Barbara Linn Probst dives into the stunning world of Georgia O’Keefee with her debut, QUEEN OF THE OWLS, featuring art work from her little-known Hawaii paintings, craft, isolation, consent, plus familial roles, a life well-experienced, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A powerful take on one woman’s relationship to her body, her art, her creativity…and also her mind, inspired by the life of Georgia O’Keeffe.

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~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITER|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

QUEEN OF THE OWLS has been selected as one of the most anticipated books of 2020 byWorking Mother

QUEEN OF THE OWLS will also be the May 2020 selection
of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

Coming to nearly 800 book clubs across the country!

QUEEN OF THE OWLS (SWP, April 7 2020), by debut author Barbara Linn Probst is told with elegance and precision, and empathy about what it truly means to be seen, as academic Elizabeth Crawford navigates her role as wife, mother, PhD student, and more. Until she met Richard, a professional photographer at her Tai Chi classes, her relationship with Georgia O’Keeffe’s little-known Hawaii paintings were purely academic. As an art historian, she is looking at how O’Keeffe’s work in Hawaii was seen as a ‘transition’ to her other works; she’s comparing and contrasting lush landscapes to that of the desert, to Georgia’s relationship with womanhood, art, and more.

When Richard suggests that for Elizabeth to fully understand O’Keeffe’s purpose and experience she needs to get out of her mind and into O’Keeffe’s skin by reenacting her nude portraits, Elizabeth is reluctant at first–she’s a wife, a mother to young children, and a professor; a role-model. Yet she wonders…maybe this would help her understand Georgia and develop more data for her dissertation.

And yet…she feels betrayed by Richard when the photographs are made public. It’s her in the images, but it’s also his art. Who has the right? QUEEN OF THE OWLS is about privacy, discretion, consent, art, creativity, and woman’s search for self. At times, I empathized with both Elizabeth and Richard, felt strong emotions for the periphery characters (Elizabeth’s husband, children, students, and her sister). Even though there were times when I saw what was coming, QUEEN OF THE OWLS was a compelling eye-opener for me.


“A must-read”

— Barbara Claypole White, best-selling author


I especially enjoyed was the art history piece, learning more about Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as some of the artists mentioned within the narrative. In fact, I stopped to look up some lesser-known pieces.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Barbara Linn Probst to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Barbara, welcome! I think we’re often ‘haunted into’ or obsessed about a particular element in our writing, something that propels us. I am guessing for you, it was Georgia O’Keeffe. Can you talk about this particular fascination?

Barbara Linn Probst:

The funny thing is that I didn’t really know very much about Georgia O’Keeffe until I started writing QUEEN OF THE OWLS!

The seed for O’Keeffe’s role in the story actually came from a scene in my first attempt at a novel—a book that will, thank goodness, never see the light of day 🙂  In that early book, the protagonist’s daughter is an art history major studying Georgia O’Keeffe. I made her an O’Keeffe student as a set-up for a scene later in the book when the protagonist, a rather unhappy and repressed woman in her fifties, recalls an experience she had years earlier in front of O’Keeffe’s iconic Black Irisa memory that launches a major emotional turning point.

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I abandoned that book (luckily!) but the image of Black Iris stayed with me. I didn’t see the painting itself until several years later—the actual painting, that is, which isn’t on public view but can be seen through special arrangement with the museum. When I did see the real thing, rather than a page in an art book, it was incredibly powerful, exactly as I’d imagined in my discarded manuscript.

The private viewing of Black Iris came later, in the process of working on QUEEN OF THE OWLS. By then, O’Keeffe had worked her way into my subconscious. The connection, the whole notion of using O’Keeffe’s art and life as a frame for Elizabeth’s story—truly, it found me, rather than me deciding to use it. And the more I learned, the richer the connection became until, of course, I couldn’t imagine the book without it.

Leslie Lindsay:

As a teenager, we had several of O’Keeffe’s desert paintings hanging in our home. It was the early 1990s and that pastel Aztec aesthetic was very ‘in.’ Can you tell us a little more about Georgia O’Keeffe? Maybe a few facts that didn’t make it into QUEEN OF THE OWLS?

 Barbara Linn Probst:

I have to tell you, Leslie, that the more I learned about O’Keeffe, the more fascinated I became!  On the one hand, O’Keeffe was extraordinarily complex, full of subtlety. At the same time, there was a directness about her that was almost impersonal. There’s a terrific article in the New Yorker, written by Calvin Tomkins in 1974 after he interviewed O’Keeffe, who was eighty-six at the time. I was struck by O’Keeffe’s remark about the young artists who wanted to meet her and learn from her:

“Go home and work. That’s all I can tell anyone. You can help people that way. I think one of my best times was when nobody was interested in me. That may have come from my not being the favorite child in the family, and not minding that I wasn’t—it left me very free … I could just do what I wanted to do, and I didn’t have to care what people thought. If I’d followed people’s advice it would have been hopeless.”

There’s a kind of self-sufficiency there, an indifference to the opinions of others. But it wasn’t an indifference to their needs. O’Keeffe spent her last years in Abiquiu, a village in New Mexico. What few people know is that she built a school and a gymnasium for the children of Abiquiu and gave money to improve the town water system, but insisted on absolute anonymity. When I visited Abiquiu as part of my research, someone told me that O’Keeffe said she wouldn’t give the money for the school if they put her name on it! So there was also a kindness, an altruism, that you don’t often hear about.

As for the photos that Stieglitz took of her—which, of course, play such a central role in QUEEN OF THE OWLS, there’s an interesting bit in Barbara Buhler’s book. Buhler quotes from a letter O’Keeffe wrote to her good friend Anita Pollitzer: “I felt somehow that the photographs had nothing to do with me personally.”

Her statement implies a sort of Zen-like non-attachment, which fits the independence and strength that’s always associated with O’Keeffe. Yet she was also quite passionate and emotional; in fact, she was so emotionally vulnerable that she had more than one nervous breakdown. And she was hardly “non-attached.” Everything in her house at Abiquiu had to be just so, down to the colors of the linens and plates. The tour guide told me, when I visited, that O’Keeffe wanted only neutral colors around her so they wouldn’t interfere with the colors in her mind. As I said, endlessly fascinating!

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Image source: https://www.fodors.com/world/north-america/usa/new-york/new-york-city/experiences/news/georgia-okeeffe-transports-you-to-hawaii-at-the-new-york-bontaical-garden-this-summer

Leslie Lindsay:

This is your debut novel, but you’ve been busy doing so many other things—a teacher, a therapist, a backpacker, a pianist, a researcher, a mom…and though it all, you’ve written. Can you talk about how all of these experiences help you to be the writer you are? How good writing needs to come from a life well-lived?

Barbara Linn Probst:

I can’t imagine writing a book like QUEEN OF THE OWLS without a “life well-lived” to draw upon!  It’s not that QUEEN OF THE OWLS is a thinly-disguised autobiography. Instead, as I see it, if you open yourself to life, let yourself sense and feel, and have the kind of mind that can process what the body and emotions have experienced—then you have the raw material from which good fiction can be forged.

Living a wild and complicated life isn’t enough, just by itself, of course. I think of it as a two-step process. First, you take what you’ve experienced and look for its emotional essence, its human core. Then you take that essence and re-embody it in something invented—a character, an event, a fictional world.

I’d say that my own experiences were especially helpful that way. As a therapist and qualitative researcher, I listened to people’s stories and how they made—and re-made— meaning from what they were going through. My research, when I was in academia, focused on listening to people talk about how they coped with mental and emotional distress. I also ran groups for parents with challenging children under the title “This isn’t the child I dreamed of raising.” Again, listening to the story, and helping people find a new story—which is what I think fiction can do as well, by helping us see the world and ourselves in new ways.

I truly think that everything I’ve done—whether it was swimming in the Black Sea at midnight or helping my kids build a snow fort—has contributed to my growth as a writer. Most of all, I think you have to be fascinated by what makes people tick, including yourself!

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Image source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/georgia-okeeffes-little-knwon-hawaii-paintings-blossom-botanical-exhibition-180969177/

Leslie Lindsay:

Since we’re on the craft of writing, can you share a bit about your journey to publication? How did QUEEN OF THE OWLS stretch you as a writer? What did you struggle with and what do you think you did well? What advice might you give others? And also—the title! Where did that come from?

Barbara Linn Probst:

Goodness, there are at least six great questions in there!

I’ll start by talking about one of the particular challenges of this book, which is framed around a real person but isn’t about her. That is, Georgia O’Keeffe isn’t a character in QUEEN OF THE OWLS, yet she’s present throughout as Elizabeth’s inspiration, the person whose blend of austerity and voluptuousness Elizabeth longs to emulate. And, of course, in seeking to understand O’Keeffe, Elizabeth comes to understand herself.

There was an enormous range of research that I needed to do for this book. I needed to immerse myself in O’Keeffe’s life and art in order to absorb, understand, and convey what that might have brought Elizabeth. What made this uniquely challenging was that Elizabeth’s interpretation of O’Keeffe had to be shaped by her own emotional needs—subjective rather than purely “factual,” as in a biography—yet I couldn’t say anything inaccurate.  This is as O’Keeffe seen through Elizabeth’s particular lens, not O’Keeffe as my former academic self might have described her.  Super challenging!

As for your question about giving advice to other writers, I think O’Keeffe put it well: You just have to sit down and figure out what you want to say and how to say it. The templates and grids and outlines can only be useful if you have a story you’re burning to tell. For me, there’s a kind of relaxation that allows the subconscious mind, where the story arises, to connect with the conscious mind, which has the tools to get that story onto the page.

And the title?  I tried a whole lot of titles, and sometimes it felt as if landing on the right title was harder than writing the book!  When this one came to me, I knew immediately that it was right. It was actually the title of an academic paper I wrote years ago, so I borrowed from myself. Here, though, it has a very different meaning. But rather than defining it, I’d like to let people feel for themselves what it evokes as they read the book.


“A stunner”

— Caroline Leavitt, best-selling author


Leslie Lindsay:

There’s also a bit of sibling rivalry QUEEN OF THE OWLS. Elizabeth and her sister, Andrea have clear childhood ‘roles’ they can’t seem to escape. Elizabeth is the ‘smart one’ and Andrea, the ‘little pixie.’ I know this happens in many families, but it kind of drives me crazy! And yet we grow up this way and get ‘stuck’ in these types of roles (it’s usually different for every family—the sporty one, the musical one, etc.). Can you talk about that, please?

Barbara Linn Probst:

I taught clinical social work for a number of years, and one of the things I got interested in, back then, was the under-studied relationship between siblings. Psychology has given a lot attention to parent-child relationships and the relationships between romantic partners, but not so much to siblings—who are, after all, the people who know us the longest. They’re the only ones who know us from the very beginning to the very end. Yet literature is full of siblings, from the brothers Karamazov to the Bennett sisters and the March sisters, and up through contemporary novels like My Sister’s Keeper or When We Believed in Mermaids.  Siblings are a classic way to set up a polarity by having characters who embody two sides of an issue or trait.

What crystallized Andrea’s role in QUEEN OF THE OWLS was one of those unexpected “aha” moments.  I like to watch DVDs on the treadmill, preferably a film I’ve seen before so I won’t mind watching it in chunks. I was re-watching A League of Their Own, which is a terrific story about the All-Girls Baseball League that flourished during World War Two.  So there I was, running in place, watching the scene where the sisters hug and admit they love each other, when—I want to insert one of those cartoon POW! bubbles right here. I got it. Elizabeth and Andrea had to be more than rivals or cliché opposites. They had to love each other and help each other become whole.  I had no idea that was coming during the first draft or two of the book!

So, to answer your question, I think it’s more than simply occupying a certain niche or role in the family. It’s about that mutuality, helping to complete one another. Maybe we don’t always do that in life. Yet literature, at its best, can show us how to be the selves we long to be.

Georgia O'Keeffe's visit to Hawaii ignited her vision, and her career.
Image source: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2012/12/16/features/okeeffes-hawaii/

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Barbara Linn Probst:

The things I “can’t stop talking about” go back to my lifelong passions. Before I turned to fiction, I was an advocate for out-of-the-box kids who become, or get called, “difficult kids.” I gave presentations to parent and professional groups, wrote articles, and published a nonfiction book called WHEN THE LABELS DON’T FIT. I’ll always be passionate about what I call the unnecessary pathologizing of quirkiness.

My background as a therapist also makes me endlessly fascinated by what makes people tick. I can analyze human behavior forever!

I can also talk endlessly about social justice and the need for kindness and generosity, which come together at the intersection between social work and spirituality—two enduring parts of my life.

Leslie Lindsay:

Barbara, this has been a delight. Thank you! Is there anything you’d like to share that I forgot to ask?

Barbara Linn Probst:

I’ll just add a note about why I wrote the book and what I hope it will bring to its readers.

As I think you said at the beginning of our conversation, QUEEN OF THE OWLS is about a woman’s quest to claim her neglected sensuality and find her true self hidden behind the roles of wife, mother, sister, and colleague.  I wanted to tell a story that women of all ages and backgrounds could connect with—about the deep yearning we all feel to be our truest selves, to reclaim whatever part of ourselves we’ve neglected or denied along the way.  Not at the expense of the roles we fill, but behind them.  To find that wholeness that gives meaning to our lives.

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Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1

For more information, to connect with Barbara Linn Probst, or to purchase a copy of QUEEN OF THE OWLS, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~ 

Fans of Christina Baker Kline’s A PIECE OF THE WORLD will appreciate QUEEN OF THE OWLS, others that may resonate: THE LIEUTENANT’S NURSE (Sara Ackerman) for the scenes in Hawaii, as well as ISLAND OF SWEET PIES AND SOLDIERS (Sara Ackerman), and THE VELVETEEN DAUGHTER (Laurel Davis Huber).

Barbara-Linn-Probst-PictureABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Barbara Linn Probst is a writer, researcher, and clinician living on a historic dirt road in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her novels (Queen of the Owls, April 2020 and The Sound of One Hand, forthcoming in November 2020) tell of the search for authenticity, wholeness and connection. In both novels, art helps the protagonist to become more fully herself. Queen of the Owls, Barbara’s debut novel, will be issued by She Writes Press, 2019 Indie Publisher of the Year. Queen of the Owls has been chosen as a 2020 selection by the Pulpwood Queens Club, a network of 750 book clubs across the U.S.

Author of the groundbreaking book on nurturing out-of-the-box children, When the Labels Don’t Fit, Barbara holds a PhD in clinical social work and is a frequent guest essayist on major online sites for fiction writers. Barbara is also a serious amateur pianist and a trustee of Hampshire Country School.

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

I hope you do!

IMG_6816Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, and the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this spring. 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.

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[Cover and author image courtesy of SWP/BookSparks and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1]

Twisty courtroom drama about special needs, medical exploration, lies, secrets, immigration, and so much more in Angie Kim’s fabulous debut–now in paperback–MIRACLE CREEK

By Leslie Lindsay 

A literary courtroom thriller about an immigrant family, a fascinating medical exploration, secrets, lies, and more.

*NATIONAL BESTSELLER*

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

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~Pub Day Spotlight | ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

May IndieNext Pick ♦ April LibraryReads Selection ♦ April Book of the Month Club Pick ♦ Amazon Editors’ Pick ♦ Apple Books 2019 Top Ten Debuts ♦ Time Magazine 11 Best Fiction Books of 2019 So Far ♦ Washington Post Summer Reads ♦ Good Morning America Hot Summer Read ♦Entertainment Weekly April Jewels ♦ ELLE April Reading List ♦ Real Simple The Short List ♦ Southern Living Best Spring Books ♦ July Junior Library Guild Adult Crossover Selection (Grades 11 & Up)

PLUS, named a Most Anticipated 2019 Book by
BuzzFeedNylonThe MillionsElectric LitBookRiot, CrimeReads / LitHub, GoodReads, Vulture and more

~NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK~

 

MIRACLE CREEK (April 2019) is such a powerhouse of a novel from Angie Kim, I was seriously questioning whether it was truly a debut, it’s that good. In rural Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and her husband, Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment, hyperbaric chamber known as ‘the miracle submarine.’ It’s a pressurized oxygen chamber patients enter for therapeutic reasons–the ‘dives’ could potentially cure anything from autism to infertility, and a few things in between.

But the chamber mysteriously explodes, killing two people, and injuring several others. The book opens with such a compelling and propulsive line–“My husband asked me to lie.” And thus, we’re thrown into the world of MIRACLE CREEK, where no one and everyone is honest. Secrets are kept, lies are ignored; concealment becomes the standard. I found the writing hugely enjoyable, lush and poetic, snappy, and witty, at times The author does an amazing job of building layers, adding in smart twists, and the courtroom drama is second to none. I mean, wow.

Told from multiple POVs, we ‘dive’ (yes, pun intended) into several character’s experiences, mothers raising special needs children (and the long, exhausting days, the maternal guilt and wishes for a different life), and also an infertile physician, the life of Korean immigrant family, and so much more. I found reading MIRACLE CREEK immensely enjoyable, but also a little exhausting. There are a lot of ‘facts’ to keep straight, courtroom details/banter, and more. And it’s so well done.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Angie Kim to the author interview series.

[Editor’s note: this is a re-print of an earlier interview with Angie Kim.]

Leslie Lindsay:

Angie! Welcome. Gosh, this book! It’s so good. I think for any writer to be successful, she needs to be completely smitten—but also haunted—with her premise. What was it for you that got you to ‘dive’ into the narrative of MIRACLE CREEK?

Angie Kim:  

Thank you so much for featuring me and MIRACLE CREEK, Leslie! They say that you put a lot of yourself into your first book, and that’s definitely the case for me with MIRACLE CREEK. There are three strands of my life that I pulled together into the narrative—the Korean immigrant strand (I myself moved to the US from Seoul, South Korea, as a preteen), the courtroom trial strand (I was a trial lawyer in my 20s), and the special-needs parenting strand (I have three kids who all faced and overcame medical issues as babies/toddlers). As for the one thing that really got me into the narrative, my first line for the longest time was “The pounding. It’s the pounding I remember most.” The pounding sound is that of a little boy with autism and anxiety, pounding his head against the thick steel wall of the hyperbaric oxygen chamber. It’s something I experienced while undergoing HBOT with one of my kids, and that’s the first thing I thought of and wrote. Once I wrote that, I had to write more to explore why he was pounding his head, what the adults were doing, etc.

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Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I’ve read plenty of courtroom dramas (none this good, by the way), and stories featuring medical aspects, mysteries…but I’d have to say MIRACLE CREEK is a first for me in terms of reading about hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). How did this piece come to be? It’s a little obscure, and I think that’s why I like it. Can you tell us more about your personal involvement in it and how the mechanism works?

Angie Kim:  

Thank you so much. HBOT is something I experienced myself. My son was four years old when he was diagnosed with celiac disease and ulcerative colitis. The standard treatments weren’t working, and he was crying that his stomach hurt and throwing up and not gaining weight. So we decided to try an experimental treatment a friend had told me about, involving breathing pure oxygen inside a pressurized chamber. The first time we saw the HBOT chamber, my son said, “It’s a submarine!” We’d watched the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine for family movie night earlier that summer, and it looked just like that, with thick steel walls, four portholes, and such. The idea is that you go inside and are sealed in, and the air inside is pressurized, which makes the air denser. The patients put on these oxygen helmets and breathe in pure oxygen, and the denser oxygen can deeply penetrate the damaged cells of your body, including your nerves, which helps them to heal more quickly.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

In some ways, I related to the mothers of the special needs children in this story. My oldest daughter had a severe speech disorder when she was younger and yes—I remember the research, the worries, the therapies, the wish for a different child. Actually, I think the wish was for the speech issue to not plague her. You really ‘got’ these mothers (who were mostly struggling with autism, but also physical handicaps as well). There’s love here, but also struggle. And some of these passages were darn-right hard to read. Were they hard to write? And What—or whom—informed you? Is this a book about special needs?

Angie Kim:

It’s absolutely a book about the world of parenting children who have special needs and disabilities. As I said earlier, all three of my kids are fine now, but they suffered a wide array from medical issues as young children, so I went through many of these experiences, which are emotionally intense and draining. Your own book about [childhood] apraxia [of speech] really interested me because one of my kids was born deaf in one ear, which resulted in auditory processing issues and speech delays. I’m guessing that our kids did a lot of the same therapies.

I also drew on the experience of being in the HBOT chamber with mothers of kids with autism and cerebral palsy. When we did the dives that summer, because of the presence of pure oxygen and the risk of fire that entailed, we couldn’t bring anything in—no phones, toys, electronics, magazines. That left us with nothing to do but talk. We shared life stories and traded information about the various illnesses our kids were contending with. It was a wholly immersive and intense experience, and it felt like a confessional of sorts. Some of those women became close friends, and some served as early readers for MIRACLE CREEK. It was very hard to write about some of the dark, shameful thoughts that parents (especially mothers) have, but I thought it was important to bring that out, to tell everyone that this is human, that it’s not something we should be ashamed of.

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Photo by Mustafa ezz on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Special needs, infertility, and also race/culture are a big piece of MIRACLE CREEK. Abe (one of the attorneys in the book), is African-American. The infertile doctor and his wife are a biracial couple (she’s Asian and he’s Caucasian). Teresa, one of the HBOT mothers is Latina. And the Yoos are Korean. Were there any particular inspirations behind these choices? Were they really ‘choices’ at all?

Angie Kim:

It was important to me that the cast of characters be diverse because the DC area is so diverse, and I wanted the book’s fictional world to reflect the real world. These chronic issues and disabilities hit people of all ethnicities, and I wanted that to be clear. I also wanted to attorneys to be totally kick-ass, and to be diverse as well. Nothing against awesome white male litigators (my husband is one!) but I feel like so many litigators we see on TV and in the movies are white men, and I think it’s important to show other types of people in that role. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me or said in book club discussions that Shannon (a totally bad-ass trial lawyer) is their favorite character!

Leslie Lindsay:

I know you’re an attorney by training and so the courtroom stuff probably came very naturally. But you were so good at building layers, developing chain reactions, planting seeds…so I am curious if you knew how MIRACLE CREEK would end? Did you always know who the guilty party was? Can you give us a little glimpse into your process?

Angie Kim:

I did not know how the novel would end! I am not an outliner; I’m a so-called “pantser” who writes more organically. I did not know for the first year or so of writing who set the fire (the inciting incident), and I didn’t know until almost the end why or how that person set the fire. I believe in an iterative writing process, in which you outline (very broadly) what you think might happen, write a few chapters, then you realize that the outline is completely wrong and revise the outline, then write a few more chapters, then you realize you have to revise the outline yet again, etc., etc.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

MIRACLE CREEK is a very obsessive, engrossing read. What’s obsessing you nowadays? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Angie Kim:

My next novel is about a 10-year-old boy who’s nonverbal (with apraxia [of speech] and possibly autism) who goes on a walk at the beginning of the story with his father (who is the primary caregiver), but later in the day, only the little boy returns home. And because he’s nonverbal, he can’t tell anyone what happened during the walk. So my obsession these days is learning about kids who are nonverbal, and the new communication therapies and technologies nonverbal kids are using to try to communicate. I’m reading every book I can find on this topic!


“Miracle Creek is an engrossing puzzle-box of a book: a twisty courtroom drama that also manages to be emotionally astute, culturally perceptive, and deeply empathetic. Angie Kim tackles hot-button subjects with a delicate touch, proving herself a master of both portraiture and storytelling. I loved this novel.”

―Janelle Brown, author of the New York Times bestseller Watch Me Disappear


Leslie Lindsay:

Angie, thank you, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Is there anything I forgot to ask…like, what’s on your to-do list this week, what you’re reading, when the paperback version of MIRACLE CREEK is set to come out, or anything else?

Angie Kim:

The paperback version of MIRACLE CREEK comes out on April 7 and I’m about to travel to San Antonio for the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference, and I’m so excited to meet up with my writer friends! I’m also putting together a book club challenge! I’ve participated (via in-person or video-conferencing) in over 85 book club discussions so far, and my publisher and I are putting together a fun book club challenge in which we’re trying to get at least one book club in every state of the US to join us! Readers can contact me through email or  website if they’re interested in having their book club participate!

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Artistic image of book covered designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1

For more information, to connect with Angie Kim via social media, or to purchase a copy of MIRACLE CREEK, please visit: 

Order LInks: 

~NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK~

BOOK CONCIERGE:

You might also like LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng, forthcoming A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD (Therese Anne Fowler), THE DEARLY BELOVED by Cara Wall, DEFENDING JACOB (Willliam Landay) and also Shari Lapena’s SOMEONE WE KNOW.

angie-300x200ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Angie Kim is the author of the national bestseller Miracle Creek, named a “Best Book of the Year” by Time, The Washington Post, Kirkus, Real Simple, Library Journal, The Today Show, Amazon, and Hudson Booksellers, and a Good Morning America Hot Summer Read. Kim is one of Variety Magazine’s “10 Storytellers to Watch,” and has written for VogueThe New York TimesThe Washington PostGlamour, Salon, and Slate. She moved from Seoul, Korea, to Baltimore as a preteen, and attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. A former trial lawyer, she now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three sons, and is at work on her next novel.

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

I hope you do!

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Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, and the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this spring. 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.

~2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA COMING LATER in 2020~

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#literaryfiction #medicalmystery #HBOT #courtroomdrama #writing #alwayswithabook #autism #specialneeds #mothers #infertility 

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Author photo cred: Tim Coburn. Artistic image of book covered designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1]

Simone St. James returns with a dank and creepy roadside motel in upstate New York, a cold case, and dual timelines, plus its loose connection to Bates Motel, murder, ghosts, and serial killers

By Leslie Lindsay 

An atmospheric and troubling mystery set in upstate New York at a run-down roadside motel teeming with ghosts–both literal and figurative. 

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~FICTION FRIDAY | ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of THE BROKEN GIRLS. 

New York Times 

USA Today Bestseller 

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY. But something isn’t right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and to visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Fell is an out-of-time small town in upstate NY where girls grow up being warned by their mothers to be careful or they will end up like Cathy Caldwell, the girl who was murdered and found under an overpass, or Victoria Lee who was killed and dumped on a jogging trail on the edge of town. There are a lot of dead girls in Fell.

But why does Carly Kirk seem so haunted by this town? Why does she leave her hometown in Illinois to relocate to Fell? visit to town. Before Carly was even born her aunt Viv worked the night-shift at the Sun Down motel. And then went missing.  Using a small inheritance from her deceased mother, Carly leaves college for Fell in the hopes that she will figure out what happened to her aunt thirty-five years ago.

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Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

“Deliciously creepy. A chilling blend of mystery and ghost story that will thrill fans of both.”

—Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Lock Every Door


As Carly uncovers more about the mysterious happenings at the motel and Fell’s secrets, she discovers that Viv had been trying to unravel mysteries of her own—including a possible serial killer working in Fell targeting women. If Carly can find the answers Viv was searching for, she might be able to solve the mystery that has haunted her family for years. But as Carly digs deeper, she puts herself in front of the same dangers that faced her aunt all those years ago.

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL (Feb 18 2020, Berkley/PRH) is scary and propulsive; you’ll find yourself connecting the dots while simultaneously never wanting the ride to end.

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

For more information, to connect with Simone St. James via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE SUN DOWN MOTEL, please visit: 

Read an excerpt!

ORder Links: 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~ 

You may also like THE CHILL by Scott Carson, also set in upstate New York with supernatural elements and a ‘retro’ feel. Stephanie Wrobel’s debut DARLING ROSE GOLD offers many similar elements of mystery and dread. Also check out: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK, a dash of BATES MOTEL.

FBprofilepicABOUT THE AUTHOR: After years of writing and collecting rejections, Simone St. James’ debut novel, THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, won two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. AN INQUIRY INTO LOVE AND DEATH was nominated for another Arthur Ellis Award, and SILENCE FOR THE DEAD was shortlisted for a Goodreads Choice Award.

Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat. She is addicted to sushi, old 1970’s gothic novels, rainy days, coffee, and My Favorite Murder. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest (though not all at once). 

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

I hope you do!

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#fiction #mystery #domesticsuspense #paranormal #supernatural #motels #missinggirls #serialkillers #coldcases #NewYork #alwayswithabook 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of PRH and used with permission. Author photo cred: Lauren Perry. Artistic cover image of book designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook for more like this]

 

 

Debut thriller DARLING ROSE GOLD dives into the after-effects of a girl raised by a mother who poisoned her, plus Stephanie Wrobel talks about what’s next, her dog, and what she did ‘right’

By Leslie Lindsay 

Chillingly unpleasant tale of a highly dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship inspired by the true story of Dee Dee Blanchard and Gypsy Rose.

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~Wednesdays with Writers| Always with a Book~


A most anticipated book by Newsweek ∙ Marie ClaireBustleShondalandPopSugarWoman’s Day GoodhousekeepingShe ReadsBookRiot

Stephanie Wrobel’s debut DARLING ROSE GOLD. (Berkley, March 18 2020) explores the horrific and ultimately highly dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and psychiatric issues of Munchausen syndrome by proxy; an adult knowingly abusing (injuring, starving, poisoning) a minor child in order to receive medical care/attention and other gains.

DARLING ROSE GOLD is a must-read for those who enjoy Jessica Knoll, Megan Miranda, and Elizabeth Little. This story was the talk of the London Book Fair and rights have been sold in 15 countries.

Informed by real-life cases like that of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, and Julie Gregory’s story, SICKENED, DARLING ROSE GOLD, as Wrobel puts it, “Begins where most novels about Munchausen syndrome by proxy end–with the reveal upfront.”

Patty Watts is in prison serving a 5-year sentence for the abuse she invoked on her minor daughter, Rose Gold. And now, on her mother’s release, Rose Gold has agreed to pick her mother up, take her home, and allow her to live under her roof. The past crime shook up the small town of Deadwick, Illinois. Now, neighbors, grocers, former best friends shun Patty Watts; they want nothing to do with her.

So why did Rose Gold agree to take her mother in? You may have theories, and they might partially be correct, but there’s so much more, twists I didn’t see coming. DARLING ROSE GOLD is the story of two very damaged women. Patty is still the same cruel, coercive, charming mother she was before prison, but Rose Gold is no longer the sick girl she once was.

Told in alternating chapters the capture the harrowing voices of both Rose Gold and her mother, Patty, we get a true sense of the retaliation, revenge, and fragility of these women. Plus, the town of Deadwick, IL completely encapsulates the chilly vibe of the entire narrative: it’s dreary, the homes are wretched, the yards knee-high with weeds, an abandoned house across the street. In a sense, the town becomes a kind of character.

Please join me in welcoming debut author Stephanie Wrobel to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Stephanie, wow. What a tale. I am alternatively shocked and awed and so many things in between. I always feel we are sort of haunted into writing a particular story. What was it for you?

Stephanie Wrobel:

Thank you so much! I learned about Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) from my best friend. She’s an elementary school psychologist and has experience with the syndrome through her work. The more research I did, the more fascinated I became. I wanted to get inside the head of someone with the syndrome, to try to understand whether she knows she’s lying or if she believes she’s doing what’s best for her child. Along came Patty Watts.

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Photo by Daisy Laparra on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you give readers a sense of what Munchausen by proxy is? Who are the typical perpetrators and why do they do it? What were some pieces of research you came across during your writing process?

Stephanie Wrobel:

MSBP is a mental health disorder in which a caregiver fakes or induces illness in the person they’re caring for. The perpetrators of MSBP are usually women, often mothers. Perpetrators act out of a need for attention or love from authority figures within the medical community, a motivation I find both intriguing and heartbreaking.

To research I read short- and long-form firsthand accounts of survivors, as well as news articles and a medical textbook. I started by painting the illness in broad strokes, then began to build profiles of both perpetrators and survivors. From these general profiles I was able to establish a few traits that my main characters, Patty and Rose Gold, had to have but then fleshed them out to make them my own. I also researched commonly faked illnesses, rigged lab tests, harmful substances to put in the bloodstream, and how real-life perpetrators trick doctors. Not exactly light reading!


“One of the most captivating and disturbing thrillers I’ve read this year. An astonishing debut.”

Samantha Downing,USA Today bestselling author of MY LOVELY WIFE


Leslie Lindsay:

Speaking of process, you’re a recent MFA graduate with a background in marketing. What do you see as your strengths in terms of craft? What do you wish you knew more about—or did better?

Stephanie Wrobel:

I think my strengths are concision—which comes from my years in advertising—and self-discipline. I’m pretty religious when it comes to my writing schedule. As far as things I wish I were better at, I struggle the most with creating characters from scratch. Now that I’m working on my second book, I realize how difficult it is to create fully fleshed characters with unique voices. I don’t remember this being such a struggle with DARLING ROSE GOLD, but maybe I’ve repressed those memories!

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Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

As a first-time novelist, can you walk us through your publication journey? Was writing a novel always a goal of yours? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Stephanie Wrobel:

Yes, I always wanted to write novels but that didn’t seem like a practical career choice, so I went into advertising—writing TV/radio spots, billboard copy, etc.—because it was the closest steady job I could get to creative writing. During a period of unemployment, I felt like I had nothing to lose and decided to apply to MFA programs. I attended Emerson College from 2016-2018 and wrote DARLING ROSE GOLD as my master’s thesis, which I turned in November 2018. On the advice of a few professors, I began querying agents, a process that went much more quickly than I had anticipated. In December 2018 I signed with my agent Maddy Milburn. She took the novel out on submission the last day of February 2019 and by the second week of March, she had secured book deals in several countries.

I’m definitely a plotter. I work best with structures put in place, which is why I went to an MFA program! A lot of writers say plotting ahead of time stifles their creativity but my experience is just the opposite. I think I’d find it paralyzing to sit down at my computer with no idea what’s going to come next. If I have some idea of the action ahead of time, that frees me up to focus on the sentence level. To each their own!

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Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Without naming names or providing titles, what—or whom—inspires and influences your writing? Also, that town—Deadwick, IL. Does it exist? It’s eerily creepy. Does place influence your work?

Stephanie Wrobel:

My influences are any works of art—books, narrative journalism, movies, TV shows, paintings, music—that examine the psychological states of society’s outliers. That’s the common thread I’ve noticed in my writing: a fascination with people who are not like the rest of us.

Deadwick is not based on a real town, but we’ve all read about and seen small, dying towns even if we haven’t lived in them. I thought dropping Patty and Rose Gold into a small town would increase the claustrophobic feel of the story. If she were in a big city or suburb, Patty could find new friends and get that fresh start she so desperately wants. In Deadwick she has nowhere to turn. She’s trapped.

I’m sure place does influence my work but I confess it’s one of the things I neglect when writing first or even second drafts. I suppose I have an idea in my head of what I want the atmosphere and surroundings to be in my stories, but I often forget to put them on the page.

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Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I found DARLING ROSE GOLD to be a tale of obsession, revenge, and retaliation. Would you agree with that assessment? And what’s obsessing you nowadays?

Stephanie Wrobel:

Yes! I think those are perfect theme descriptors. Nowadays I’m obsessing about cults: how they get started, who joins them, what commonalities their leaders have. This is all relevant to my second book, which is about a wellness center called Wisewood—located on an island off the coast of Maine—whose inhabitants are exhibiting cult-like behavior. The story is told from three points of view: the leader, a member, and a concerned relative.

Leslie Lindsay:

Stephanie, this has been so enlightening. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have? Like what’s next for you? What’s on your to-do list today? If you have any plans for the summer. Silly dog stories?

Stephanie Wrobel:

I hope by the summer I’ll be close to wrapping up the second book and planning the third. I love this job and am crossing my fingers I’ll get to keep doing it for a long, long time.

As for silly dog stories, when my Cockapoo, Moose, was a puppy he used to get the zoomies all the time. He’d run laps around my small apartment—down the hallway, under the bed, jump up on the couch, back on the floor—and continue doing this for upwards of ten minutes at a time. My husband and I called it “barkour” and I look back on those days fondly.

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

For more information, to connect with Stephanie Wrobel via social media, or to purchase a copy of DARLING ROSE GOLD, please visit:

Order LInks:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~ 

I found some similarities between DARLING ROSE GOLD and GOOD ME BAD ME (Ali Land) meets THE GIRL BEFORE (Rena Olson) with a touch of Elizabeth Little’s DEAR DAUGHTER.

Stephanie Wrobel credit Simon WayABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Stephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has been living in the UK for the last three years with her husband and dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies.

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

I hope you do!

IMG_6816Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, and the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this spring. 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.

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#fiction #mothersdaughters #mentalillness #Munchausens #domesticthriller #debut #alwayswithabook #wednesdayswithwriters #MSBP

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Berkley Publishing and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow @leslielindsay on Instagram]

Searingly Sharp Novel-in-short-stories about scandal, secrets, relationships, a teen pregnancy, IF THE ICE HAD HELD Wendy J. Fox talks about exposing motivations, artful intimacy, writing contests, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A web of intersecting lives–often dysfunctional and unusual–told in a hauntingly intimate prose with insight and empathy.

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~FICTION FRIDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

When this book came to my attention, I knew I had to read it. IF THE ICE HAD HELD (April 2019, winner of the Santa Fe Literary Press Award), is a gorgeously told web of intersecting lives told in a taut, lyrical prose about disillusionments, deceptions, relationships, motherhood, and so much more.

Melanie Henderson is a 35-year old professional living and working in Denver. She dabbles in affairs with married men, but still hasn’t learned that the woman who raised her is actually her aunt. But that’s only the tip of the ice berg.

Told from seven different POVs over three decades, and thirty-seven chapters, Melanie only receives sixteen of them. So who are these other people and how do they fit into Melanie’s narrative? I really enjoyed this structure, but can see how others might find it frustrating and confusing–there are a good deal of threads to maintain and lots of loose connections, at least, at first. But as time progresses, there’s a great sense of engagement, tension, and forward-momentum tying each POV together.

IF THE ICE HAD HELD *is* about teenage pregnancy, but that’s not the entirety. Irene is not quite fifteen when she learns she is ‘with child,’ and then her boyfriend, Sammy, dies crossing the ice. She keeps her pregnancy a secret, attends his funeral, and then…his sister steps in. Kathleen ‘knows’ Irene’s secret. A plan is hatched. We don’t get all of the details of that plan until later in the book, but one can assume.

IF THE ICE HAD HELD is an interconnected novel in stories about time, family, life, secrets and discovery. It does not read linearly, and I find that absolutely astonishing, a true mosaic of storytelling not easily accomplished. Frankly, I am in awe of the empathy, the perceptiveness, the overall insight and careful piecing together of this narrative, an artistic feat.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Wendy J. Fox to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Wendy, wow. I am blown away. IF THE ICE HAD HELD is such a kaleidoscopic telling of so many different lives and how they all interconnect. That’s much like life, I realize. But before we get into all of that, I have to know what was haunting you as you set out to write IF THE ICE HAD HELD.

Wendy J. Fox:

First of all, thank you so much for your kind words. As writers, it’s such a solitary practice, we never know how a book is going to be received once it is out in the world—and often, there can be a year or more between turning in final copy and seeing the book launch, so it can be very fraught.

However, to answer your question—I’ve talked about before how part of what inspired some of the beginning sketches of what became this book was a co-worker of mine who passed away, and I was struck by how much coincidence there is in our lives. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know him, if it weren’t for the randomness of HR, and also, in that same vein, I met my husband when the company he worked for acquired the company I work for; so I guess we have private equity to thank for our relationship, which is weird, to say the least.

What really haunted me, though, which is not something anyone has asked so specifically, is the way that it becomes clearer and clearer to me how much we carry the trauma of our past experiences, carry the trauma of the experiences of the people we love, and are also touched by the trauma of so many people who we just come into contact with, in passing—and also, how deeply we are all connected, even when we feel separated. That last part is something COVID-19 is really putting into relief, right now.

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Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

As in life, and with complex stories, we’re drifting, searching, pulling scraps and fragments from backstory and frontstory; we’re searching and seeking connections. For me, this was the ‘fun’ of reading; I enjoyed puzzling out the details, the motivations of characters. Can you talk a little more about that?

Wendy J. Fox:

That’s one of the hardest things, understanding motivation! I feel like sometimes in life I’ll be talking (okay, gossiping) with a friend about another person, and I find myself saying What! Why would they do that?! In life, you puzzle through it. Maybe you speculate about a friend or an acquaintance, or theorize or psychologize them in some way.

In fiction, at some point, the author has to try to actually expose the motivation of a character, but hopefully do it in a way that is more artful than just being expository—but the author, as the architect of the character’s life, has a responsibility to give the readers some clues along the way. Even if I, as the writer, am on my own journey of discovering character motivations, part of the challenge is to surface detail or, yes, backstory, in order to keep the reader in the loop and not have the reader feel lost or isolated or thinking Why would they do that?!


If the Ice Had Held, at its heart a story about second chances, is both haunting and luminous. Fox has crafted an intricate mosaic shimmering with gorgeous prose.”

– Heather Bell Adams, author of Maranatha Road


 Leslie Lindsay:

Backing up a bit…IF THE ICE HAD HELD is the 2017 winning story from the Santa Fe Writer’s Project judged by Benjamin Percy. Can you talk about what that means, exactly? I’m thinking there was a call for submissions to a short story contest, you entered and won. What’s that process like? Did you have a complete manuscript at that time? And what advice would you give to writers wishing to submit to contests? Does it matter who is judging? What if their writing isn’t like your own?

Wendy J. Fox:

Santa Fe Writers Project is a small press, meaning, they are part of the traditional publishing ecosystem that is outside of Big 5 publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, plus all of their many imprints). Many small presses operate on a contest model in order to manage the submission process. So, there will be a contest call, often with a well-known judge, and this essentially functions as a way for these presses to get a pile of submissions, and then have a concrete timeline to select manuscripts that the press wants to publish, with the winner selected by the judge.

My debut collection was also published this way, from Press 53, a publisher who specializes only in short fiction and poetry.

For writers who are interested in this route, yes, you do need to have a completed manuscript ready to go. You’ll still go through an editing process, and you’ll still have a chance to do some re-writes, but I would say the manuscript needs to be around 90% there to consider submitting, about the same as you would do when seeking an agent. Again, that doesn’t mean there will not be changes—I rewrote the entire opening of IF THE ICE HAD HELD, and we had some conversations about the ending as well.

In terms of contests and judges, I don’t think it matters that much if the judge has a similar style to yours or not! The vast majority of working writers read very widely. As someone who has judged a few small things myself, I definitely lean toward a certain kind of emotional resonance, but that doesn’t mean the style has to be even remotely similar to how I personally write.

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Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I love the meandering, spiraling narrative you took in IF THE ICE HAD HELD. Did you feel limited by that construct? Freed? Did you ever write yourself into a corners? Want to give up?

Wendy J. Fox:

In a novel, there feels like a point of no return for me, when I get committed enough to the story that I know I am going to see it through, even if that means many many many rewrites.

With ICE, it was more a structural question. I felt like the premise of the novel was working okay, but it was the order of the telling that took the most time. I ripped it apart and put it back together more than once over a period of several years.

That said, I feel like there is also almost always a point where it feels like one wants to give up. I’m working on a novel right now that has been, well, challenging, and I’ve rewritten the first ten pages way too many times, but just recently feel like I had a breakthrough on it. So, maybe I have rewritten the correct amount of times? Maybe I will feel differently in a week?

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s an astonishing sense of urgency and intimacy in IF THE ICE HAD HELD. I know that so much of writing is based on a kernel of truth, a segment of the author’s life. I think that’s what makes it so authentic. Can you talk about that, please? And what if you the writer want to share pieces of your family history in the form of fiction, but worry how they might respond?

Wendy J. Fox:

My work is definitely fiction, but yes, is also definitely informed by my own life. While I would not say that Melanie, one of the main characters in ICE is based on me, personally, many of the experiences that she has in corporate America draw heavily on my own—mostly the dreariness of office life, and the oddness of a world that populated by people chosen by HR.

It’s an important question about fiction, I think. If the writer wants to share pieces of family history in the form of fiction and are worried about how family might respond, that might mean that the writer has not fictionalized enough. I will say, though, that my mom, after reading the book, told me that she saw echoes of herself in one of the characters. The Kathleen character is certainly not my mother, and I don’t think anyone who didn’t know either of us super well would recognize certain details, it is still a thing to consider.

While I do embrace the personal in my writing, I think as writers we just have to be honest about what we are doing—if you want to write a roman à clef, just do that, and call it what it is. If you want to write a fictionalized autobiography, that works too. The very first piece writing I published was meant to be fiction, and the editor called me and said, “Rewrite this in the first person. It’s not fiction.” He was correct about that. I had been trying to fictionalize to create distance in what was a traumatic scene in my life. That’s not the reason to fictionalize. The distance was not helping the piece at all.

ICE is about intimacy and I appreciate that you felt a sense of urgency there—intimacy and empathy do feel like the most compelling things to me both as a writer and a human.

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Photo by Dhyamis Kleber on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Without answering in complete sentences, what would you say IF THE ICE HAD HELD is about?

Wendy J. Fox:

Family.

Connection.

How we are all bound together.

Leslie Lindsay:

My editor says we should always have questions and curiosities to explore in our writing. Did you find resolve in IF THE ICE HAD HELD? 

Wendy J. Fox:

Oh, this makes me love your editor.

I think I did find some resolve. For as much as ICE is a novel that explores trauma and loss, it is ultimately about the ways we discover how to love one another.

Leslie Lindsay:

Wendy, I have enjoyed this—and the book—so much. Thank you, thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Wendy J. Fox:

Thank you, Leslie! And thank you for your careful reading.

As I said when we began, one never knows how the work will be received, and it’s also such a thrill to interact with readers who get the fundamental premise of a book. As writers, we don’t get to know how readers are going to respond until it is out there, and at that point, the writer can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

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Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow and like onInstagram@leslielindsay1

For more information, to connect with Wendy J. Fox via social media, or to purchase a copy of IF THE ICE HAD HELD, please visit:

Order LInks:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

The writing in IF THE ICE HAD HELD is lush but sparse, reminding me a bit of Caroline Leavitt’s prose, but also Carrianne Leung (THAT TIME I LOVED YOU), meets Lee Matalone (HOME MAKING), with a touch of Thomas Christopher Greene and Anita Shreve.

headshotABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Wendy J. Fox is the author of the collection The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories and the novels The Pull of It and If the Ice Had Held. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The RumpusBusiness InsiderBuzzfeed, and Self, as well as in literary magazines including Washington SquareEuphony, and Painted Bride Quarterly. More at www.wendyjfox.com.

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

I Hope you do!

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image1 (5)

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

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

Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus–how are we coping? And isn’t it interesting that we often revert to our ‘old ways?’ Here, I talk about my daughters’ art, homes, isolation, and more

By Leslie Lindsay 

I’m a sucker for houses and homes and architecture. As a child, I grew up with an interior decorator mother. I watched as she made her own patterns, designed draperies, throw pillows, bed skirts, even the canopy to my bed.

For me, though, the passion found it’s way into interiors–the structure of a place–the lines, the shape, colors, patterns, and placement of furnishings, accessories, etc. It became a way for me to contain and understand my mother’s erratic moods and behaviors. Most of the time, especially when I was younger, she was fairly balanced. When I was ten, she devolved into psychosis, never to be the same. It was at this juncture in my life, that I leaned on art and architecture as a coping mechanism. I began sketching children’s spaces at an early age. Alcoves. Study spaces. Book nooks. Play rooms. This morphed into floor plans of traditional two-story homes, ones I created model names for (The Oakwood, for example was my signature model, but there were others, too). All throughout high school, I escaped into this tidy world of straight lines and pencils, images of structures blossoming in my mind’s eye. For awhile, I thought I’d be an architect. But math terrified me.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

More than thirty years later, I am still enraptured with architecture and design. And so, too apparently, are my young teenagers. This piece, a parenting essay I wrote, appears in Motherwell’s “Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus,” but I thought I’d share it with you, too. I encourage you to pop over to their website. If you have a story, a list, a reflection, journal entry, submit it. Comment and engage with the other stories. You may glean a little something in this troubling time. There is comfort in art and storytelling.

PARENTING IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS:

MODEL HOMES

by Leslie Lindsay

On a Friday afternoon, I pick up my high school daughter from track practice. She is flush with palpable energy, radiating youth and vigor. “Mom,” she says climbing into the car, “I wanted a break from this endless cycle of school and track, and sleep, but not like this.”

 I nod. I know.

“Some of the girls from my team were in tears, the seniors mostly,” she continues, “Their last track season is being cut short; it’s a big deal.”

It’s Friday-the-thirteenth, a historically auspicious date. Ladders and black cats, full moons, and now, the start of a national pandemic as Covid-19 sweeps the nation. Our governor released a statement earlier in the day indicating no gatherings of one thousand or more. He highly encouraged no more than two-hundred-and-fifty individuals congregating in one location. School is out, indefinitely. We had just moved our clocks forward, allowing more daylight to pierce the sky, lengthening our days, a sure sign that the dread, the bleakness of winter, was coming to a halt.

Also, in the car, is my youngest daughter, a seventh grader. She says, “Can we do something about this? I want to make a poster.”

And I think: a poster? The Face of Corona?

“I want to make a list,” she continues.  “Of all the things we can do while we’re at home.”

I nod, thinking this a good, proactive thing to do in a time of unease.

“I want to write big,” she says.

This speaks to self-efficacy, to being a leader, a helper; that she has something to say. There’s a bit of altruism here, because she rattles off some ideas like bake cookies and give to friends and play the guitar for us.

“And models, mom!” says my oldest daughter.

“Models?” I immediately visualize the violating sphere we’ve all seen on media outlets, the one that burrows into our DNA if inhaled and causes fatal symptoms. I think of a golf ball spiked with tiny golf tees, a ring of darkness encircling the mass. I imagine purchasing foam balls and golf tees. “You want to make a model of the coronavirus?” I say?

“No, no,” they laugh.

I’m driving, cautious. Traffic is dense. Pinched, worried drivers grip steering wheels. The suburbs swell with tension. “What then?” I ask.

“Houses,” they say. “We want to make models of homes, like we did at Architecture Camp that one summer.”

“Okay,” I say.

“So we need stuff. Foam core and popsicle sticks. A ton of glue.”

Quickly, I make a few adjustments to my route. At the craft store, the girls map out what they need: transparent sheets for windows, balsa wood, reflective paper for a faux-stainless steel look, small plants for creating landscapes, fabric remnants for tiny pillows, curtains, sofa cushions, pipe cleaners for curtain rods and spiral staircases. They spend eighty bucks, splitting it between the two of them. My youngest daughter says, “No more. I’m going to go broke building this house.”

There’s something tender and innocent about this—it’s the pulse of human experience, the peculiar off-edges of a collective panic that have touched us all. And is it ironic that we are constructing miniature shelters while we are quarantined?

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

At the craft store, I cough. The store manager raises an eyebrow.

The next day, the girls spend five hours cutting foam core. They glue hundreds of popsicle sticks to the floor of their models, then sand and paint. Viola—wood floor!

My youngest daughter says, “I’m going to make window boxes and fill them with pretty flowers.” She does. She makes French doors she likens to a jail cell. She wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Now, two days into the pandemic, our governor has ordered no gatherings of more than fifty people, preferably only ten.

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Meanwhile, my husband and I scroll our phones, seeking updates, safety measures. We work from home. We formulate schedules and rules for keeping everyone, including a lumbering basset hound, on track. We know we need a sense of purpose in this uncertain time, a sense of normalcy. He devises the “Family Decathlon Challenge,” a five-day event, each day filled with two ‘contests’ we compete in as a family. The first day is a 50-yard sprint and a game of Googly Eyes. Track girl wins the sprint, no surprise. My husband can barely breathe, stopping before he reaches the finish line.

“Shortness of breath is a symptom of Corona,” our seventh grader says.

“It’s also a symptom of being middle-aged,” he huffs.

The next day is a Frisbee-throwing contest and Uno.

A memory matching game along with a Foosball tournament was our most recent family challenge. We’re not done yet, because like early parenthood, these days pass in a blur; the days are long, but the weeks are short. We don’t know who will come in first place and win the fifty-dollar gift card we promised. The girls are both thinking it’ll be them.

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Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Back to the houses they go. Constructing, painting, discussing. Eight days since the first announcement, the governor signs an order for ‘Shelter in Place.’ We cannot leave our residences with the exception to walk dogs, shop for food, or pick up medication from the pharmacy.

At dusk, I walk our basset hound. I receive texts from my oldest daughter: “Raspberry-colored walls or deep teal?” She sends images of paint swatches.

From my walk, I spot houses lit up from inside, yellow lights emanating from darkened windows, the movement of life, the flicker of a television.

“Raspberry,” I text back. “You already have green in the bathroom. Teal is too similar.”

A boy and his dog are in their front yard. The dog waggles his tail, giddy for interaction. I wave. I cannot stop and rub that dog behind his ears, which pains me. From a distance, along the trail that loops behind, I snap an artistic photo of that house, its majestic backside reflected in a nearby pond, the lights from within skimming the surface of the water.  I find it comforting, nurturing, even, that our neighbors are home, in the confines of their shelter while we create own miniature eternities.

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YOU CAN CONNECT WITH ME, LESLIE LINDSAY, VIA THESE WEBSITES:

I HOPE YOU DO!

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

~Updated, 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon!~

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#modelhomes #homes #models #art #artinthetimeofcorona #Covid19 #architecture #design #parenting #children #tweens #teens

Join me every Wednesday for book spotlights & author Q&As

~Wednesdays with Writers|Always with a Book~

Look under “Today’s Interview.” 

Essential Reading? I think THE YELLOW HOUSE by Sarah M. Broom just might be. Displacement, rootedness, home and more in her astonishing story of survival

By Leslie Lindsay 

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~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK: SPOTLIGHT~

2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER
2019 JOHN LEONARD AWARD FOR BEST FIRST BOOK RECIPIENT
&
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

I read THE YELLOW HOUSE (Grove/Atlantic, August 2019) with an eye toward memoir and a personal connection to one’s home, but this book is so much more than a memoir. It’s an examination of race and class, about the pull of home and family, and destruction. Set in a neglected area of New Orleans, the Yellow House was never much of a house in the first place–even before Katrina. But that’s not the point.

In 1961, Sarah’s mother, Ivory Mae was a determined 19-year old widow. She invests her savings and little inheritance from her first husband into a little shotgun house in a once-promising neighborhood. She meets another man–Simon Broom–who will become the father of the author–but not for many years–and then he, too dies just six months after she is born.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Broom takes the tale of this home and interweaves it with narrative non-fiction, investigative journalism, archival research, and geography, telling the story not just of her mother’s struggle, but also the history of the home, it’s entropy, the family, those tiny pieces of life and love and struggle that make up a whole. It’s about pride, clan, tradition, and more.

Named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review

Named one of the “10 Best Books of 2019” by the New York Times Book Review, Seattle Times, Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Tribune, and Slate

I found THE YELLOW HOUSE to be an eye-opening examination of place, race, identity, inequality, and even shame. Yet, under the shambles of disarray and heartache, lie a tenacity, a hope for future generations, for transformation.

Keep in mind, THE YELLOW HOUSE reads a little more than a ‘memoir,’ and might strike as as study in sociology, reportage, and history. For this reason, I would venture is the reason it has won so many awards. If you’re looking for a more intimate portrayal of memoir with deep introspection and lyrical writing, this might not be the book for you. Yet, some of these sentences simply sing.

Named a Best Book of 2019 by the Washington Post, NPR’s Book Concierge, NPR’s Fresh Air, the Guardian, BookPage, New York Public Library, and Shelf Awareness

Named a Best Memoir of the Decade by LitHub

I found myself struck by the stories of familial connections, the multigenerational aspect of homes and poverty, secrets, and parentage. Here’s what THE YELLOW HOUSE did for me: a rabbit-hole of research. I wanted to know more about ‘my people,’ who they were, where they originated. I wanted to to unearth the foundations of their homes–no longer standing–in rural Kentucky, in Southern Missouri. I found trends and patterns in migration, in family-making, in blended families, life, and death. That’s what this book has the potential to do.


“Gorgeously written, intimate and wise, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House is an astonishing memoir of family, love, and survival. It’s also a history of New Orleans unlike any we’ve seen before, one that should be required reading.”

―Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up


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

For more information, to connect with Sarah Broom via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE YELLOW HOUSE, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

In terms of Hurricane Katrina, I found some similarities between THE YELLOW HOUSE  and AFTERMATH LOUNGE (Margaret McMullan). You might also like Jacqueline Woodson’s RED AT THE BONE and Tola Rotimi Abraham’s  BLACK SUNDAY.

91aHKxc+A5L._US230_ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Sarah M. Broom is a writer whose work has appeared in the New YorkerThe New York Times MagazineThe Oxford American, and O, The Oprah Magazine among others. A native New Orleanian, she received her Masters in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. She was awarded a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant in 2016 and was a finalist for the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction in 2011. She has also been awarded fellowships at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in New York state.

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

I hope you do!

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

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#memoir #housesandhomes #TheYellowHouse #SoutheasternAmerica #NOLA #NewOrleans #HurricaneKatrina #mothersandchildren #largefamilies #displacement #uprootedness 

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 2.20.20. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this]. 

Erica Bauermeister, author of THE SCENT KEEPER turns to memoir in her fascinating exploration of renovating a 1909 Foursquare in HOUSE LESSONS, plus art, writing, empty-nests, and more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A meditation of space, home, and what it means to be a mother, a wife, and a writer in this transformative memoir.

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~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Can a home be cathartic? I think so. Can a home teach us life lessons? Absolutely!

I know we’re not supposed to fall in love with a book based on its cover but O.M.G.! And the title: HOUSE LESSONS: Renovating a Life (Sasquatch Books, March 24 2020)…AND it’s a memoir? Sold.

Erica Bauermeister is the author of mostly recently THE SCENT KEEPER, but has written other books, too. HOUSE LESSONS is her first memoir. This is a tale of love and family, hope and potential, all arising quite literally from a pile of junk. The 1909 American Four Square sat in eccentric Port Townsend, WAnot even for sale with the author and her husband stumbled upon it and knew it was ‘the one.’

Previously owned by a hoarder, Bauermeister and her family go about purchasing the home and cleaning it out, rebuilding the foundation, and renovating the interior spaces. It’s about finding potential in the physical and metaphorical walls of our homes, about marriage and family, roots.

Told in a mesmerizing memoir-in-essays, and braided with practical and
psychological information about houses, homes, design, room placement, and more, I thoroughly enjoyed the literary exploration of architecture and interiors. Bauermeister’s style is easy, lyrical and flow-y, much like her fiction. I loved the connections between myth, folklore, superstitions, history, and construction of a home. Also, the interior art/sketches and quotes were my heart. The fact that Bauermeister was a former Realtor also endeared me to the story.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Erica Bauermeister to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Erica, so glad you could join us! This book has my heart in so many ways. We once lived in a 1920s two-story Colonial I adored. Next door, an American four-square. There’s something special about old houses, and so I think this might have been your jumping off point for delving into this story, but maybe not? Can you tell us what inspired you? And why now?

Erica Bauermeister:

I love old houses, always have.  I don’t know if it’s the details that you rarely see in new construction these days, or the stories they hold, or the need they so often have to be taken care of.  What I do know is that it is deeply satisfying to bring a house back to life.  I have to admit, we chose one heck of a project when we bought a house with a rotten foundation, roof, windows, electrical and plumbing systems.  Add to that the 7.5 tons of trash and I have to wonder what we were thinking.  It sure is beautiful now, though.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I completely appreciate how you liken the process of renovating a house to renovating a life; the implication is that both are cathartic. Can you talk about that a bit, please?

Erica Bauermeister:

A renovation means to work with the design of the original house, as well as the current owners’ needs, and come up with a solution that is seamless, and satisfying to both. When you apply that concept to a life or a marriage, it means to respect the original design, while also addressing changes that need to happen.  It means looking closely, listening carefully, and approaching the process with respect. That’s my kind of catharsis. It’s quieter than the sledgehammering kind of catharsis – which I highly recommend also.

Leslie Lindsay:

I love, love the side-notes about homes and design, construction and architecture peppered throughout HOUSE LESSONS. It reads a bit like narrative non-fiction and brings a new layer to the traditional memoir. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

Erica Bauermeister:

It was.  I wrote this memoir 3 or 4 times over the years – I’ve honestly lost track.  The first few times it was a straight, chronological memoir.  But as the years went on, I realized that even more than the stories, what I was really interested in was the theoretical and psychological aspects that ran like an undercurrent throughout the experience.  I wanted to dive deeper, explore the events in a more universal light.  My friend Jennie Shortridge said:

“why don’t you write the book as essays?”

and suddenly everything clicked.  I loved the idea of each essay/chapter exploring not only an event, but the larger context that framed it. And I loved the idea of making each chapter its own beautiful and self-contained thing that would still read like a narrative story when they were all put together.

Leslie Lindsay:

One of the sections I flagged in HOUSE LESSONS was the concept of genius of loci—I’m paraphrasing here—but what I think it means is: there’s a place we feel most comfortable (geographically) in the world and when we’re there, we just ‘know.’ For you, it was Port Townsend. For me, it was NOT Minnesota. Haha. Can you tell us more about this genius of loci concept?

Erica Bauermeister:

Genius loci is the spirit of a place – and I’m a firm believer that we connect, or don’t, with that spirit. Flying over Seattle for the first time, I knew in my soul that I belonged in the Pacific Northwest. And that was true even though I’d grown up in California, far away from evergreens and cold saltwater and rain.  What makes that moment of recognition happen?  I think it’s the magic that happens when all the favorite bits and pieces of our lives — experiences, memories, books, movies, relationships, colors, smells, you name it — connect with a place that meets so many of those needs.


“Bauermeister’s tale of architectural renovation is a window into the nuanced connection between our human lives and our physical dwellings—a relationship that is poetic, visceral, familial, sometimes irrational, and always grounded in love.” 

–Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Mozart’s Starling and Crow Planet


Leslie Lindsay:

The house in Port Townsend…it became your refuge in a way, starting first as a place you’d retreat from kids and managing the day-to-day of a household to collaborate with builders and contractors on the renovation and then, it became your sanctuary for creation with the addition of your writing shed. I like how art and writing return us to ourselves, to our eternal home. Can you expand on that?

Erica Bauermeister:

One of the things I enjoyed about writing HOUSE LESSONS many years after the events occurred was the way that distance allowed me to understand the narrative arc of my life. It wasn’t until I was looking back that I realized how important the art of renovation was to me during that time when my kids were needing me less and I was wondering who I was. The renovation gave me a chance to engage my mind creatively, philosophically, theoretically.  I loved it.  And then later, after the kids were fledged, the house gave me a place to really come into myself as a writer.  I called it the emptiest of nests, where anything could happen.  And it did.

We have a cultural myth of the mother who gives up everything for her children.  What the house in Port Townsend taught me is that I am a better mother when I am also an individual and a writer.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Speaking of writing, how did—or does—the process differ for you writing fiction versus nonfiction/memoir? What did you hope to gain? And what might you offer those who might like to shift genres from time to time?

Erica Bauermeister:

I originally wrote memoirs – about being a young mother, about living in Italy, about renovating the house — but they were all rejected. I was told they weren’t personal enough or didn’t have enough perspective.  When I turned to fiction, readers often remarked how personal my writing was, which I found funny in an ironic kind of way.  But somehow, writing about other people allowed me to go places I couldn’t or wouldn’t go as myself.  I didn’t write about my life specifically, and yet I learned so much about it through writing fiction.

When I returned to memoir to re-envision HOUSE LESSONS, I came with a willingness to dive deep that I’d learned through fiction.  And I also came with perspective, as the events I wrote about had happened almost twenty years earlier.  Both those things made a huge difference.

I think it’s great to shift back and forth between genres – and I’d throw in poetry, and research for that matter.  It’s good to shake things up and look at your topic from another perspective.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I love the idea of hiding things in walls. There’s a very poignant scene in HOUSE LESSONS where you talk about the history or hiding objects, photos, letters in the walls of the house. What will future generations/renovators find in the Port Townsend house?

Erica Bauermeister:

There’s a story I tell in HOUSE LESSONS, about a time when we were waiting to get our roof replaced.  No other progress could happen until we had the roof, and we waited and waited for weeks.  Finally, one day I found myself alone in the house and I just said out loud: “what do you want?” And then I remembered I had promised the house I’d put something in the wall for future owners to find.  So I went home to Seattle and got photos of everywhere our family had lived and been happy and I put them in an envelope with a note for whoever found it.

The roofers showed up the next day.

I like the idea of someone, someday, many decades from now, finding what we left.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Erica, this has been so fascinating. Thank you, thank you for taking the time. What might I have forgotten to ask? For example, what three things can you not stop talking about?

Erica Bauermeister:

Three things I can’t stop talking about:

  • Little America on Apple Streaming. Beautiful vignettes of immigrants’ lives in America, taken from real life. Hopeful and empowered stories, with great plotlines. Written and directed by a wide range of people of all different colors and ethnicities. This is what television can look like.
  • Reese’s Book Club. Okay, not just because it changed my professional life when Reese chose The Scent Keeper for her club.  But more important than that, I am impressed and delighted that she has chosen to use her celebrity to highlight other women’s stories. She is sharing her power with women authors and bringing interesting female characters into film.  She is proof that women do not have to wait for someone to open a door. We can make doors ourselves.
  • My granddaughter. Because, granddaughters.

 

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Artistic image of book covered designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1

For more information, to connect with Erica Bauermeister via social media, or to purchase a copy of HOUSE LESSONS, please visit:

Order LInks:

Erica Bauermeister by Susan Doupe_PERMISSION FORM NOT NEEDEDABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of four novels: The School of Essential IngredientsJoy for BeginnersThe Lost Art of Mixing, and The Scent Keeper, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington and has taught there and at Antioch University. With the exception of two years in Italy, Bauermeister has lived in the Pacific Northwest for nearly four decades, and her children proudly say rainwater runs in their veins. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington, in the house she renovated with her family.

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

I hope you do!

IMG_6816Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, and the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this spring. 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 Spring from Woodbine House~

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#memoir #houses #homes #renovation #remodeling #oldhomes #PortTownsend #art #writing #alwayswithabook #Wednesdayswithwriters

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Sasquatch Books. Artistic image of book covered designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1]

Therese Anne Fowler’s stunning new fiction, A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD, will leave you breathless, questioning everything–it’s a must read.

By Leslie Lindsay

Hugely gripping contemporary novel that examines the American dream through the lens of two families living side-by-side in an idyllic neighborhood, but that summer their lives change irrevocably.

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~WeekEND Reading SPOTLIGHT!| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Five GIANT stars to A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin’s Press, March 10 2020). I cannot say enough about this book. It’s emotional, it’s timely, it’s affecting, it’s thought-provoking, it’s urgent. Read this book, you won’t regret it.

Here’s what drew me: Neighbors, neighborhoods, trees, houses, families. Suburbia.

But there’s so much more to this story. So much. Don’t take my word for it.

Jodi Piccoult says this of A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD:

“Therese Anne Fowler has taken the ingredients of racism, justice, and conservative religion and concocted a feast of a read: compelling, heartbreaking, and inevitable. I finished A Good Neighborhood in a single sitting. Yes, it’s that good.”

And if that’s not enough, Kirkus gives it a starred review and Library Journal does, too. Many others are calling it ‘speechless,’ and ‘powerful,’ a ‘tour de force.’

Oak Knoll is a leafy, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood of modest homes. Valerie Alston-Holt is a professor of ecology and forestry raising her biracial son, Xavier, who is headed to college in the fall on a partial classical guitar scholarship. A new family has moved in–their backyard meets up with the Alton-Holt’s–and this family, the Whitmans, is ‘new money.’ In fact, they torn down the original home on the lot, and rebuilt their one McMansion, complete with large, in-ground pool, affecting the root system of the Alton-Holt’s prized 75-foot oak tree.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Brad Whitman is a small town celebrity-having created and patented a piece for HVAC systems, his charismatic, charming, and usually gets what he wants. His wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the magic of marriage and homemaking, but her backstory is rough, and we learn she’s rife with demons and emotions of her own.

A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD is about so many things–this is truly a multilayered tale that will have you questioning all you ever thought you knew about people, circumstances, the law, everything. Everyone in A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD has opinions, beliefs, stereotypes, assumptions, backstories, emotions–each character is so wholly and authentically formed. There are many ‘gray zones’ here, too–you’ll find yourself not knowing how you’d react to a situation–what’s right, what’s wrong, what would your neighbor do, what would you *want* done, and so much more.

I loved this book. I can’t stop thinking about it. There’s racism, justice, heartbreak, legal snafus, parenting dilemmas, ecology concerns, and darn good writing. Read this book.


I just finished. And I’m completely speechless. This story is incredible and powerful and has one of the all-time greatest final paragraphs.”

Kristen Pidgeon, Riverstone Books


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BOOK CONCIERGE: 

You may find some similarities between A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD and LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE (Celeste Ng) meets Jodi Picoult’s SMALL GREAT THINGS but also AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE (Tayari Jones) with a touch of Tom Perrotta’s LITTLE CHILDREN and Barbara Kingslover’s UNSHELTERED.

LEARN MORE: 

Read this Shelf Awareness interview with Therese Anne Fowler for more insight.

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For more information, to connect with Therese Anne Fowler via social media, or to purchase a copy of A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD, please see:

ORDER LINKS: 

img_3057 (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Therese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author whose novels present intriguing people in difficult situations, many of those situations deriving from the pressures and expectations of their cultures as well as from their families.

Her books are available in every format and in multiple languages, and are sold around the world. Z has been adapted for television by Amazon Studios. A Well-Behaved Woman is in development with Sony Pictures Television.

Therese earned a BA in sociology and cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing, both from North Carolina State University. She has been a visiting professor and occasionally teaches fiction writing at conferences and workshops. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and PEN America, she is married to award-winning professor and author John Kessel. They reside in North Carolina.

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

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#fiction #literaryfiction #racerelations #justice #ecology #suburbia #trees #neighbors 

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Author photo credit: John Kessel. Artistic photo of book covered designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Gimme a follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1]

 

Lee Matalone on her razor-sharp, elegant debut, HOME MAKING, about identity, belonging, mother-daughter relationships, her love of architecture, how she never intended to write a novel, and the importance of the line

By Leslie Lindsay 

An elegant, perceptive, yet powerful debut about what it means to belong, to search for self within the constructs of a home.

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~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~


HOME MAKING: A Novel by Lee Matalone
(HarperPerennial, Feb 18 2020) is such an intangible kind of read–it’s not fully a novel, not fully a memoir, but somewhere between. And I really loved this hybrid-like approach. It’s told in first person and doesn’t exactly follow the traditional arc of fiction, but it more meditative, quiet, introspective like one might expect of a memoir. Having said all that, this is a work of fiction (of course, like all good fiction, it’s often mined from the ‘real-life’ of the author’s experiences).

The story starts off with a Japanese woman who runs away with a French man, becomes pregnant, then puts the baby up for adoption.That baby is adopted by an American family leaves Japan, and is raised with her adoptive family in Tucson, ArizonaThis little girl (Cybil) grows up to become an ob/gyn, delivering babies while her own, a daughter (Chloe), is raised by her in combination with au pairs. The pace is relentless is the first quarter or so of the book, and told with a smart, razor-edge prose that is at once elegant and jarring. There are plenty of references to homes and design and architecture–esoteric quotes and notations–which I loved, but others may find distracting (I’m a super-nerd when it comes to design and architecture).

Now, Chloe is all grown up, living on her own in the hills of Virginia. She’s struggling–at times (simultaneously?) empowered, grief-stricken, healing. Her marriage is over and her estranged husband is dying of cancer. Can a woman live alone in a new-to-her house with a dog? Of course. Room by room, Chloe makes her new house into a home, painting walls, selecting furnishings, thinking about her ex-husband. And her friend, Beau is there to help. But he has a history–and struggles–of his own.

Ultimately, HOME MAKING is focused on powerful reflections on identity, motherhood, mother-daughter relationships, belonging, and searching for home within one’s self. Some of the turns of phrase are so lucid, so gorgeous, I ached to work on my own writing.

In the end, Chloe finds solace in the home, that in finding herself, the carefully curated exterior seems to flounder; she was no longer driven to make everything inside (the house) perfect, she relinquished control.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Lee Matalone to the author interview series: 

Leslie Lindsay: 

Lee, welcome! So thrilled to chat with you about your debut. I always feel we are haunted into writing a certain story; that there’s a whisper or a coaxing of someone—or something—urging us to write. What was it for you in HOME MAKING?

Lee Matalone: 

There were a confluence of interests or hauntings that led me to write the book. One of those is this feeling that we— people in general— are expected to conform to stringent definitions of identity. I believe there is a pressure, at least within American society, to rally around a singular, distinct flag pertaining to origin or gender or race. As someone with a mixed race heritage, that expectation has always felt really impossible to me. That pressure can be crippling when it comes to feeling ‘at home’ in the world. That anxiety comes up in the book, certainly.

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

I read a piece recently you wrote in LitHub about how there’s a fine line between writing about family and memory and fiction, that sometimes it appears they meld together. HOME MAKING is very meditative and introspective. In many ways, it reads like a memoir, but is not. Can you talk about that, please? I think this also speaks to structure, too. Could you have written this as a memoir?

Lee Matalone: 

I could not have written this as a memoir because most of the book is not based in reality. While there are some parallels between my own life and the lives in the novel, most events, scenes and even characters I’ve invented wholecloth

However, I will say that in writing the book I wanted to achieve the same level of intimacy that you often find in memoir or autofiction. That’s also why the book is primarily in the first person. I wanted that force of intimacy you get in those types of writings.

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s a bit of mysteriousness and intrigue to the particular reading experience in HOME MAKING, almost a buoyant dream-like construct, sort of stream-of-consciousness. What is your process like? Are you plotter? Do you follow the pen? Can you give a little sense of the timeline for HOME MAKING? 

Lee Matalone: 

I am definitely not a plotter. I wander toward a narrative. In regards to HOME MAKING, specifically, the book was sort of an accident. Five or six years ago, I had written a novella-length precursor to the “Chloe” sections that I eventually scrapped. It was kind of a warm up for HOME MAKING. Then one morning I sat down and wrote what is essentially the opening of the novel at my kitchen table. After further tinkering I realized that this new section and that novella were part of the same narrative, and that they needed to be developed into one singular story. I realized I had a much more nuanced narrative on my hands that required more pages. I never intended to write a novel.

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Leslie Lindsay: 

I completely geeked-out over the architecture and design references in HOME MAKING. I’ve loved houses and homes for nearly as long as I can remember. In fact, I once thought about being an architect, but math terrified me. Was it this way for you, too?

Lee Matalone: 

Only in recent years have I realized that I should have maybe gone to architecture school. Being an architect was never something I thought real people did. But I was always interested in organizing domestic spaces— I am an obsessive cleaner and hunter of home treasures— and before and while I was writing this book I was reading a lot of design and architecture books— Le Corbusier and Tanizaki, for example. The novel was a way for me to explore these interests in a coherent way.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Shifting to motherhood…I felt your pieces of new motherhood were so astute, so palpable. Those early, healing days, that exhaustion. And there’s a strong passage toward the end of HOME MAKING where you say, 

“You feel yourself becoming her [the baby]…maybe that’s why it’s easy to call women crazy, bipolar, mad, split personalities. We are carrying two people inside us at once.” 

That’s so powerful. Can you talk about that, please?

Lee Matalone:

I do not have children but my mother is an OBGYN and so I feel like I have a sort of intimate understanding of it, in a way. One thing she’s said that has stuck with me, a factoid that appears in the book, is that when a woman carries a child, some of the baby’s fetal cells can travel up from the uterus and into the mother’s brain. In other words a biological mother is always connected to her child, physically, literally, even after she gives birth. I think that is such a beautiful metaphor for the relationship between mother and child that speaks to the inextricable nature of that bond.

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Leslie Lindsay: 

You’re a professor of creative writing. What might you want to impart to your students in their writing? How can they continue to ‘sharpen the saw?’ And how do you balance your own craft with the administrative pieces of writing and teaching? 

Lee Matalone: 

As a creative writing instructor, I always try to emphasize the importance of the line. In many creative writing courses I’ve taken, as a younger student and an older one, elements of craft such as character and plot and setting were emphasized, but rarely was the necessity and urgency of the sentence, the word, stressed. That seems problematic to me. To me, the sentence should be the site of conflict. If your sentences aren’t expressing that urgency, that angst, then you are not going to get your characters to express that same level of conflict. 

Like many other writers, I am easily distracted, so it is easy for me to do anything but write. But generally speaking, I feel that teaching is a gift that allows me to talk about books and writing with (generally) thoughtful and engaged people for hours every week, so teaching is in no way a hindrance to my creative work. I have plenty of time and energy to write— though of course that does not mean I always sit down and do the work. I can always find an excuse to not write.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Lee, this has been so fascinating and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Lee Matalone:

It’s been lovely answering your questions. I appreciate you taking the opportunity.

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

For more information, to connect with Lee Matalone via social media, or to purchase a copy of HOME MAKING, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I found the style or themes of HOME MAKING reminiscent of GOOD-BYE VITAMIN (Rachel Hong) meets THAT TIME I LOVED YOU (Carrianne Leung), with a touch of Pete Fromm (A JOB YOU MOSTLY WON’T KNOW HOW TO DO) meets Katharine Weber’s STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY. Some pieces of motherhood, particularly that dizzy new-motherhood daze reminiscent of Helen Phillips’s THE NEED.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:IMG_4888 (2)

Lee Matalone is the author of HOME MAKING. She lives in South Carolina where she teaches at Clemson University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I hope you do!

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#fiction #literaryfiction #family #home #homemaking #houses #design #architecture #cancer #marriage #motherhood #motherdaughter #alwayswithabook #authorinterview

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