‘Life is hard, joy is simple,’ Lannette Cornell Bloom talks about her insatiable need to write about her mother, magic in death, and living a mindful life

By Leslie Lindsay 

Simple beauty in the overwhelming task of caring for a dying parent, Lannette Cornell Bloom, RN, renders a gorgeous narrative about living life to the fullest. 

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You will be utterly surprised to learn MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES (September 1 2018) is the author’s first book. Lannette Cornell Bloom was a typical over-worked mother, wife, and school nurse, when she got the call that her mother was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a slow decline in which the lungs gradually fill with scar tissue, in effect, suffocating the person.

After careful consideration, Lannette decides to quit her job to care for her mother and maintain her parent’s home full time. What results is a tender vulnerability filled with unexpected moments, an awakening about her mother, the lessons imparted to Lannette and her sister, and so much more.

Written eloquently in first person, MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES is ultimately a memoir that reads as though it could be a novel. It’s not long and can easily be finished in one sitting. It’s not exactly a how-to-guide for caring for an ill loved one (but it could be used for that), and it’s not strictly a memoir or a book about grief–it’s about living. I felt inspired. I wanted to mine experiences in my own life in which I was shown greater truths behind those events that may seem ‘unfair.’

There’s symbolism, understanding, empathy, and lush prose contained within this slim book, and I am so honored to have Lannette chatting about her book.

Leslie Lindsay:

Lannette, it’s a pleasure! I started MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES and didn’t want to put it down. I got this sense your desire to write was just as compelling. Can you talk about that moment when you knew you just *had* to write this?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

You’re absolutely right, Leslie! As I mention in the “Note to My Readers” at the beginning of my book, I woke up one night—years after my mom had passed—and felt the need to write down my experiences. I couldn’t believe how much I remembered—all the details, things my mom had said, how I felt. It all came pouring out. I had no idea those memories would turn into a book until months later, but I knew I needed to get them onto the page.

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Leslie Lindsay:

You’re a nurse by training (as am I), but MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES isn’t exactly a nursing book, it’s not a how-to [care for an ailing parent], it’s not entirely about grief, but about living. Can you talk a little more about that, please?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

It’s true! Again, when I began writing the book I had no idea what would come of it. As I wrote the memories down, what I found early on was that nearly all of what I remembered was positive. The beautiful moments, the small lessons my mom taught me, the times I found joy where there was seemingly none to be found. And that, I ultimately realized, was what this book was really about:

How do we find the positive side of dying? How do we turn an awful hardship from something to be endured into something to be cherished?


“A relatable, tenderly observed account of the “sacred joy” of tending to the dying.”

Kirkus Reviews


Leslie Lindsay:

I understand you attended the La Jolla Writer’s Institution and took a class in memoir. The instructor said something like, “Great! So you wrote a memoir; are you open to some structural changes?” Can you tell us a little more about that process, your time line and what you found most challenging?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Yes, it was the La Jolla Writer’s Conference. My younger daughter had attended the year before and took a class with a writing coach named Marni Freedman, whom she felt would be a good match for my book. After the conference, I sent Marni my notebook of memories (well, I typed them up first!) and she provided a fresh perspective of what she thought my book could become. We worked together over the next year to dive deeper into the memories, decide which ones were most important to keep, and how to express the changes I went through from the beginning of the process to the end. In essence, she helped me turn my memories into a story.

From that point, I showed the draft to my daughters—who both had amazing feedback—and my younger daughter ended up joining Marni and I in the process of rewriting over the next year. So I really did have an amazing team behind me!

The most challenging part was definitely diving deeper. My daughter would say, “but, Mom, how did this part make you feel.” And that was when I really relived some of those tougher moments. In a way, writing this book was an extension of the healing process that I didn’t know I needed!

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Leslie Lindsay:

You talk about the ‘magical side of death,’ and I’m curious if you could explain that a bit more? Death can hurt. It can seem unfair. It can be a lot of things, but ‘magical’ isn’t always word that comes to mind for most. 

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

You are absolutely right. And that’s what I want this book to accomplish. We are all going to die one day—and almost all of us will experience the death of a parent or other loved one, oftentimes way sooner than we could ever anticipate. So if we don’t have a choice, why dwell in that negative mindset of how unfair it is? That’s not to say to ignore emotions that need to come out. But there’s always joy to be found within a hardship. Whether you do something as simple as brighten your love one’s room with flowers, have a picnic lunch in the park while waiting between hospital visits, ask your loved one a question about his or her childhood, share a silly joke—each and every one of us has the ability to shift our mindset and dive into those precious moments no matter what the situation or how long we have to say goodbye to a loved one. And that, to me, is magical.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Your mother seems like she was such a remarkable woman. Generous, funny, a great cook, and that smile! What do you think she might have to say about this book?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Thank you so much! I keep a picture of her in my kitchen with that big smile so I can still see it everyday. My daughters and I still make her recipes and recite her quotes, my favorite of which is:

“You have to make yourself happy, no matter where you are.”

Which, in some ways, is so fitting to the entire journey of taking care of her and through the process of writing and publishing this book.

I think she would, of course, be proud of me. But, as I mention in the book, my mom was also a very private person. So I think she would also be slightly frazzled by all the details I reveal about her and our family!

Leslie Lindsay:

Finally, your tender, symbolic title, MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES has a much deeper meaning to you. Can you talk about that, please? And if it’s not dragonflies, do you suppose others have had similar experiences…perhaps with birds or ladybugs or some other piece of nature? Do you feel we’re all connected by nature somehow?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Yes it does. Without going into all the details of my book, dragonflies are my reminder to be mindful and, more than that, a reminder of my mom and how the experience of taking care of her changed me. Whenever I see one, I pause and pay attention to the moment, because, more often than not, there is joy to be found there.

I absolutely think others have had similar experiences. Actually, years before my mom got sick, another—much younger—family member passed away suddenly and my family has always associated her with white butterflies. Whenever we see one, we point it out and think fondly of her. The day my mom passed, we saw a yellow butterfly trailing a white butterfly in my parents’ garden and it felt like another message from my mom. So, yes, absolutely, I believe there is so much we can’t know, that we are all a part of nature and so often lose sight of that in our busy lives and modern world. My hope is that this book can inspire others to slow down, to go beneath the surface of what is present to us in our everyday lives and find the simply joys lurking there, just waiting for us to grab hold.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Lannette, it’s been such a pleasure! Thank you for taking the time.

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Thank you, Leslie! It was an absolute pleasure answering your thoughtful questions.

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

Order Links: 

Lannette-Cornell-Bloom-authorABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lannette Cornell Bloom is a speaker, healer and author who is passionate about bringing simple joys to others. As an Registered Nurse and health practitioner of more than 32 years, she has seen firsthand the need to care for others both emotionally and physically.

In her book, Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons For Mindful Dying, she teaches us how to cherish even the simplest moments in life that make emotional healing possible. She brings into focus the fragility of life and the importance of enjoying the simple joys that slip through our fingers if we’re not paying attention – because life may be hard, but joy is simple.

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

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#mothersanddaughters #bereavment #sandwichgeneration #death #nurses #memoir

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website in conjunction with PRbytheBook.]

Phenom skiier, a terrible accident, murder, motherhood, mental illness, and so much more in this chilling tale of domestic suspense~JT Ellison on TEAR ME APART

By Leslie Lindsay 

Dark domestic suspense meets police procedural in this unique read encompassing genetics, secrets, lies, and so much more in TEAR ME APART.

Join me in conversation with J.T. as she talks about the stigma of mental illness lifting, how she’s been haunted by the book for awhile now, the fact that writer’s block is your story’s way of saying something’s not working and so much more.

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How far would a loving mother go to protect her superstar daughter? Mindy Wright is seventeen years old and a spectacular downhill skier in Vail, Colorado. She’s vying for a position in the U.S. Olympic team when a horrible crash sends her to the hospital with a broken leg requiring surgery. During the pre-op blood work, doctors discover she is suffering from a severe form of leukemia. Only a stem cell transplant will save her. But no one in her immediate family is a genetic match.

How could that be? 

Told from multiple POVs, TEAR ME APART is a very complex, multilayered read, revealing decades-old secrets and lies. 

I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. I was especially intrigued with the psychiatric hospital connection and the letters back and forth between two young patients. TEAR ME APART may also be the first story I’ve encountered featuring a downhill skier and the world of sports competition, which I found fascinating– Ellison has clearly done her homework in terms of medical, psychiatric, and competitive sports goes. 

TEAR ME APART is a powerful story of love, sacrifice, and murder. It has given me a lot to ponder.

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Please join me in welcoming J.T. Ellison to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

J.T., it’s a pleasure to have you. I understand you were haunted by a mother sacrificing herself so her family could have the chance at a happy life, and also the world of competitive sports. Can you shed a little more light into the inception of TEAR ME APART?

J.T. Ellison:

Thanks for having me, Leslie! This story started back in 2011 with the idea of a young mother who commits suicide but makes it look like a murder in order to get her family an insurance payout. It was a very dark idea, and I wasn’t sure how to make it work. I wrote some, thinking maybe it was a short story, then put it on hold to work on another book. But the concept wouldn’t leave me alone. Fast forward several years. By now, I knew there was a grieving husband and a missing baby, too. I dove into the story and realized quickly it wasn’t at all what I originally thought it was about. Instead, it was the story of a young phenom skier who finds out over a course of terrible events that she’s not her mother’s daughter.

I also loved the idea of looking at a child who’s grown up destined for glory, to be the best skier in the world. The pressure of her training, the intensity, lent itself well to the story and its pacing.

While I was drafting the book, I came across a great article in National Geographic about a new forensic DNA method called phenotyping. When I read it, I knew I had to use it in the story.  Mindy’s aunt Juliet works for the CBI, and has the ability to find out who Mindy’s true parents are through phenotyping. It was a great tool for conflict.

And I knew I wanted to have a discourse on mental illness. I feel like we’ve finally reached an era where the stigma is disappearing, which means more and more people will get the help they need. I hope this book sets a few people on a path to recovery, as well as raises awareness about some difficult issues.

So a number of different facets came together to build the story over the course of several years. Not an unusual path for one of my books.

Leslie Lindsay:

Your research into skiing is evident. Do you have experience with it yourself? How did that piece of the story present itself?

J.T. Ellison:

Yes! I grew up in Colorado, started skiing when I was 5. My parents used to take us up the mountain on weekends and I loved it. I even raced for a (very) short period of time, but quickly realized that I’d need discipline and talent far beyond my abilities. I always wondered what would have happened if I’d stuck with it – and Mindy Wright was born, at the gate, ready to make the Olympic team with her blistering-fast run.

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Leslie Lindsay:

There’s are so many layers to TEAR ME APART. Do you write with an outline or do you let the characters direct you? Maybe a little of both? Do you ever write yourself into a corner?

J.T. Ellison:

I always write myself into corners. But I believe in the process, believe in my subconscious. If I’ve written to a certain point and it’s not working, I feel I’m not seeing the whole picture. Writer’s block is your story’s way of telling you you’re going in the wrong direction.

I outline more now than I used to. It usually comes in the guise of a thorough synopsis, ten pages or so, and I take the beats from the synopsis and put them into a Scrivener document, then flesh from there. Once I’m well into the story, usually over halfway, that’s when I outline heavily to figure out how to get to the end.

I believe in the characters’ rights to speak as much as trying to infuse the story with my own voice and ideas, so I try not to be married to what I draft. Sometimes they want to go somewhere else with their lives other than what I originally foresaw. Honestly, that’s the joy of writing for me, when I find myself somewhere surprising at the end of a workday. It’s a very organic, loose process, with a few walls nailed into place to hold up the roof.

Leslie Lindsay:

Turning to the psychiatric piece of the story—I especially enjoyed this bit because I’m a former adolescent psych R.N.—I felt much of the teenage psychiatric institutions were spot-on (although many things have changed since those 1990s-ish scenes). What research did you do to bring this piece to life?


“[An] outstanding domestic thriller… The intense plot…builds to a stunning conclusion. Ellison is at the top of her game.”
—★ Publishers Weekly, starred review


J.T. Ellison:

The research was more first-hand than I would have preferred. Mental illness, suicide, and self-harm have affected my family deeply. I hope I’ve done the situations and characters justice. It’s a difficult topic, and one I’ve wanted to dive into for a long time. I hate the stigmas attached to mental illness, and want to see them go away so more people will get help if they need it. I also became aware of Project Semicolon several years ago, and wanted to dedicate the book to those who are struggling. I address this in my author’s note at length.

Leslie Lindsay:

What did you find most satisfying about the writing process? The most challenging?

J.T. Ellison:

I love the writing itself. It brings me such joy, such a feeling of peace and accomplishment. I mean, it’s hard, and gets harder with every book. I never want to write the same book twice, I always strive to get better, to be clearer, more concise, more evocative. But I will take a bad writing day over anything else.

I love the connection it makes with strangers. There’s nothing like an email from a reader who tells me they spent a few hours reading one of my books and felt like they’d escaped from their difficulties for a while. I write to entertain, to help people escape, to hopefully make them think, and because there might be the one person out there who reads my words on a day when they need them. Makes it all worthwhile.

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Leslie Lindsay:

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

J.T. Ellison:

I have a short story I’m playing with, and of course, I’ll have to gear up and write another novel here soon. I’m being drawn to boarding school mysteries and epic fantasies right now, so who knows where it might lead. It’s very rare for me not to know exactly what’s coming, but I don’t. I’ve had a long eighteen months of grinding out a lot of words, and it’s time to refill my well and take a break!

Leslie Lindsay:

J.T., it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

J.T. Ellison:

Not at all, though I would love to mention where you can find me these days – on Facebook, we have a private group called JT Ellison’s Literati, and I’m very active on Instagram @thrillerchick. And always, jtellison.com is home base for all my bookish endeavors.

It’s been wonderful, Leslie! Thanks for having me, and for loving TEAR ME APART.

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

Order Links: 

JT Ellison Author Photo credit Krista Lee Photography - verticalABOUT THE AUTHOR: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the international thriller series “A Brit in the FBI” with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the EMMY Award-winning literary television series A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

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

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#domesticsuspense #amreading #authorinterviewseries #genetics #motherhood #suicide #murder #mentalhealth 

[Cover and author images courtesy of MIRA Books and used with permission. Author photo credit: Krista Lee Photography. Bookstore image retrieved from author’s Instagram account, 9.4.18]

Debut Novelist Julie Clark talks about science, motherhood, love, and so much more in her dazzling good read, THE ONES WE CHOOSE

By Leslie Lindsay 

Shattering original and beautifully written book about secrets, science, DNA, mothers, and the trauma of our ancestors living in each and every one of us. THE ONES WE CHOOSE is such a glimmering debut by an author to watch. 

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You’ll read Julie Clark’s debut and think, “this woman has got to be a scientist,” but she’s not. She’s a 5th grade teacher and mother, and while those skills and traits come through in THE ONES WE CHOOSE, it’s her effortless blend of genetics that made me swoon.

Geneticist Paige Robson is struggling. She’s always had everything together, until her son starts asking about his biological dad. Eight-year old Miles was conceived via sperm donor and while he knows this, he can’t help but feel disconnected. He doesn’t fit in with the other children at school, who all seem to have active, engaged fathers. Plus, Paige’s romantic life isn’t all that great (she has difficultly being open), and her father has just returned; attempting to make up for lost time.


“How could I not love a debut about science, secrets, DNA, and how the traumas of our ancestors still live within our very cells? With gorgeous prose, and a deep emotional resonance, The Ones We Choose is about the science of love, how our DNA shapes us, and a mother’s fierce battle to protect her son while confronting what really makes our identity ours, what and who we choose to let in, and what and who we don’t.  An absolutely dazzling, profound ruby of a novel.”

– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU and CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD 


I was so taken with the breadth of science explored in this work of literary fiction, but don’t worry–it’s all infused with a gentle, almost conversational tone 
(ala Jodi Piccoult style) making for a rich, engaging read. I’m an R.N. by training (it’s been years and years and I no longer practice), but I found the information presented in THE ONES WE CHOOSE riveting(and in some cases, new to me) and so enjoyed this piece of the narrative.

I found the piece of artificial insemination fascinating–I don’t know anyone who has gone through this process and so have always been curious as to how it works. THE ONES WE CHOOSE will give the reader a fictional account of one woman’s experience.

Seriously, a fabulous, well-written, thoughtful debut about mothers, science, love, secrets, and ancestors. 

Please join me in welcoming Julie to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Julie, welcome! I am so in awe of your debut. I know you didn’t start out writing a book about genetics—you really knew nothing about it—but lo and behold, your character is a geneticist. What was the jumping-off point for you on this narrative and why science?

Julie Clark:

First, thank so much for reading and inviting me onto your blog today! The idea that my main character, Paige, would be a geneticist evolved slowly. At first, she was a manager of a dog rescue! But the more I wrote scenes between Paige and her son, Miles, the more I realized that this is a story of genetics…the things we pass down to our children. And that there are many people in the world – whether conceived via donor or adopted – who don’t have access to this information. The first thing I did was to start reading about genetics, and find myself an expert in the field.

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Leslie Lindsay:

You’re a 5th grade teacher and a mother to two boys. This definitely comes through in THE ONES WE CHOOSE; how did those experiences and roles inform your writing? Or did they? In fact, there’s a section on the book in which Paige is chatting with her friend, Jackie about being a working mother and says, “In fact, I think I’m a better mother because Miles sees me following my passion. He watches me set goals and achieve them.” Can you talk about that, please?

Julie Clark:

Well, I love my job as a teacher. It’s the perfect balance to writing. It allows me to get out of my head and focus on something bigger than myself, bigger than my books or my writing career. Working with students every day reminds me of the obligation we all have to invest in future generations. And teaching really prepared me for writing a book about genetics. My job requires me to constantly take complex concepts and break them down into pieces that others can easily understand. In writing my genetics chapters, I relied heavily upon those skills.

Leslie Lindsay:

The research you most have done to craft such a well-rounded (and informed!) narrative must have been daunting. What was your process like? Did you enjoy the research?

Julie Clark:

I really did enjoy it! As I said earlier, I spent a lot of time reading up on genetics and ancestry. I also connected with a geneticist, Dr. James West, at Vanderbilt who was so generous with his time, answering emails, chatting on the phone, over the course of two years. The genetics chapters came late in the game, and originally I only had about four or five. My editor at Gallery wanted something between each chapter, so I just sat down and started making a list of everything I could think of: chromosomes, DNA, cells, the genome…and once I got that list, I started thinking about how Paige might think about those topics, in relation to what was going on with her at the time. Some of the chapters are more narrative, others are short and informative. But overall, they were a lot of fun to write.

Leslie Lindsay:

The oxytocin inhibitor gene in men…is that a real thing? Can you tell us more about its appearance in THE ONES WE CHOOSE?

Julie Clark:

What is real: Oxytocin is a bonding hormone. Both mothers and fathers produce massive amounts of it at the birth of a child. What isn’t real: an inhibitor gene that precludes some men from releasing it. I worked closely with Dr. West to figure out the best way to present this…and he assures me that while such a thing doesn’t exist to our knowledge, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

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Leslie Lindsay:

And the whole piece of artificial insemination is so fascinating. I’ve been curious about the process before, but never had any reason to look into it or knew anyone who had gone through it. How did this piece work its way into the novel for you?

Julie Clark:

This was the jumping off point for me for the entire book. I wanted to write about a single mother, because I’m a single mother. But I wanted a different take on it. I wanted to write about someone who chose it for herself, deliberately and lovingly. I have many friends who have used a donor to conceive their child/children, and I wanted to see their families represented.

Leslie Lindsay:

What do you feel you did ‘right’ as a first time novelist and what do you wished you had done better or known more about? Can anyone truly prepare for the task?

Julie Clark:

The best thing I did was to allow myself to enjoy the process, and not get caught up in the details. I was writing my second book throughout most of that time, and that really helped keep me grounded in the belief that while I wanted THE ONES WE CHOOSE to do well, it wasn’t going to be my only book. This is what prepares you for the task of releasing a book – keeping focused on doing it again.

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Leslie Lindsay:

What’s keeping you awake at night? It doesn’t have to be literary. [But if it is, ignore the next question]

Julie Clark:

I sleep pretty well! I feel so fortunate to have had such a great experience with such an amazing team. If I’m awake at night, it’s because I’m feeling grateful.

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s next for you?

Julie Clark:

I’m working on revisions for my second book, tentatively titled WHEN I KNEW YOU. But most of that is under wraps for the time being!

Leslie Lindsay:

Julie, it’s been wonderful. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Julie Clark:

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! I’m so glad you loved THE ONES WE CHOOSE, and thank you for reading!

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

Order Links:

Julie Clark Photograph by Eric A. Reid PhotogtaphyABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, and a brief stint working in the athletic department at University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse THE ONES WE CHOOSE is her first novel.

 

 

 

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

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#genetics #literaryfiction #motherhood #science 

[Cover and author image courtesy of Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster and used with permission] 

 

Inspired by Agatha Christie, Shari Lapena takes us to a secluded hotel in the Catskills and tosses in a murder or two in AN UNWANTED GUEST

By Leslie Lindsay

Pure WOW in this wickedly good twisted tale of isolation, torturous tension, smart and oh-so-good thriller from bestselling author Shari Lapena. She’s here chatting about writing herself into corners, how this is a ‘puzzle mystery,’ and she doesn’t always know the answers, plus her writing advice, being disciplined and so much more. 

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In 2016 when THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR came out, I was swept away. And then Lapena gave me more chills with A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE (2017) and this book, this one–AN UNWANTED GUEST (Penguin/Viking, August 14 2018) totally knocked it out of the park.

This time, Lapena takes us to a small luxury hotel nestled in the Catskills Mountains with a cast of characters who don’t know one another. Soon, everyone becomes isolated from the outside world as a winter storm rips through the area leaving the inn without power. There is no escape. No Wi-Fi, no phone service, and plenty of tension. Oh, and a killer at large. At least underfoot.

Maybe. Probably. What would explain the death of gorgeous Dana, engaged to a handsome guy from a prominent East Coast family? She’s found at the bottom of the stairs of inn on the first morning…was it an accident or something else? And then the body count rises. Everyone and no one is a suspect. Tensions run high. Accusations mount. Not everyone at the inn is as angelic as they seem.


“An intriguing cast, an isolated location, a raging storm and the threat of death in every dark corner: AN UNEXPECTED GUEST reads like Agatha Christie with a shot of adrenaline.”
Gilly MacMillanNew York Times bestselling author of THE PERFECT GIRL


We all have secrets…but could any of us be killers? That seems to be the overarching question AN UNWANTED GUEST is trying to answer.

Lapena writes with such a fluid hand, such intelligence that doesn’t come across as ‘too much,’ but quickly pulls the reader right into her grasp. Despite the murderous nature of the book, I almost found the reading experience ‘cozy.’Maybe it’s the language she uses or the images evoked with the descriptions of the inn, but I fell under Lapena’s spell almost immediately and didn’t want to let go.

You will have theories and ideas about the end, the twist, but chances are, you’ll be wrong. I was. Seriously, read this.

But first, join me in conversation with Shari Lapena.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Shari, it’s always a pleasure. I’m so, so intrigued with your initial concept of AN UNWANTED GUEST. It feels very classic in terms of storytelling—and that’s a good thing! I’m reminded not just of Agatha Christie but also the new trend in Escape Rooms. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration behind the narrative?

Shari Lapena:

That’s interesting that you suggest Escape Rooms. I hadn’t thought of that! The inspiration behind AN UNWANTED GUEST is actually Agatha Christie’s novel, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of people trapped somewhere with a murderer among them and the characters (and the reader) trying to figure out who’s doing the killing and who’s going to be next. I tried to create a setting reminiscent of that Golden Age by creating a hotel from that era, full of antiques and old fashioned touches. Also, a few years ago, we had a severe ice storm where I live in Toronto; all the power was knocked out, and it was extremely treacherous. I thought then that it was a great atmosphere for a thriller. I combined the two and came up with AN UNWANTED GUEST.  

Leslie Lindsay:

I love, love all of your twists and turns and the characters in AN UNWANTED GUEST. So I’m curious 1) do you ever write yourself into a corner and 2) did you have a character you felt most aligned with?

Shari Lapena:

Yes, sometimes I write myself into a corner and have to back up and reconsider, but that’s all part of the process. Because I don’t really plan it all out, I do have to rethink and rewrite. This was a particularly tricky book to write, because it’s a puzzle mystery. I would have to say I felt the most affinity with the character of the writer, Candice. She is based a bit on me, I think. I also write in yoga pants, am very disciplined, even driven, and I don’t like to tell people what I’m working on because, as Candice says, “it sucks all the energy out of the project.” I had fun writing her.

Leslie Lindsay:

We all have secrets—and darker truths to our characters than even we’re willing to admit—that’s what seems to be lurking under the surface in AN UNWANTED GUEST. You never know who might be a little unhinged. Can you talk about that, please?

Shari Lapena:

Well, that’s what psychological thrillers are all about—getting to the darkness, the motivations underneath that people are hiding. And there’s certainly a lot of that in AN UNWANTED GUEST. Each of the guests has something going on beneath the surface, something they’re not telling, but is it enough to make them a killer?  And then there’s the question of the rational (if you can call it that) murderer who is motivated by a reason, and the unhinged type of murderer who may have no good reason at all. It could be either in this story. You just don’t know until the end.

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

I’d love to ask writing advice, but I have a feeling the answer will be, ‘read a lot in your genre and write every day.’ So, I won’t ask. But I am curious what inspires you and how you keep the saw sharp.

Shari Lapena:

I would say read a lot in general, not just in your genre. It’s true that writing regularly really does help. Writing in fits and starts isn’t the best way to really discover your own voice. My advice would be to write the stories that really excite you and write them in your own way—only that way will you discover your own unique voice, and that is what writing is all about. Write for yourself, really—write something you would love to read.

What inspires me is the work itself. I start with an idea or a premise that interests or excites me and take it from there. Once I get into it and the characters start to come alive and do things and make things more interesting, I become inspired by the story itself. I become curious about where it’s going and what’s going to happen next. Writing is like reading—you become absorbed in that world.

Leslie Lindsay:

I’ve so enjoyed this, Shari. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Shari Lapena:

Someone asked me recently how I would react if I was a character in one of my own novels. I thought that was an interesting question. I know if I were a guest at Mitchell’s Inn I would be watching everyone very carefully and trying to get a read on their characters. In real life, I like to study people’s behaviour and try to predict what they will do in given situations based on what I know of them. I find human psychology very interesting!

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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

Order Links:

Shari Lapena_credit_Tristan OstlerABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of the thrillers The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House. The Couple Next Door was a #1 Sunday Times Bestseller and a New York Times Bestseller. It has been sold in 35 territories around the world and has been optioned for film. A Stranger in the House was also a Sunday Times Bestseller and a New York Times Bestseller and has been sold in 25 territories so far.

She lives in Toronto with her family. Her next thriller, An Unwanted Guest, will be out the summer of 2018.

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

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#domesticthriller #amreading #authorinterview #psychsuspense 

[Cover and author image courtesy of Penguin/Viking and used with permission. Photo credit author image: Tristan Ostler.] 

What if you sold everything, quit your job and traveled the world for 18 months–with your kids? Tracey Carisch talks about this & more in EXCESS BAGGAGE

By Leslie Lindsay 

BacktoSchool Series

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One American family. 18 Months. 24 Countries. 6 Continents and a complete life-altering adventure in this debut memoir. And she’s here chatting about this ‘no-regrets’ life, real-life experiences, how travel strengthens brains of children, over-scheduling, and stunning photography. 

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Tracey Carisch thought she had it all. She was living the American Dream with her husband and three young daughters. They had good jobs, a 4,000+ square foot home, and everyone was happy. Or, were they?

At 37, Tracey has a panicked moment, sending her into a midlife crisis of sorts and questioning everything. What would happen if they gave up their jobs, sold their home, their belongings and traveled the world? They found out. And it became the adventure of a lifetime. But, there were some naysayers and judgmental folks–especially on the American side of the pond. And yet, and yet…they did it and they were all changed for the better because of it.

I found Tracey and her family completely relatable, the story awe-inspiring, and I honestly didn’t want to put the book down. EXCESS BAGGAGE (She Writes Press, August 14 2018), was one of those books I didn’t know I needed to read until I did; it called to me, whispering in my ear, ‘You need to read this.’

There are plenty of ‘growth’ moments for the family (and individual members of the family), but reading about their adventures will also make *you* grow; it will shift your thinking and have you aching to jump a plane to whatever country that most calls. I laughed (a lot), I got tearful, I felt excited and terrified…seriously, EXCESS BAGGAGE hit on every emotion. 

So why now? August is Family Fun Month and while many are enjoying vacations, family reunions, and the like, others are gearing up for back-to-school…whether it’s home-schooling, or world-schooling, or private college-prep programs, EXCESS BAGGAGE will open your eyes to a new worldview, a new way of being with your family, and it just might transform your thinking into a more simple, meaningful existence.

Please join me in welcoming Tracey Carisch to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Tracey, it’s a pleasure! I am so in awe with the scope of this book. You cover a lot of ground…literally! Was writing about your travels always part of the plan or did it evolve once you returned?

Tracey Carisch:

We definitely planned on doing a travel blog during the journey. As our blog gained a substantial following, writing became a normal activity for me. I’d never considered myself to be “creative” before, but that piece of me definitely grew while I wrote the blog. I knew I was going to miss writing when our travels came to an end. The book, however, didn’t become a real possibility until the very end of our trip. I was talking with a friend from the United States who was visiting us in Nicaragua, and she was convinced I needed to write about my perspective on our travels. I wasn’t sure, though. I mean, who would be interested in reading a memoir about a woman who goes through a midlife crisis and then travels the world with her family to find herself, right? Shortly after this conversation, I happened to notice the book Eat, Pray, Love on a bookshelf in our rental house. Every other book was in Spanish, but this was the only one in English. I’d read it years before when it was first released and loved it, so I picked it up and reread it that last week before our return to the United States. By the time I finished, I’d decided that continuing to grow that creative side of me with a memoir was something I should do. I’m no Elizabeth Gilbert, but there’s definitely a place for women to share their journeys to authenticity with one another, and I wanted to be a part of that.

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Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Ironically, your background is organizational effectiveness, project management and the psychological aspects of work-life balance. We all seek balance, but can we really attain it?

Tracey Carisch:

Yes, but I will say, it takes commitment. It can be such a challenge to keep ourselves from getting sucked into the rat race of our busy modern world. In my book I call it “The Blur,” where the weeks blend together with the same obligations, chores, meetings, and activities over and over again. There have been several times since we returned from our journey where our family has started to feel that Blur creeping back into our lives. Like those moments when you look at a calendar and can’t believe the month is almost over. When that happens for our family, we force ourselves to stop and look at what’s been added to the schedule, or in some cases removed from it. Are we signing the kids up for too many activities? Working too many hours? Letting go of important things like family dinners or time outdoors? One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn when it comes to true work-life balance is becoming independent of the opinions of others. Sometimes you have to let go of what other people will think of you in order to do what you know in your heart is right for your life.

Leslie Lindsay:

I have to say, EXCESS BAGGAGE reinforced my dream to pick up and move to Ireland (they speak English—and so less of a language barrier—right?!) What would you say to a family who is contemplating such a move?

Tracey Carisch:

Do it! I can’t say it enough – experiencing the world together changed our family for the better. There’s something special that happens when you go to new culture with the people you love. As you navigate the travel learning curve and tackle the challenges that come with being in a new, foreign environment, you find yourselves working together as a team. You learn things about each other that you never knew before. Seeing the world is certainly a great way to learn about ourselves as individuals, but I think the effect it has on our relationships is even more powerful. Family dynamics evolve when we step away from our normal lives and create new stories together.

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What about school? And children? How does travel like this shape their brain for ‘the real world,’ and how can parents—even if they can’t do something as drastic as your family—still expose children to other cultures and ways of living?

Tracey Carisch:

Research has shown that when children experience new things, the information they acquire causes new connections to form between the synapses in their brains, especially in children under the age of seven. We literally improve the physical structure of their brain matter when we give kids new experiences of any kind, whether it’s going to a new country or just going to a local museum. Incorporating new family excursions into daily life can have a tremendous impact on the way a child thinks and views the world. What is especially impactful about new cultural experiences is the immersion that takes place. A different culture brings new language sounds, new foods, new smells, new clothing, new modes of transportation, and new approaches to all aspects of life. If an international trip isn’t an option, museums and cultural festivals are great alternatives. Even just sitting down as a family and watching a great documentary about another country can create really rich conversation with the kids on cultural differences and unique traditions around the planet.

Leslie Lindsay:

Did you have a favorite country/city/continent? I am sure each experience stands out for various reasons. Can you talk about that, please?

Tracey Carisch:

We loved so many places for so many different reason. In terms of culture, Cambodia was a highlight for us. We lived near the Angkor Wat Archeological Park and worked with local charities supporting education, so we learned a lot about the country’s tragic past and how far the people have come. When it came to natural beauty, New Zealand was definitely at the top of our list. The diversity of the landscape is absolutely astounding. Ireland and the Czech Republic brought great connections to the locals we met, and some of them will be lifelong friends. Fiji will always be a precious time for us since we spent it with old friends who will remain an important part of our lives forever. It’s simply impossible to pick a favorite a favorite place after an experience like this.

Leslie Lindsay:

How about your children? How are they doing now and what lessons or experiences from your travels do they continue to revisit?

Tracey Carisch:

Our daughters have all asked us, “When are we going to travel again?” which is a good sign that this experience was a very positive one for them. One of my main concerns was my ability to effectively homeschool them. I worried that when we enrolled them in a public school system again we’d realize they’d fallen behind academically. However, all three of them came right back into their grade levels without skipping beat. In fact, they were ahead of their classmates in many areas. Our girls are all normal kids, but I do think they have a different attitude toward life than most children their ages. They seem to see the big picture. The typical kid dramas aren’t the issue I thought they’d be now that we’re entering the teenage. I think our journey just instilled a more empathetic and mature perspective in them. It’s something intangible in the way they view the world, and I’m not sure we would have been able “teach” it to them. They simply had to see it for themselves.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Since we’re right in the throes of back-to-school, can you provide a few tips for parents regarding over-scheduling and simplifying family life?

Tracey Carisch:

It can be so tempting to enroll our kids in all those enriching activities we think might benefit them in the future. I remember wanting to get the girls signed up for a sport so they’d know teamwork, or put them into an art class so they’d be more creative, or learn a musical instrument because some researcher somewhere said it would improve their math skills. It can feel like we’re doing our children a great disservice if we don’t give them every extra-curricular opportunity available to them. Yet, an important lesson my husband and I took from this journey is that the most enriching thing in our children’s lives is us. Our family’s relationships and our experiences together will give our kids the confidence, curiosity, and courage they need to lead fulfilling and happy lives. When we over-schedule ourselves, we separate our family too much. We undervalue the importance of our time together, and we inadvertently outsource the enriching life experiences children should really be having with their family members to a coach or instructor instead. My best advice would be to add up the time you actually spend together as a family. How many minutes in each day are you enjoying each other’s company compared how much time is spent getting everyone to all of those activities? When you quantify that number, you’ll know if your family is doing too much.

Leslie Lindsay:

I know your husband is a fabulous photographer and he captured so many of your breathtaking experiences. How did all of this shape him? His work? And can you direct us to his website?

Tracey Carisch:

I don’t think I really understood how talented Brian was until we went on this adventure. It’s now a life dream of his to become a professional photographer. At this point in our life we have obligations to our girls, so the income from his software development business has to take priority. However, he has the talent to make it in the world photography, and someday he’ll be able to give it his full focus. In the meantime, his website is www.briancarisch.com and many of his photos are featured on my web site as well. Rather than inserting small black-and-white images into the book, we’ve created a photo gallery for each chapter. When readers visit, they’ll be able to follow along with the story in full-color images. Some of these photos from our trip are available for sale, and a large portion of the proceeds will support three of the charities we worked with closely during our travels.

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Photo by Mohamed Almari on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Tracey, I am so taken, so intrigued and inspired with your travels (and book!) that I could ask questions all day. But I won’t. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Tracey Carisch:

I’m most excited that this book will bring the opportunity to travel to new places and create connections with the readers. I want to hear their stories and share our lessons with each other on living a “no-regrets life”. The most rewarding part of my work as a professional speaker are those conversations I get to have with people around the world. If someone reading this wants to have their hometown added to my book tour, they can connect with me on my web site and we’ll work to get something set up.

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

Order Links:

Tracey Carisch square headshot 1200px.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Tracey Carisch grew up in a small Midwestern town and attended Indiana University for her undergraduate degree. After beginning her career in technology consulting, she returned to academia for her MBA and founded her own consulting firm, helping to lead change in education and workforce development. Tracey is now an international speaker and leadership professional. Her presentations challenge audiences to embrace change and find the opportunities in life’s difficult situations. She lives in the mountains of Colorado with her family, their two dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s also a dog.

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

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#family #travel #world #parenting 

[Cover and author image provided by PRbytheBook and used with permission.] 

 

 

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

By Leslie Lindsay 

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

The Masterpiece

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

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

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

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

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Fiona Davis:

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

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Leslie Lindsay:

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

Fiona Davis:

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Fiona Davis:

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


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

— Kirkus Reviews


Leslie Lindsay:  

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

Fiona Davis:

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

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Leslie Lindsay:

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

Fiona Davis:

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Fiona Davis:

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Fiona Davis:

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

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

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

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#historicalfiction #authtorinterview #NYC #amreading 

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

 

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

By Leslie Lindsay 

BACKTOSCHOOL SERIES:

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leslie Lindsay: 

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

Katie Novak: 

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Katie Novak:

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


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

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


Leslie Lindsay: 

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

Katie Novak: 

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

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

Leslie Lindsay: 

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

Katie Novak: 

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Katie Novak: 

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Order Links:

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

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

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#backtoschool #parenting #education 

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

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

By Leslie Lindsay 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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

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

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Photo by Henk Mohabier on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

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

T. Greenwood:

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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

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Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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

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

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

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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


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

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


Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s on your fall reading list?

T. Greenwood:

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

T. Greenwood:

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

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

Order Links:

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

By Leslie Lindsay 

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

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

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

But. 

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


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

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

Please join me in conversation with Louise.

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

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Joe Fitzpatrick on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

Order Links: 

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

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

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#psychthriller #domesticsuspense #summerreadin

 

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

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

By Leslie Lindsay 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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