eyes ancient and wise imprinting her on his memory—only to release him anew, with grace. This path toward grace exhilarates Sister Franziska with depths of faith she couldn’t have imagined in her prayers when he was taken from her.”

person holding brown wooden cross
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Regarding structure, THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS is not told in a linear fashion. Instead, it sort of spirals and meanders. What I think this might speak to this style is the cacophony of grief, that there is not one single way to experience it, but ebbs and flows, much like the Nordsee. Can you expand on that a bit, please?

Ursula Hegi:

I like what you say here, Leslie, about the cacophony of grief in my novel, that it ebbs and flows, much like the Nordsee. This form offers me different angles of vision, let me and my readers  experience one incident through various characters.

To write from any character’s point of view, I have to climb into the character, become the character, feel what s/he is feeling, and be left with the impact of that. It’s like method acting. In STONES FROM THE RIVER, the dwarf girl, Trudi Montag, is raped by four boys by the Rhein river. No, I have never been raped; but I have lived with Trudi through the rape and the impact of the rape through 50 – 100 revisions. And therefore, it has become my experience.

beach dawn dusk ocean
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I am so intrigued with the landscape and setting of THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS. Can you tell us a little more about Nordstrand? And also, Rungholt? I understand it is an actual island—and no one can seem to agree on its precise location—but archaeologists believe it once existed, was washed away, and at times, may resurface. This sounds like the things of folklore. Can you tell us more?

Ursula Hegi:

I want to answer this with an excerpt from my essay, I’m Searching for a Home for Unwed Girls, published in The New England Review, about researching and writing THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS and my previous book, CHILDREN AND FIRE, both set on Nordstrand by the Nordsee, near the sunken Island, Rungholt, part of myth and history.

I’m searching for a Home for Unwed Girls because Almut is pregnant and unmarried. I must get her far away from Burgdorf, where the neighbors will gossip and cast her out. Already, I can picture her in a Home near the edge of the Nordsee—North Sea—where earth and water have barely separated and are still as they must have been on the third day of Creation.

I take a direct flight from Newark, [New Jersey] to Hamburg, [Germany]. As I drive north, the wind is rough, the sky a deepening gray. Yet, behind me it still holds the light. I’m thinking of Almut watching this sky, this landscape, from the train that carries her across the flat, Frisian landscape in May of 1899. She’s been on trains all day, leaving Burgdorf before dawn.

Our journeys are 111 years apart.

I haven’t made room reservations because I don’t know yet where I want to stay along the way. It’s like that for me with writing—if I already knew the ending, I wouldn’t need to write the story. I take notes, dictate audio notes, take photos.

Though I haven’t found the Home for Unwed Girls yet, I’ve named it after St. Margaret, the patron saint of childbirth. I looked her up in my husband’s book of saints […] You see, St. Margaret was swallowed by a dragon—actually, it was the devil disguised as a dragon—

Whoever chose her as patron saint for pregnant women?
[…]

Legends of martyred saints are full of heinous details that I think of as Catholic voodoo.  My awe of the mystical. My capacity to believe.

The name for the Home I have. What I find next is the smell. The moment I step into the church in Büsum, I know I can use this smell of cellar, ancient stone floor and walls. Three sections of pews, teal with brown trim, face the altar. Steps lead up to a black and gold pulpit.

The church is empty, and I kneel in a narrow pew right below this pulpit. I’ve knelt in churches like this for countless hours. As a girl, I fantasized about being a nun. We all did, the girls at the Sacré Coeur boarding school where sisters taught us, and we went to Mass with them every morning. Nights we danced in our long nightgowns, holding a transistor radio propped between us. 

[…] I feel the pregnant St. Margaret Girls kneeling with me. I take notes. Photos. These pews have hooks. For purses? At the end of each pew is a gate with a latch to keep us separate from the congregation. The priest’s sermon falls on us as though it were the voice of God.

Next door stands the town hall, built of bricks. I can make this the St. Margaret Home, write an alley of birches between the Home and the church, concealing the St. Margaret Girls on their walk to Mass. Birches and more substantial trees. Chestnut trees, yes, that arch above the brick path. 

[…]

But the location isn’t right yet. I want a place more remote than Büsum. As soon as I get off the highways and head toward the Nordsee, there are hardly any cars. Bike paths parallel the road. I stop at houses with that sign— Zimmer Frei/ Rooms Available—  when I’m tired. One woman is in her eighties, pours me coffee in her kitchen, tells me she is limber because she has been working all her life, working very hard. She hasn’t had time off in 276 days. In a row, she says.

I find the location for my novel when I reach Nordstrand, a peninsula where dikes and windmills rise from the flat earth […] It’s heartbreakingly beautiful. So much land and so few houses. Wind ripples the grasses and yellow rapeseed fields, so that they shift and swell like waves in the Nordsee. This landscape, yes.

I relocate the Büsum church and town hall to Nordstrand. When I write fiction, seemingly unrelated details suck themselves onto what I’m working with. A kind nun with wide hands gives each pregnant Girl a gray woolen cape and words of caution about the steep marble stairs between the third and fourth floors where one might take a shallow step and fall and lose one’s baby.

The St. Margaret Home will be the largest industry on Nordstrand, the industry of illegitimacy, providing income and purposeful work for the nuns who tend to the souls and bodies of young women who arrive here frightened but relieved to be far enough from home so people won’t talk.

I was sixteen and terribly shy when I was sent to a home for unwed mothers, an old mansion with beautiful gardens. Baby Mansion, I called it. As I entered the ornate lobby, I was mortified that people would think I was pregnant. But I was here for a practicum and knew that after three weeks I would leave, the same size as when I arrived.

A mansion. Yes. The St. Margaret Home starts as a mansion built by a bishop over two centuries ago. Right out in the open, next to the church. With money stolen from the diaspora fund, the collection basket. Such excesses: marble stairs up three stories to the servants’ quarters; a conservatory with an aviary where peacocks scream the cries of humans. But the church seizes the bishop’s mansion and relocates him to a destitute parish— potato fields and ravens—near the Polish border. 

[…]

Soon, eight big-bellied Girls move into the St. Margaret Home. Three of them are still so young that they giggle and run from the nuns, or play hide and seek in the chapel. In earlier drafts I called them Unwed Mothers. But given the time period and their ages, they would be called Unwed Girls.

This first crop of St. Margaret Girls helps the nuns to prune the dense growth between the Home and the dike, scrub through layers of scum on the walls and floors, wash and iron piles of musty damask sheets and tablecloths.

[…]

Didn’t the nuns at the Baby Mansion notice that I was going maternal on them? I knew I could be a mother to this little boy who was left behind after his mother birthed him. My room at home was big enough for his crib. I would take him for long walks in a stroller, read picture books to him, play with him by the river. When I told my father and the nuns about my plan to adopt Manuel, I was devastated when they dismissed what I believed possible.

When Almut arrives in 1899, the windmills are massive wooden structures […] I established that the making of toys is the second largest industry in Nordstrand. I also researched birth control at the end of the nineteenth century when women resorted to bizarre methods: jumping backward seven times after intercourse to dislodge the seeds, or rotating their hips during intercourse to keep the seeds from attaching, or catching a frog and spitting into the frog’s mouth three times, or tying a pouch with a cat’s liver around one ankle. When I found out that one form of birth control is to insert a little wooden block in front of the cervix, it felt like a gift. It influenced character development. 

The midwife at the St. Margaret Home orders wooden blocks from local toymakers by the dozen—smooth and unpainted with rounded edges— allowing the men who sand them to assume they are for the children who’ve been left behind at the St. Margaret Home. 

bird s eye view of path
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

I think there’s something so mysterious and healing and also terrifying about water. It’s purifying and yet it can obliterate. Was this a clear motif in your writing, or does it sort of surface organically?

Ursula Hegi:

Some readers ask me about the symbolism of water in my books. For me, water is water is water. I’m drawn to it. Immerse myself. I kayak. Walk along the edges of water. Write about it. And again. It’s my environment. That’s why my characters are drawn to water, too. My mother used to call me—with affection— her Wasser Ratte. Water rat. She, too, was a Wasser Ratte. We couldn’t get enough of it. She taught me to swim in the dangerous currents of the wide Rhein. I felt safe with her as I held on to the sisal webbing she’d tied around my rubber ball.

I now live on a cove. The ocean is only 6 miles away. We have lakes out here. Rivers. One day I swam in four bodies of water: the ocean, a tidal cove, a river, and a pond.

rocky shore under cloudy sky
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Ursula, this has been so enlightening. Thank you for taking the time. Before we go—one last question: what do you think sharpens you a writer? What one thing would you suggest other writers do at least daily?

Ursula Hegi:

To honor your commitment to your writing, to the gift and the practice.

Thank you, Leslie, for your insights and your questions.

IMG_7181

Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswayswithabook for more like this.

For more information, to connect with Ursula Hegi via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS, please visit: 

Order links: 

Further Reading:

  • Excerpt: THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS
  • Ursula Hegi’s attention to her secondary characters in this Bookable/LitHub article.

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

Readers of historical fiction will enjoy this title. I am especially reminded of THE BOOK OF SPECULATION (Erika Swyler) meets WATER FOR ELEPHANTSTHE MAGDALENE GIRLS (V.S. Alexander), INDELIBLE (Adelia Saunders), and the work of Kate Hamer (THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT and THE DOLL FUNERAL). Other books that may resonate: Emma Donoghue’s THE WONDER meets Paula Hawkins’s INTO THE WATER and perhaps the magical realism aspects of Alice Hoffman.

200064630ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Ursula Hegi is the author of over a dozen books, including Stones from the RiverChildren and FireFloating in My Mother’s Palm, and Tearing the Silence, and has received more than thirty grants and awards. She teaches in the Stony Brook MFA program and lives with her family on Long Island.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing 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. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded 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.

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#literaryfiction #folklore #water #circus #pregnantgirls #women #mothers #motherhood #nuns #alwayswithabook #unwedmothers #grief #drownedtown #Germany

IMG_7181

[Cover and author image retrieved from. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswayswithabook for more like this]

Chad Otis talks about his debut children’s book–OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL–about his artistic process, living in a school bus as a kid, exploring the big wide world, curiosity, imagination, and being an over-caffeinated uncle.

By Leslie Lindsay 

Darling children’s picture book about a little owl who goes on an adventure far from his home, asking more that just whoo-whoo.

OLIVER+COVER+01

~BOOKS ON MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Every child–especially those around ages 2-4 love to ask ‘wh-‘ questions: who, what, when, where, and why. Especially why. Here, author/illustrator Chad Otis, brings to life the adorable owl, Oliver, in this charmingly sweet and funny tale of curiosity, OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL (Little, Brown Young Readers, August 11 2020).

Oliver lives in a tree in the woods with his mother and father and siblings…but they only ask ‘who?’ Oliver needs more. He wants to know: who lives in the faraway woods? Where does the river go? Why can’t I leave our tree? So one day, he and his little friend, Bug, go. They leave the safety of their nest and meet new friends–bats and beavers, alligators and seals, too. They try new things and eat new foods and maybe they get a little scared. But it all turns out okay in the end.

OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL is about getting out of one’s comfort zone and exploring the big, wide world in order to satisfy one’s curiosity; it’s also about finding one’s self and in the process, helping those you love and care about become stronger, better, more inquisitive individuals.

I love the vibrant, simple illustrations, the rich color combinations in this story. It’s a sweet tale with a moral, and infused with nature, but not overly preachy.

Please join me in welcoming Chad Otis to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Chad, thank you for popping over. I love OLIVER! He’s charming and delightful and yes—he could be Any Kid. Can you tell us what your inspiration was for OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL? Was it a visual theme or technique you wanted to explore, or was it more of a moral or theme?

Chad Otis:

Thanks Leslie!

The story was inspired by my four nephews, who crawl on me like a jungle gym when I visit. They rattle off questions like adorable, squirmy reporters at a White House press conference. I just love that kids want to know everything, go everywhere, and do everything!

Like so many stories, this one evolved along the way. But it definitely all grew out of the curiosity theme, and that simple word play as a premise – Hoo/Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

As for the moral, I always knew I wanted Oliver’s family to come around in the end, but the rest of it sort of seeped into the story as I asked myself some of the questions you’re asking. Why is it important to be curious and leave our comfort zones? How does it change us? How does it affect those near to us?

selective focus photography of red and yellow petaled flower
Photo by Akshar Dave on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I think what I love so much about this story is this is such a universal theme—this idea of independence and exploration. All kids—and adults—are almost always seeking some kind of autonomy. Can you expand on that a bit, please?

Chad Otis:

While my main goal with OLIVER was to make an exciting, funny, engaging story – the takeaway really is near to my heart.

When I was 6, my family and I left Iowa on a school bus that my parents had converted into our home. Over the next four years we wound our way from Iowa to California – stopping at shopping malls and fairs to sell my parents’ art (My dad painted portraits in oil, my mother did pets in pastel). That lifestyle made me sort of fearless when it came to traveling. But, I was home-schooled and didn’t go to a real school (with real kids!) until third grade, so I was more than a little intimidated by the prospect of getting to know a bunch of new kids and teachers.

Clearly, this isn’t a typical story of independence and autonomy – in fact, it’s sort of backwards. Once we had abandoned the bus, in order to grow, I needed to find my way to deeper, more permanent connections with people. And while most kids I knew were testing their boundaries and trying to leave the nest, I was glad to have a home that stayed in one place (My big tree) and friends I didn’t have to say goodbye to anytime soon.

In the end, I had to learn the same lessons as everyone else – If we want independence and autonomy, we need to be trustworthy and self-reliant. Being independent means more than just jumping head-first into things – it means being curious, asking questions, and being able sort things out. I think that’s an especially good lesson for kids.

Leslie Lindsay:

My daughters are not the intended age for OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL (they are 13 and 15!), but I read it to them anyway. Here’s why: they recently backpacked the Rocky Mountains. They left their safe, comfortable suburban home and hiked around a rocky mound and slept in a tent and ate camping food, and…well…you see, I think they were changed by the experience, just as Oliver was changed by his. Along those lines, I have heard (where, not sure), that humans need to experience seven new things a week for brain health. That’s a lot—but it can be as simple as trying new foods, a new route home, etc. Can you talk about how new experiences change us?

Chad Otis:

Good for them! It can be scary leaving our comfort zones, but that’s where the magic happens! I totally agree that learning, and experiencing new things keeps our brains healthy. I also think it keeps us in touch with our inner child, which might be the healthiest thing of all.

I went on my first big adventure when I was 22. I spent a month riding a motorcycle from Rome, along the Mediterranean and through the Pyrenees mountains, to the west coast of Spain and France – staying mostly in campgrounds along the way.

As with Oliver, my adventure had good parts, and not-so-good parts. I met lots of interesting people – but I got pick-pocketed at the Colosseum. I snorkeled in the Mediterranean – but I ran out of gas in a tunnel on an Italian mega-freeway. I played basketball at the beach in Spain – but got lost at night in Barcelona (This was before we had smart phones with GPS!).

I grew richer from the good things, and stronger from the bad things. When I got home, I felt more capable, and less fearful. In short, I felt more self-possessed.

Plus, I brush my teeth with my left hand sometimes – which always makes me feel pretty smart.


“The book deftly avoids the pitfall of preachiness, showing and not telling the moral of this tale….
Who who who could resist the gentlest tale of adventure?”

Kirkus Reviews


Barcelona

Leslie Lindsay:

OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL is your debut as an author-illustrator. Can you talk a little about your artistic influences? The process of writing and illustrating? Do they two go hand-in-hand for you? Does the text come first?

Chad Otis:

My biggest influences are probably Theodore Geisel, Jim Henson, and George Lucas. I’m in awe of their gutsiness, work ethic, and storytelling prowess. Early on, each of them was told “That’s not how it’s done!,” but they stuck to what they believed and changed their respective crafts.

Illustration trailblazers like Mary Blair, Iyvend Earl, and Ed Emberley all set the stage for us modern-day folks. I especially appreciate the reductionist approach of artists like Ed Emberley and Charley Harper (Why make an owl out of fifteen parts when it can just be a circle with two half-circles for wings, right?)

Mine is definitely a “writing hand-in-hand with illustration” process.

The bones of the story come first. I sort out the major parts of the story — the premise, the beginning, middle and end — in my head before I write anything down. I want to make sure it makes sense and seems intriguing as a verbal summary before I start. If I think I’ve got something that works, I’ll pitch it to friends and family. I can usually tell if they “get it,” and if they like it. If I get a blank stare in return, it’s no good.

After that, I sketch the characters and some of the key situations in which they’ll find themselves. This is my way of starting to get to know the characters and how they’ll fit in the world they’ll inhabit.

From there, It’s very much a back-and-forth between visuals and text — each informing and propelling the other. I start with very rough versions of all 32 pages filled in as thumbnails on a single sheet of paper. Once I have the main story points and situations in place, I go back-and-forth between images and text – improving each, until it all works.

close up of multi colored pencils
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

One last thing: back-to-school is looking a little different this year due to the COVID19 pandemic. I think OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL might be a good choice for parents and educators as we ease into a new normal. What questions or guidance might you suggest to caregivers during this time?

Chad Otis:

Well, I’m just an over-caffeinated uncle who’s curious about things like watermelon bugs (some people call them June bugs because they show up in June), comets (what’s the difference between a comet, an asteroid, a meteor and a meteorite?!), and eyeballs (they’re filled with vitreous humor – a transparent, colorless, gelatinous mass that fills the space in the eye between the lens and the retina. I guess that’s sort of humor-ous?).

That said, in times like these – when we can’t physically explore the world as much, or get to spend time with as many people – I think it’s important to remember that the biggest adventures and discoveries can happen between our ears! Being curious can mean learning more about the people nearest to us, being creative, and of course discovering new worlds in the pages of a good book!

Imagination is a muscle! I’m a firm believer that strengthening that muscle and learning to have a rich inner-life is equally as important as physically exploring our world. Like Oliver and Bug, we can dream about what might be in the Faraway Woods and Beyond before they actually go there!

photo of man carrying baby
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Chad, thank you! Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Chad Otis:

Thank you, Leslie. I think that covers it. I appreciate the interview!

thumbnail_image001 (1)

Artistic cover image designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook.

For more information, to connect with Chad Otis via social media, or to purchase a copy of OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL, please see:

ORDER LINKS:

Chad Otis (credit Cathy Shoaf)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

CHAD OTIS worked with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, Nintendo, and DreamWorks for over twenty years as an animator, illustrator, and creative director. He now creates books for children and is the illustrator of Cuddle Monkey (written by Blake Hellman). OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL is his debut work as both author and illustrator. He lives in Seattle, WA.

 

 

 

IMG_6816ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing & prose poetry 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, Coffin Bell Journal, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded 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.

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

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #booksonmonday #childrenslit #kidlit #curiousity #owls #authorillustrator #bigworld #discovery #comfortzone #art #imagination

thumbnail_image001 (1)

[Cover and author image courtesy of Little, Brown for Young Readers and used with permission. Other images, unless otherwise noted, provided by C. Otis. Artistic cover image designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook]

Julia Heaberlin on how obsessions start early and never leave, the horrific experience of a woman’s found body parts, ‘evil passing through,’ her mother’s box of terrifying nature, reading poetry to unlock flat descriptions, plus prosthetics in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK

By Leslie Lindsay 

Portrait of modern Texas, in which tradition, family, secrets, and redemption run wild, this is a slow-burn mystery rooted in gorgeous writing.

same-in-the-dark-500

It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson vanished from her family farm, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. She was the town’s beauty queen, beloved daughter, but now she’s gone. Was it a serial killer? Her brother? Her disappearance and murder haunts the town.

Now, in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK (Ballantine/PRH, August 11 2020), another girl has turned up. She’s not dead, but badly injured. She’s missing an eye, she’s mute. Odette Tucker, the town’s youngest cop (and hiding a perceived disability herself) is the one to find this injured girl amidst a field of dandelions. She believes the two instances may somehow be linked.

The writing in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is delicately charged and searing, exploding with atmosphere. But it is a slow-burning literary thriller told from the POV of several traumatized characters carrying plenty of their own baggage. WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is darkly subtle exploration of loss and search for truth, structured in a bifurcated narrative. Ultimately, this is a tale seeking redemption and justice, while exploring themes of loss and grief.

Set in rural Texas, this story is hugely immersive and atmospheric. You can hear the chorus of cicadas, feel the dome of humidity, the dust will get stuck in your teeth.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Julia Heaberlin to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Julia! Welcome. WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK quickly got under my skin. It’s gritty, it’s atmospheric, it’s unsettling. Can you talk a little about your inspiration behind this title? Also, gorgeous cover!!

Julia Heaberlin:

Thank you! I’d like to say I thought up the title for this book. Not that I didn’t try. The Dandelion Grave. The Wishing Field. And a hundred more ideas. But it is a creative young woman named Jennifer Breslin on the marketing team in the UK (where my disturbing Texas tales are inexplicably most popular right now) who pulled a concept from the novel and dreamed up the final title, which I love. It certainly applies to the times we live in. It is about how in the dark, we are able to see nothing but each other’s souls, without our prejudices in the way. It is about two fierce women in this book who refuse to be labeled or defined by missing physical pieces—an eye, a leg—and are, I hope, a meditation on physical beauty and strength. If there’s anything I learned while researching this book, it’s that the word disabled should be eliminated from our vocabulary.

(And there are TWO glorious covers for this book, from the UK and US, with very different interpretations. The books will release in August a week apart.)

Leslie Lindsay:

One theme I noticed with all of your books—but particularly WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK and BLACK-EYED SUSANS is the overarching themes of bones and blooms. Dandelions here, daisies there. Both in Texas. Also, missing people. As a writer, I’m the same way: we have things we’re inherently obsessed with. Can you expand a little on this, please?

Julia Heaberlin:

I’ve always had a fascination with the exquisite mysteries of nature, maybe because my mother maintained such a wild and beautiful flower garden. She would carry spiders out of our house on a newspaper and set them free on the leaves. Nature was good and evil, full of personality, and she let all of it co-exist. Hundreds of monarch butterflies would light in a stunning sight on her sunflowers and Black-eyed Susans during their migration to Mexico. Tarantulas crawled out of dark holes. Dandelions would litter our yard to be blown to bits and make more dandelions. My mother was always digging up something ancient on our property with her spade—bottles, fossils, odd pieces of metal, all of which she put in a box labeled, “Things nobody cares about but me,” so we would immediately know to toss it when she is dead. Which at 90, she isn’t, and that box will be the thing my brother and I fight over.

The fascination with the myth and mystery of missing people also goes back to my childhood. I distinctly remember when body parts of a woman were found in plastic bags tossed out a car window not that many miles from the small Texas town where I lived. Evil passing through—it leaves a mark on a young mind. So I believe that our obsessions start early and linger long.  I can point to an obvious progression from editing true crime as a newspaper editor to writing fictional stories of badass women and redemption, where the victim and hero are the same person. As a journalist, I was always especially interested in stories that examined victims’ lives long after the trauma occurred. I particularly remember a case where a father hunted his kids with a shotgun in their own home, and twenty years later, wheelchair bound in prison, he wanted the ones he didn’t kill to visit him so he could apologize.


We Are All the Same in the Dark is a gripping, richly layered exploration of haunted souls in a haunted place. Julia Heaberlin’s complex and memorable characters propel a story that keeps you guessing at every turn.”

Lou Berney, author of November Road


selective focus photography of purple petaled flowers
Photo by Christian Krumbholz on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I love that your characters are each missing a vital piece of themselves, as is true for anyone—we all have flaws. Here, we’re lacking vision, voice, and some physical abilities to out-maneuver one’s present (and maybe, past). Can you talk about how these particular flaws befell Odette and Angel? And what kind of research did do to make these pieces believable?

Julia Heaberlin:  

Researching this book turned into a profound experience for me. It changed my perception of what tough or pretty is. Asking “the experts” has been critical to all my books in developing characters, ideas, and the deeper layer beyond the plot itself. In the case of WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, the world of prosthetics. This book started the way all my books do, with a visual in my mind that wouldn’t go away. A girl with one eye was stuck in my head, blowing dandelions, making wishes. But I quickly realized this wasn’t a character I could grasp without knowing her vulnerabilities. Instead, I was hit with her strengths. I tracked down a world-renowned ocularist, the Picasso of prosthetic eyes, located near where I live in Dallas. He led me to three Texas women and a girl who shared their stories and secrets with me. Their prosthetic eyes are a twin to the eyes they were born with, so perfect that most of them keep it a secret, even the one who is an Instagram model.

I later toured the prosthetics lab at UT Southwestern in Dallas where I learned that, in a fight to the death, you’d single-mindedly protect your good leg, not your prosthesis. I got a new slant on the Oscar Pistorius case (the first double amputee to run on blades in the Olympic Games, who shot and killed his girlfriend after he claimed he heard an intruder while he lay in bed at night without his prosthetic legs).

After I got to know a SWAT team trainer with an amputated leg, he told me to ask him anything, and I asked:  “How do you get to the bathroom at night with your leg off?” Crutches? Crawling? Hopping? These tiny details are important. I don’t get everything right in my books, but I try. I heard a famous thriller writer once say that any time you aren’t writing is wasted time and that included research. I never read another one of his books again.

person eye
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you talk about what a perfect writing day looks like to you? What do you do to keep the saw sharp?

Julia Heaberlin:

Does such a thing as a perfect writing day exist? I want that! A good writing day for me might represent one excellent paragraph. It might be a scene I conjure unexpectedly in the shower. It might be cutting a twenty-page chapter in half after my editor tells me to, watching all that effort bleed away, only to realize how much sharper and scarier it is. It could be an interview with a brilliant DNA specialist about bones that leads me to my best twist. Some writers say they can’t read at all while they are writing. I find that reading other books helps. When my words are flat, I read poetry so my mind will open up again to all the lyrical possibilities of description. When my pacing feels sluggish, I will read the best (and sometimes trashiest) of page-turners to get my blood going. Ideally, my books would be a combination of both things: good writing and tense, compulsive storytelling.

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

Leslie Lindsay:

Julia, thank you so very much for chatting with us. What should I have asked about, but may have forgotten? What you’re reading…obsessing over…what you’re writing next…how COVID/quarantine is treating you…funny pet antics??

Julia Heaberlin:

I’ll tackle all of those!

I just finished the wonderful, moody Rene Denfeld book THE CHILD FINDER and an absorbing reread of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

My next thriller could involve a conspiracy theorist hanging out in my head.

During these COVID times, my husband has put a sign facing out on his makeshift-work-from-home desk that says, “I’m pretty sure I have no idea,” and I’m pretty sure that sign is for me, his only on-site “co-worker.” I put up a sign that says “Women Only” on the downstairs bathroom.

My fat cat Carlos will make a special trip to the window to chomp down a snake in front of me.

And I have plenty of dandelions in my yard and black-eyed Susans under my bedroom window. What’s buried under them, nobody knows.

IMG_0659

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

For more information, to connect with Julia Heaberlin via social media, or to purchase a copy of WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, please see: 

Order Links: 

~BOOK CONCEIRGE~

WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is a bifurcated narrative, told from the POV of several characters , and could probably be classified as a Gothic mystery akin to the work of Hester Young (THE GATES OF EVANGELINE) meets the work of Laura McHugh (nearly all of her books, but especially THE WOLF WANTS IN). I also found some similarities between WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK and Gillian Flynn’s earlier work, especially SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACES . In terms of prosthetics and maybe overall style, I might compare WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK to Lori Rader-Day’s THE BLACK HOURFinally, those who enjoyed Karin Slaughter’s THE GOOD DAUGHTER will find many points resonating with this story as well–small town, farmhouse, murder, etc. Other authors came to mind, too because of some thematic elements. Elizabeth Brundage for farmhouses and Rene Denfeld for homelessness, missing children, traumatic experiences.

julia1-color-bioABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

JULIA HEABERLIN is the author of the critically acclaimed We Are All the Same In the Dark and Black-Eyed Susans, a USA Today and Times (U.K.) bestseller. Her psychological thrillers, including Paper Ghosts (finalist for the ITW Thriller Award), Playing Dead, and Lie Still, have been sold in more than twenty countries. Heaberlin is an award-winning journalist who has worked at the Fort Worth Star-TelegramThe Detroit News, and The Dallas Morning News. She grew up in Texas and lives with her family near Dallas/Fort Worth.

 

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing 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. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded 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.

~Updated, 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming this fall from Woodbine House. Querying MODEL HOME: A Daughter’s Memoir of Motherhood & Madness~

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #amreading #TBR #WeAreAllTheSameInTheDark #literarythriller #smalltown #farmhouse #mystery #prosthetic #murder #missinggirls #trauma #familysecrets #redemption #Texas

IMG_0659

[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 8.11.20. Special thanks to DeweyDecimalMedia. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1.]