Tag Archives: book review

Writers on Wednesday: How it’s tough to ‘break the story,’ reconciling the right and left sides of the brain, how swimming in Lake Tahoe is akin to flying, and so much more from ER physician and debut author of GIRL UNDERWATER

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

Recently released in paperback, GIRL UNDERWATER (August 2016, Dutton/RandomHouse) takes readers on a harrowing ‘what-if’ of an major airline crash in the Rocky Mountains. Author Claire Kells writes with viscerally deep hand, and there’s good reason: she’s also a practicing physician. It’s at once a story of survival, but also the after-effects, how one can ‘pick-up’ where she left off, making sense of what happened in order emerge a better person. girl-underwater_tp-cover

 The novel follows Avery, a competitive college swimmer, who boards a red-eye flight from the West coast to East, along with two team members and two hundred strangers. When the plane goes down over the Rockies, only Avery, three little boys, and her teammate Colin Shea—whom she has been avoiding since her first day of freshman year—survive.

For five days, Avery fights the sub-zero weather, the unforgiving landscape, and creates a make-shift shelter, forages for food, protects those boys and waits for rescue. When that rescue comes, it’s just the beginning. GIRL UNDERWATER looks at what life is like after survival, and how one can come to terms with the blows.

Join me as we welcome Claire Kells to the blog couch.

Leslie Lindsay: Claire, thanks so much for taking the time to pop by. I understand there are a lot of truths in GIRL UNDERWATER for you—you’re also a seasoned swimmer, and while in the story it’s the father who is an ER doc, you, too are also a physician. But the story is not a memoir, or is it?

Claire Kells: Thank you for having me, Leslie! GIRL UNDERWATER is indeed a very personal story, and much of it was inspired by my own experiences, but no, it is not a memoir. I have never successfully woken up before dawn to swim, for instance. I’ve set alarms. I’ve tried packing all my things the night before. I even added it to my list of “life goals.” Nope.

L.L.: I really had to keep reminding myself (and flipping to the back jacket) that this was your fictionalized account—a deep-seated fear, really—of what might happen if your plane went down while you were on [medical] residency interviews. Can you talk about that process a bit? The one of interviewing for residencies. I can imagine it’s sort of a disaster in itself! And where are you practicing now?

Claire Kells: Interviewing for residency is a pretty miserable experience for a nervous flyer! I remember I once had four interviews in one week—in Vermont, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia—and the travel really took its toll on me. I always seem to get sick on planes (doesn’t everyone?), and after that whirlwind tour, I had bronchitis for a month and swore GGBridge_Old_Coast_Guard_Station.jpgnever to fly that much again. I endured it, though, because you really have no choice when it comes to residency applications. These programs want to get to know you beyond your resume, which is important, really, because in most medical specialties (mine included), you spend a lot of time interacting with people in difficult situations. I enjoyed the actual interviews; in some ways, I felt like it was my time to shine.

Right now I’m in my last year of residency in San Francisco.

L.L.: Like you, I’ve always wanted to be a writer but I’ve also been very fascinated with medicine; I was a child/adolescent psych R.N. for several years. Some will say you’re either right-brained, or left-brained, meaning art and science are two very distinct disciplines, but I always felt as if I can meld the two. Can you speak to that, please?

Claire Kells: I’ve always been fascinated by the way people think, and like you, I’ve come to right-brain-left-brainunderstand that while most people are left- or right-brained, exciting things happen when we learn to access the other side. When I first started writing in medical school, [writing] became for me a necessary creative outlet from the exams and memorization; now, nearing the end of my training, I’ve found ways to incorporate my artistic side into medical practice. It’s been very satisfying to find that niche, although it took years to get there. I’m also constantly surprised by the number of writers in medicine! I shouldn’t be, though, because medicine is very much narrative-based. Every patient comes into clinic with a story.

L.L.: I’m curious about structure these days, because there are myriad ways a story could go—and be told. In the case of GIRL UNDERWATER, you chose a dual-narrative approach in which readers flip-flop between Avery’s survival in the Rockies and her ‘present-day’ story of surviving post –survival. How did you come to this decision? What advice would you give to writers when they are trying to structure their own story?

Claire Kells: I will be completely honest with you here and admit that I wrote the story in the traditional three-act format, and my agent, Stefanie Lieberman, suggested the alternating timeline structure. I’m not sure I had the confidence early on to plot and execute a novel with an unconventional narrative structure. When Stefanie proposed it, I understood right away how it could work. I would encourage writers to keep an open mind, especially during early drafts. It often takes me many drafts before I really “break” the story. I’ve learned to be patient and trust the process.

L.L.: There’s a huge component to GIRL UNDERWATER that focuses on the psychological toll survivors feel following a major life experience. Can you talk a bit about your PTSD research and how that was integrated into the narrative?

Claire Kells: Every October, Fleet Week comes to San Francisco. I remember rotating in the psychiatric unit at the SF Veteran’s hospital that week during my third year of medical school and thinking how fortunate I was because the hospital is situated on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate bridge. We had a perfect view of the fighter planes, etc. As I was leaving work that Friday, though, one of the attending psychiatrists looked frazzled. “Gonna be a long weekend,” she said. “Fleet week is the worst time of year for these vets.”

And then I understood: Fleet Week was a nightmare for military veterans with PTSD (and there were many veterans in that psych unit with PTSD). I would say that that experience really spurred my interest in the subject and inspired me to incorporate it into Avery’s story. I was fortunate in that much of my research was based on my experiences with the patients and providers at the VA.

L.L.: For you, being a swimmer, this story is organic. For me as a reader, I was suffocating with any suggestion that I get into that frigid water and swim to safety. Water terrifies me; yet it can be symbolic of new life, amniotic fluid; still it’s unpredictable, there’s a certain loss of control…can you speak to that, please?

Claire Kells: My mom never learned to swim. I know she had those same fears you mentioned, and she told me later that was partly why she signed me up for swim lessons as soon as the YMCA would take me. I don’t remember those first few days in the water, but I’ve watched young children learn to swim. They fear the water, too, until suddenly, astonishingly, they learn to trust themselves. I’ve seen that moment and honestly, it gives me chills. It’s such a beautiful kind of transformation that takes place. Because you’re right, swimming in deep water requires the ultimate concession of control. I swam across Lake Tahoe this summer as part of a relay, and that lake is over 1,600 feet deep! But what an incredible download-21experience it was, swimming in a body of water like that. The water is so blue, you feel like you’re flying.

L.L.: What’s obsessing you these days? What has your attention?

Claire Kells: I’m definitely obsessed with story. As part of our residency requirements, we spend a lot of time reading textbooks, so during my free time I try to consume story other ways. Lately it’s been television. Wow—there are so many exceptional shows out there right now! The Night Of, The Americans, Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones are the shows I’ve followed this year. I’m absolutely in awe of these writers.

L.L.: Are you writing other books? Can you share?

Claire Kells: I’m working on another book now, but that’s all I can say. Sorry to be cagey about it!

L.L.: Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have? 

Claire Kells: These were all such thoughtful, interesting questions. I also want to thank you and your readers for taking a chance on a debut author—you’re the reason we keep writing. So thank you.

“Skillfully interspersing flashbacks with current events, debut novelist Kells has written an absorbing tale that will grip anyone who enjoys survival stories or psychological dramas.”

– Library Journal (starred review)

L.L.: Claire, it’s been a pleasure to connect. Best wishes with this and future books!

Claire Kells: I really enjoyed being here! Thank you again.

For more information on GIRL UNDERWATER, or to connect with Claire Kells, please see:

 

226567_kells_claireABOUT THE AUTHOR: Claire Kells was born and raised outside Philadelphia. She received a degree in English from Princeton University and a medical degree from the University of California. Currently in residency, she lives and works in the Bay Area. This is her first novel.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, through these social media channels. But not water.

GoodReads

Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter

Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1

Email: leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com

image003-3

LOVE IT?! SHARE IT!

[Special thanks to B. Odell at Dutton Books. Author and cover image courtesy of Dutton/Penguin/Random House. Images of Lake Tahoe and The Golden Gate Bridge retrieved from Wikipedia on 10.24.16. Right-brain/left-brain image retrieved from on 10.24.16]

BookS on MondaY: Certified health coach and plant-based chef Vicky Marquez talks about her newest book for kids, THE ROOTLETS, how eating healthy begins in childhood, kid-pleasing recipes, & more

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

As a vegetarian momma, I’ve always found it a fun challenge to raise healthy, independent food-conscious kiddos. When they were babies, my husband and I often got the question, “Are you going to raise your children as vegetarians?” Sometimes it came across as simple curiosity, other times, it felt judgmental. My response was always something along the lines of, “We’re providing a balanced diet with plenty of protein, fruits, and veggies, though I will not be handling raw meat at home.” That said, I was totally fine if my kids wanted to order chicken fingers at a restaurant, or have a bite of grandma and grandpa’s steak. Trouble-at-Plantasy-Land-.png
Food choices, we determined, were to be determined by the person eating them, what he or she felt comfortable with. In no way did my husband and I try to “force” a plant-based diet on our kiddos, but now, at nearly ten years old, our youngest almost exclusively rejects meat, all her choice. The oldest seems to think chocolate is its own food group!
When I came across THE ROOTLETS series of children’s books, about cute little veggies who have myriad adventures, I knew I had to check it out! 
Join me as I chat with nutritionist and plant-based chef Vicki Marquez, on her darling, children’s books about healthy eating. 
Leslie Lindsay: Welcome, Vicki. I’m always curious about what sparks an idea for a story. What inspired you to create the ROOTLETS series?
Vicki Marquez: The idea of THE ROOTLETS popped into my head one day as I was thinking about how I could help inspire kids to want to–and to be excited to–eat their veggies and make good, healthy choices. That thought lit a fire inside of me and I immediately knew that these characters were something special that’s what inspired me to take action, create this series, build this brand and bring these characters to life.
L.L.: How would you describe the dynamic between THE ROOTLETS—Brocc, Carrotina, Cornelius and Kaley?
Vicki Marquez: THE ROOTLETS are best friends, with a special bond and a lot of trust between them. They count on (and value) each others’unique set of talents and strengths, and they operate like a little team…always rooting for and looking out for one another, no matter what kind of trouble their next adventure brings!
L.L.: How did you decide what traits the Rootlets would possess?
Vicki Marquez: It wasn’t actually a conscious decision–they each began taking on certain characteristics with that initial vision I had of them. Right away it was clear who they were and what was important to each one of them. Brocc was smart and into studying, Cornelius was the jokester who loved to have fun. Kaley was a fancy girly-girl and Carrotina was a brave adventure-seeker. It felt like I knew them. A few months after I wrote the first book (Super Rootabilities), my husband said to me that each Rootlet reminded him of me, like they were me–at the core–divided into four. And in retrospect, I can totally see that…
everything that The Rootlets love, I love. So, I guess that maybe I subconsciously selected their traits based on those things…and that each one actually represents a little part of me.
Screen-Shot-2016-02-03-at-4.00.22-PM.png
L.L.: I have a couple of little redheads–carrot tops, much like Carrotina–so I have to ask about one of the most distinct aspects of THE ROOTLETS—their vegetable hair. What inspired that idea?
Vicki Marquez: When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet, my best friend kept calling me her “veggie head.”That nickname was running through my brain when I first had the idea of THE ROOTLETS. I envisioned these adorable kids with big, veggie hairdos:a broccoli
afro, carrot pigtails, blonde kernels, leafy green locks…it was how I saw them, and it was absolutely perfect.

“where super-powered adventures and veggies collide!”

L.L.:  The Rootlets features bright and brilliant illustrations. Did the characters look the way you envisioned while writing the book?
Vicki Marquez: [My illustrator] Jeremy and I actually developed the characters long before I wrote the first story, so I was lucky to have a very clear visual reference of these kids as I
was developing the series. But I will say that when Jeremy sent me those very first
sketches of THE ROOTLETS, he 1000% captured on paper what these characters looked like in my head.
L.L.: Since you are an expert in health and nutrition with years of experience, what types of research did you do to write THE ROOTLETS?
Vicki Marquez: THE ROOTLETS series is all about the evolution of these four young kids who learn that they’re superheroes and who now have to navigate the huge responsibilities that come along with that, so all of my research was focused around character and story development, as well as general writing tips and guidelines for kids literature.
The health and nutrition aspects of this series are indirect and expressed creatively, so that requires a lot less research, and a lot more imagination.
L.L.: In THE ROOTLETS, adventurous kids who love to play and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand. Was that connection intentional?
Vicki Marquez: Yes, it was intentional, but also very obvious. The Rootlets are relatable role models who love to play, explore and go on little adventures, just like most kids–and those
are all really great health-promoting activities to encourage.
L.L.: What is the key to inspiring kids to make healthier choices?
Vicki Marquez: There are two keys: fun and familiarity! Fun is the easy one…kids seek it, love it,have to have it…and they’re motivated by it! So, when veggies and fruits are presented in a fun, exciting way, kids are much more interested in them.Familiarity is the other key. Most kids (and adults) prefer to try (and buy) things that they’re familiar with. The Rootlets series introduces and popularizes healthy, plant-based foods, so that when kids see them in the grocery store or at the farmers market,they’re much more curious and excited to try super-rootabilities-coverthem.
L.L.: Why is reaching and educating kids about healthy choices in elementary school so important for lifelong health?
Vicki Marquez: Because so many of the habits that we have as adults stem from the habits that we developed when we were little. Good habits, like brushing our teeth, are gems that’ll
serve us well our whole lives, but bad habits–especially unhealthy eating habits–are
really hard to break and can lead to serious chronic disease and illness. Teaching kids,
from an early age, about the superpowers of veggies and the importance of making good nutritional choices, establishes the foundation for them to build strong, healthy habits that will stay with them as they grow up.
L.L.: What would you consider to be the biggest challenge to raising healthy kids today?
Vicki Marquez: Time…for sure! Parents are SO busy these days that finding the time to meal plan, shop and cook can be a real challenge. That’s why I’m really excited that our Rootlets blog now features quick and healthy kid-friendly recipes that parents can easily whip up and feel really good about sharing with their little ones.
L.L.: You are a certified plant-based chef. What are some of your most popular dishes among kids?
Vicki Marquez: Ooh, there are so many good ones, but I’d have to say that the most popular dishes are the ones that kids can customize on their own or help make. For example: power
bowls (where you start with a grain and then add your favorite toppings and sauces) tacos, wraps, homemade pizzas, smoothies…all of those are always kid-pleasers! And anything with cacao or chocolate, of course!
L.L.: You also host a healthy living cable TV show,“Nourished.”How does the process of preparing for the show compare to writing THE ROOTLETS? 
Vicki Marquez: Every episode of “Nourished” and each ROOTLETS story is part of a larger overarching series, so while each one has to independently stand alone, they also have to be Nourished.pngable to work well within that series. As for the actual prep process,it’s basically the same. I begin with an outline, then I put on my creativity cap and continue to write and expand on
the story or episode. I edit, get my team involved, consider visuals, edit some
more until I have a concrete finished product…then it’s production time!
L.L.: When did your interest in nutrition and healthy food begin? Which authors inspired you as a child?
Vicki Marquez: In my mid-20s, I started paying close attention to what I was eating and how it was affecting me. I cut back on the highly processed junk food that I had been
accustomed to eating my entire life, and I began eating real, whole, natural foods. Becoming aware of that food/body connection, and how my diet had been directly impacting my overall health, was a huge a-ha moment for me! Once I saw (and felt) the correlation between eating well and feeling good, my interest in health and nutrition grew naturally. As a kid, I loved Valerie Tripp, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Peggy Parish and of course, Dr. Seuss.
L.L.: The Rootlets are superheroes with special powers, which contribute to their big adventures. Which superpower would you choose to possess?
Vicki Marquez: Ooh, good question! I’d LOVE some sort of healing touch
power. To be able to free people and animals from pain, sickness and illness…that would be the greatest!
L.L.:What other projects are you currently working on?
Vicki Marquez:Right now I’m devoting the majority of my time to THE ROOTLETS, writing book three, developing our app, attending school events and marketing the brand–
and when I’m not working on that, I’m writing, creating content and testing recipes for
“Nourished” and coaching my private and corporate clients.
  • Hashtag #TheRootlets

  • Facebook: The Rootlets

  • Twitter: @Therootlets

  • Website
  • To purchase THE ROOTLETS, click here

download-16ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vicki Marquez is a certified health coach, plant-based chef, author and TV personality whose passion for living a healthy, vibrant life has become her mission to help others do the same. After earning her degree in nutrition and health science, Vicki continued her wellness education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied over 100 dietary theories with the world’s leading nutrition and holistic health experts. Vicki went on to receive her culinary education and training at Rouxbe Cooking School where she earned her plant-based chef certification. In 2013, Vicki launched Inner Figure – her health coaching practice that offers one-on-one lifestyle coaching, robust corporate wellness programs and a monthly plant-based cooking club all built around her philosophy to “live healthy from the inside out.” As Inner Figure’s client base grew, so did Vicki’s desire to help inspire and empower children to make healthier choices. From this inspiration, The Rootlets were born: four veggie-haired, cartoon superheroes on a quest to promote good nutrition by making veggies fun and exciting. Vicki launched The Rootlets, LLC, and authored the first book in her series, The Rootlets: Super Rootabilities, in October 2014. In 2016, Vicki branched into television as the creator and host of the healthy living cable show, Nourished. The program blends wellness how-to tips and delicious veggie-centric recipes into a series that’s structured much like her one-on-one coaching sessions. Through her private health coaching practice, children’s brand and TV show, Vicki aims to make healthy eating and living easy, accessible and entertaining for everyone. Vicki is a founding member of The New Self-Health Movement; a member of the International Association for Health Coaches and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators; and is board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Vicki lives in Chicago with her husband, stepdaughter and two Yorkies. When she’s not writing, coaching or cooking, you can find her on the yoga mat, traveling the world or snuggled on the sofa with her pups and a great book.

Vicki-Homepage.jpg

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay at:

[Special thanks to PRbytheBook. All images retrieved from the author’s website on 10.15.16]

WeekEND Reading: Veteran R.N. Juliana Adams talks about reclaiming the nobility of nursing, finding joy in the work, and how memoir is about relating to others in THE JOY OF NURSING

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay

If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m a former R.N. turned writer. That’s not to say that I didn’t find joy and passion in being a nurse—I did! For years, I worked with children and adolescents, helping them understand their feelings, cope with life’s curve balls, and so much more. But, oh how the books and writing life called to me.BookCover_TheJoyOfNursing

A veteran R.N. for 50 years, Juliana Adams will say one gets the calling to be a nurse “if you’re lucky.” As a kick-off for the Association for Nursing Professional Development Week, I’m sharing a special “WeekEND Reading” segment with veteran R.N. and author Juliana Adams.

THE JOY OF NURSING: Reclaiming Our Nobility (Steamboat Springs Publishing, May 2016) is about the author’s journey to be the best nurse possible, challenges in the profession, reevaluating her concept of nobility, and so much more. 

The stories are often raw, unfiltered, and revealing in nature, but done in a tasteful way in which the beginning (or aspiring nurse) can get a stunning glimpse of what the profession is really like. From her first job as a graduate nurse at a more cushy hospital, to one in a grittier E.R. (Denver General), through nursing administration/management, going back to school, and speaking/advocacy, Juliana will take your hand through the bowels of critical care nursing and help you rekindle your nursing spirit, reinforce your decision, and just be a gentle presence to lead the way.

THE JOY OF NURSING is at once a memoir of the profession, but also a guide for the disillusioned, and those in the trenches.

So grab your coffee (stat!) and join us for a little morning shift report.

Leslie Lindsay: Juliana, I’m so honored to have you pop by! Thank you for joining us and congratulations on a fulfilling career and the book. Writers will say it’s bad manners to ask what inspired a particular book, but I find the inspiration so powerful, almost as much as what’s between the pages! Can you tell us why you felt compelled to write THE JOY OF NURSING?

Juliana Adams: I wrote The Joy of Nursing: Reclaiming Our Nobility as a sequel to my documentary (Exposure, Reclaiming Our Nobility) that I produced two years prior to writing my book. While producing this film I realized that there was a depth to the nurse patient relationship that the film could not delve into and still be compatible with the primary goal of the film. I elected to produce a film just prior to deciding not to go back for a PhD in nursing, which had been a part of my career plan. As much as I loved my thesis idea, I realized that I was not resume building any longer; rather, I wanted to learn a completely different medium of communication—that of film making.  I wanted to engage the consideration of “the best and brightest students” to view nursing as an exciting professional career choice . . . and I had not seen this in media at that time.

The goals for my book initially were to explore nursing from the perspective of novice to expert, over a long term perspective.  This became even more of an issue when I encountered the first nursing career choice that I found myself in that led me to feel disillusioned, frustrated and then angry.  The concepts of nobility, Camelot Nursing, Dialogues of Discontent, and ultimately the role of inspiration in what being a nurse means to each of us then became the focus of The Joy of Nursing: Reclaiming Our Nobility.

L.L.: At one time or another, most people will have come in contact with a nurse, whether because they have been hospitalized themselves, or a have been with someone who is. It’s often a nurse’s dedication, touch, and connectedness one remembers. The “bad” nurses are remembered, too–the ones who made you feel uncared for, download (7)unimportant, invisible. Can you speak to that, please?

Juliana Adams:  My nursing career has been characterized by one position after another that was exciting and challenging.  I did not discover until well into my 2oth  – 25th years that what I had first thought of as being “really hard jobs” and even positions that I wondered why I had taken them in the first place, ALL had lessons that taught me a lot about myself—and how being a nurse had similarities and differences that were represented by the wildly diverse arenas that nurses could choose to practice.  Figuring out what inspired me led me to discover that I needed to revisit, reframe and update what being a “great nurse” looked like. I think that this is a valuable consideration for many nurses at some time in their careers.

We know a great deal about why nurses stay in nursing and why they leave (this has not changed over the last 2o years), but creating environments that promote the hands-on nurse became a very different issue for me when I decided to do “just one year” of hands-on nursing before going back to school.  To my complete surprise, what would become the toughest and ultimately the most rewarding decision I have ever made came as a result of this nursing position that was so unexpected.  I stayed in this position that I disliked to try and figure out why for 12 years!

I didn’t want to be the negative, burned-out nurse that I had been at one time in my life as the Associate Director of Nursing—the nursing leader that was the Go-To person —to rediscover the joy of being a nurse.  I wanted to figure out what conditions contributed to finding myself in this position. This journey was eye-opening from the perspective of me the nurse and the patient’s perspective.

I am often asked: “What can I do if I get a nurse that I do not like or trust?”  We can discuss this if you would like.  It is a concern that if we don’t discuss this then patients, families and visitors will take their concerns elsewhere, justifiably concluding that we as a professional group are powerless to recognize or resolve their concerns.  Once again, the hallmarks of a “profession” are that its members oversee the behaviors of their members and enact needed changes within their ranks to clearly state to the public what they can expect from the care that a Registered Nurse provides.

L.L.: I bet I’m not the only mother who will say this, but I so, so remember my OB nurse. Her name was Jen and she had long dark hair and the kindest eyes, and the efficiency and no-nonsense approach that seemed to put me and my husband at ease. This was my first baby, too, so greatly appreciated. The second experience was different. I had more than one nurse during my labor and delivery, but only one stays in my mind, the one who was there to swaddle my baby and hand her to me.  My perception was that she was a little more brusque.  I don’t recall her name. This bothers me. Do nurses remember us—their patients—as much as we seem to remember them?

Juliana Adams: YES! If you go to my Facebook page I have a quote that has received over a thousand responses, and that is: “Nurses bring care to patients but what we as nurses get back in return, is a whole lot more.”  There are so many “firsts” when you are a nurse, but as I often state, this sentiment of feeling valuable to patients is on the back of my book as a quote: “You know when you have a great nurse, you can just feel it.” Patients expect competence and they expect to feel cared for. There are so many professions that much of what they “do” is at some future risk of being replaced in some manner, but assessing patients holistically while in the process of delivering a skill that reflects the education and experience that a professional registered nurse is educated to provide—in a CARING manner—is unique to our profession. This is not BS.  Valuing this uniqueness is at the heart of “reclaiming” our nobility. For our profession to remain “the most trusted profession,”  the concept of caring is integral to the “value” that nursing and all other health care members are challenged now to explicitly articulate to the payers of healthcare and the recipients of care, our patients.

L.L.: THE JOY OF NURSING is about reclaiming our nobility. Even in nursing school, this concept nursing was highly controversial. In many regards, it was all very “noble,” while at the same time, there were heated debates about nursing being an “occupation vs. profession,” a “career v.s. a job.” How I detested these download (1)delineations!  How can a nurse (or aspiring nurse) make sense of it all?

Juliana Adams: I remember thinking that “Theoretical Perspectives, Professional Issues and the History of Nursing” all were SO uninteresting as a student and even for the first decade or more of my practice!  They would later become very important as I worked and experienced competing missions of  providing care, deciding whether to take a position or not, and figuring out what was working and what was not within the 3 pillars of nursing: academia, leadership and the hands-on nurse. Theories on Trans-cultural nursing became a huge issue in my life when I went to Europe to work in several foreign countries as did the recognition that what characteristics were the hallmark of a professional nurse verses being viewed as a “trained” (not educated), skill/task oriented employee.  Not valued as more than what a time-motion study employee had to offer (and that could be delivered by a less expensive LPN or paramedic) delineates that tasks alone do not encompass what a professional nurse contributes. Our contributions are more complex then the way that they are often portrayed on TV.

I have asked myself throughout the years: Do I look like the nurse that I envisioned a great nurse looking like when I dreamed of becoming a nurse? Leah Curtain describes this as “caring presence.” I get this concept now.  It’s not something you can be taught; it’s something you learn along the way, hopefully from more experienced nurses that model this attitude, this characteristic.

L.L.: I’ll be honest: I became disillusioned with the life of a nurse. I was commuting 1-hour each way for three 12-hour shifts at a pretty major institution. While I loved psychiatry/psychology/pediatrics (my chosen field), I felt discouraged with recidivism rates, the toll it took on  my body, mind and spirit. Caring for other children was just too much when I had my own precious babies at home who needed a mother. Can you talk about that, please?

Juliana Adams: I worked the entire time I was pregnant and had children. I have been paying for tuition for myself, my husband, and our children since . . . forever! I worried and felt guilty that I wasn’t as good a mother as I thought I should be. I also had kids later in life (age 37 and 39), and it did help to share my angst with other working-moms, my fellow nurses. It was also at this time that I realized that with all of the variability within nursing, I could make choices that reflected what was most important at that time in my life ( working days or evenings, going for high paying jobs when my husband was in medical school, having flexible hours doing research, going part-time and then back to full time).  I knew I was valuable to my employers and I knew that I had to value my feelings, stress and mental and physical health.  I was determined to make work work for me. That being said, I know what you mean when you just can’t give, especially to children when you have children at home. Frustration, exhaustion and stress are ALL opportunities to have new doors open in your life.

“How do you know when it’s time to quit” is a valuable question that I was once asked at a job interview. Why was this being asked at a job interview? I wondered. But it was a great question.  In my book, I describe the exact moment to why and when I left the Emergency Department position that I had loved. I knew exactly when that now was.

L.L.: Aside from the myriad stories (which are great!) of being in the trenches as critical care/E.R. nurse, you assert on several occasions in THE JOY OF NURSING that nursing care is *not* “like medicine, only less,” but “about caring,” it’s about the nurse’s ability to connect, show compassion, and be there for the patient. Would you say that’s right? Or did I read that wrong?

Juliana Adams: Nursing is NOT less than medicine’s contribution to the health of patients and we are also not as simplistically often stated by the phrase Nurses care, Doctors cure. In fact, download (8)we are there when there are no cures; we are there to assist patients and families in finding meaning to their unique health, wellness, illness, living and dying experiences. I remember when I first realized that longevity was not a value to everyone, or that fighting to live was not what I was needed for, or that where and how patients met their own destinies would often be a mystery, all of which were sacred. The nobility of nursing, I realized, did not come from what we gave to patients or because we washed their butts and did other icky things.  The nobility in nursing has always come from our patients.  Being a part of some of the most tender, painful, courageous, inspiring times in people’s lives is an honor that we are gifted by them.

The following is from a blog posting that I wrote after the shootings that have been intense over the last 30 days—that MedPAgeToday (CNN)  is reviewing for publication. “As a side note, the paradox of caring in healthcare is that because most physicians and nurses chose our respective roles precisely because we cared, sometimes the expression of how we care is unique to our roles as physicians and nurses. This caring—the compassion and the application of the physical skills we provide—is done with a unique caveat.  The truth, the facts about who did what to whom, who is good versus bad, cannot enter into the care we provide.  Sometimes not knowing all of the whys makes our jobs easier.”

Discovering “the facts” implies a level of revealing and possibly understanding someone else’s reality.  But where there are variations of what is true, disagreements result, opening the door to judgments being made.  After forming a judgment, looking for someone to blame often follows. With blaming comes the belief that some type of punishment is justified. But not by us.

L.L.: And since we touched briefly on medicine, I have to ask: how’s your daughter doing in medical school? Was her decision to become a doctor influenced by your work as nurse? Her father as a physician?

Juliana Adams: Her decision came as a complete surprise!  She was an architecture major from an Ivy League school, completely uninterested in medicine. Our son, the West Point graduate, now in Special Forces, had always wanted to become an ER Doc but then said, “For my first career I want to go in the military and then I’ll go to medical school.” Go figure!  We supported their decisions as zig-zagged as they seemed to us and were just pleased that they both chose lives of service.

L.L.:  What do you hope readers get from THE JOY OF NURSING? Who would you like to see me recommend the book to? 

Juliana Adams: One of the hoped for intentions in writing a memoir is that because the author has changed over a long period of time, hopefully so a wide variety of readers can engage with the book and see themselves somewhere within the story of stories.

Inspiration comes from so many places in life. Reflecting on life for me always was based on the fact that we are not given the gift of many years on this planet to have exactly the same values, goals, belief systems, etc. How boring that would be! It is often because of the “bad” times that we find opportunities for paths that we never would have even considered had we only been comfortable and content with our lives.

Be open to developing mantras or sources of inspiration that work and speak to you. These are yours, so they can be classed any way you make them up to be!

*For example my “external guiding principal” is: When in doubt, do the right thing.

*My internal mantra is: Go home to yourself.

* What makes me sigh and know that everything is OK is: “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘thank you‘ that is enough.

*This is so seemingly small but so powerful: Do you remember the first person that told you that you were good at something? Remember . . . give this gift.

L.L.: What has captured your energy lately?

Juliana Adams:  Epigenetics and neural plasticity. Absolutely fascinating concepts that will revolutionize not just Mental Health but Physical Health!

L.L.: What should I have asked, but may have forgotten?download (9)

Juliana Adams: The profession of nursing is strong enough and needs the input of all of its members. It is within the purview of all of us to be able to poke, prod, question and challenge directions in which we see nursing moving. I have concerns that the distance between academia, leadership and the reason we are all here—the hands-on nurse—has in some places become to0 separate. In 5o years I have walked the walk.  I have been in many realms of nursing, and when I could not, with all of my experience, friends, education, zeal, and determination, make an environment “better,” I realized that this frustration was being experienced by many other nurses out there.  We as a profession must have life-lines that come from academia and leadership. We are all guardians of this laying on of hands profession. And for those nurses that are working in wonderful environments and might be wondering why can’t those nurses get it right, our experiences may be harbingers of change that you never thought would be coming your way but could be.

L.L. Juliana, it’s been a pleasure…and now what time would you like that lunch break? Is 10:45a.m. too early?

Juliana Adams: Lunch?  Really? I took a 5 minute Pepsi/Pee break and thought that was it till I got off 45 minutes after my shift was supposed to have ended!  Heck yeah, I’ll take a break and eat my lunch for breakfast!☺

For more information on Juliana, THE JOY OF NURSING (Steamboat Springs Press, 2016), or to connect via social media, please see:

Website
Facebook 
Twitter 
GoodReads 
Amazon

You can connect with me at: 

AuthorPhoto_JulianaAdams.jpgAbout the Author: Juliana Adams, BSN, MSN, MA Psychology, is an author, documentary film producer and practicing nurse. In 2012, she produced a documentary film, Exposure, Reclaiming the Nobility of Nursing. The focus of her film began by highlighting the excitement of the nurses working in the inner-city emergency room that Eugene Richard’s made famous by his controversial book, The Knife and Gun Club. Where the film ended … what it exposed … led her to further explore her own journey of moving from novice to expert.

[Special thanks to A. Barbazon. Cover and author image courtesy of J. Adams. Brain image retrieved from Wikipedia, image of nurse in scrubs retrieved from  , medical staff from on 7.28.16, nursing quotes from quotesgram.com]

Writers on Wednesdays: How five women intersect in this gorgeously told debut, Ella Joy Olsen talks about being inspired by her hundred-year old bungalow in ROOT, PETAL, THORN, the permanence of place, family lore, & how reading is definitely a perk to being an author

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

What an amazing read! Five fascinating women. The same historic home. One hundred years. Interconnected stories of love, courage, and heartbreak. root, petal, thorn COMP

When I first read this description of ROOT, PETAL, THORN (Kensington Publishing, August 30, 2016), I fell in love.  The first home my husband and I owned was a two-story stucco built in 1920. The front was flanked with a charming three-season porch, a maple tree, oodles of peonies, hydrangeas, and more charm inside: wood floors throughout, fireplace, claw foot tub, and small built-ins. I often wondered what families had inhabited the house before us. Obviously, we knew who we purchased from: a childless artist couple, their impressive art lining the plaster walls. Once, we met a little girl dressed up as a fairy princess on Halloween, who rang our doorbell and boldly told us, “I was born at this house.” And we knew who built the house: a minister and his family. Apparently, it was on the grounds of the church, the church long gone, ironically.

And then ROOT, PETAL, THORN came along. Immediately, I knew I had to read it. Ella Joy Olsen writes beautifully, tracing the lives of Emmeline, Cora, Bitsy, Lainey, Eris, and Ivy through tumultuous times, from two World Wars (the first inhabitant of the house is Emmeline, 1913), the Great Depression, Korean war, Vietnam war, and ‘present-day.’ Set in Salt Lake City, Utah, ROOT, PETAL, THORN is different than the history of my Northfield, Minnesota home, but ultimately it’s about the permanence of place and the impermanence of people.

So grab your coffee, or bubbly late-summer beverage and join me with Ella Joy Olsen as she chats about her inspiration and the story behind ROOT, PETAL, THORN. 

Leslie Lindsay:  Stephen King tells us its bad form to ask a writer what inspired them to write a particular story; that it’s akin to asking what you ate for dinner last night or where your children were conceived. But I’m going to do it, anyway. What were your inspirations behind ROOT, PETAL, THORN? And feel free to tell us what you had for dinner, too.

Ella Joy Olsen: I actually love this question because you could say ROOT, PETAL, THORN is the book of my heart. I think most authors would agree the first book written lingers in the author’s mind the longest. That doesn’t mean it will be their best book (or even the first published) but it’s the one dreamed about well before the nitty-gritty process of putting words on paper. And so it was with me.

My inspiration came from two places. First, my home: I live in a hundred-year-old bungalow very similar to the one in the story. My husband and I have spent years remodeling, fixing things, making it ours, but as we worked we found crazy things: a trapdoor at the bottom of a closet leading to a tiny dirt-floor enclosure (where we discovered a single button-down shoe). We think it was the laundry chute that was boarded up when the basement was remodeled, but who knows?  There were other odd discoveries, all of which I won’t list here, but many found their way into the book. I don’t know who left these items (or improvements) behind, or why, but I love to imagine.

The second inspiration: My across-the-street neighbor, George. He lived on my street for fifty years helping the neighborhood evolve, watching his children grow. He went from young man, to old man, to gone – all in the same house. When he died, I was newish to the neighborhood and had my own young children. I couldn’t imagine the passage of so much time under one roof. Now I’ve lived nearly twenty years in my home. I figured it was time to tell the story.george

Regarding dinner, thanks for asking (giggle). Last night I grilled pizza and my husband and I shared a bottle of wine. Two of the three kids were home, which made it delightful!

L.L.: ROOT, PETAL, THORN is told from the perspective of five different women, their stories bound by a common ground: the house. But there’s more, too. It’s about being a woman in uncertain times, about history, and the bittersweet passage of time (we’ll get to that later), but I’m curious to know if there was a particular character who ‘revealed’ herself to you first? One you felt a particular kinship with, and if there was one that provided more of a challenge for you?

Ella Joy Olsen: For anyone who has already read the book this answer will be a surprise. Most readers think the modern day character, Ivy, is based on me. She’s the one researching and imaging the other women, after all. But she was actually a late addition. I’d written all of the other stories (in rough form) and handed them to a couple of beta readers who said they weren’t sure what the book was supposed to be – A short story compilation? A disjointed novel? I knew I needed a character to entwine the stories into a cohesive narrative. So I created Ivy (and now you know the meaning behind her twisty name). Once I wrote her, I realized how closely her story mirrored many of my own experiences, but not until she was fully written.

Emmeline came to me first. Probably because I’m such a fan of historical fiction and I love the history of my hometown. My great-grandma wrote several essays detailing events in her life. They are a treasure trove of family lore. I incorporated many details from her experiences into Emmeline’s story.  Lainey was the hardest (more on that later).

L.L.: The house on Downington Avenue stands sentry to a world spanning 1913 through ‘present-day,’ roughly one-hundred years. It covers a lot of ground (the house and the story). But what I’m really getting at is the permanence of place and the impermanence of people; that structure stays, but people go. Can you talk to that, please? ry

Ella Joy Olsen: I love that you asked about this! Permanence of place and impermanence of people is at the heart of ROOT, PETAL, THORN. It is the very nature of home for all of us. Think about the time spent in one comfortable spot, the only place you can truly let it all hang out. Think about the money and careful detail incorporated into remodeling, painting, decorating – an expression of self. In the novel, the house on Downington Avenue is an anchor and an oasis for each of the women. But like the characters in the novel, no matter how much we adore our homes – at some point, for one reason or another – eventually we all must move on.

I want to add a few more thoughts (slightly off topic) in response to this question. Like many, I’m crazy about the typical historical sites like the Acropolis or the Empire State Building, places with a traceable past. But more often, I find myself considering the garret where we stayed in Paris rather than the Notre Dame cathedral. I like to ponder the less noteworthy places. Maybe it’s because I get to imagine the history of those locations rather than reading the facts. I seek out places or things that give me only a tiny glimpse of the past – forgotten barns surrounded by weeds, amusement parks which had their heyday decades -261cc9cc7fac1ae3earlier, historic houses with mismatched additions and rusted clothes lines, a crumbling grand hotel on the corner of a busy intersection. Who created these places? How did they evolve into their current state? What were the stories of the people who frequented them?

L.L.: And so, the passage of time. I tend to look back on memories, well…fondly. I still think of that old house in Minnesota and wonder who is living there now, and our very early beginnings as husband and wife. But there were hard times there, too. We were miles away from family, from the life we knew in Missouri, and I felt like my work at the time wasn’t my true calling. Are you the type of person who looks back on your life, or do you look forward to things with giddy anticipation, and does it really matter?

Ella Joy Olsen: Again a very telling question. Leslie, you’re super intuitive because this is currently a hot button at my house. My impulses are in opposition to each other on this point. I anticipate grieving over my college-bound son’s empty room (looking back) so much that on several occasions I’ve shopped for office furniture to fill the void (desperately looking forward). My husband insists I’m hiding my heartbreak with an unnecessary purchase, which is true. So I won’t turn my son’s room into my office because I ache for him to come home, but still, his echoing room…how can I bear it?

On that same point, I’ve already informed my husband we’re moving from my beloved bungalow (inspiration for Root, Petal, Thorn) just as soon as all the kids are in college. It would seem I lack sentimentality based on these hasty retreats, when I’m actually overwhelmed by it. So to answer your question, I must look forward with giddy anticipation to avoid being swallowed by the bittersweet passage of time.

L.L.: But part of my life wasn’t always so rosy. My mother, like your character, Lainey suffered from a myriad of mental health issues, among them, bipolar disorder. I have to applaud your accurate portrayal and sensitivity to this stigma. I can only imagine what it must have been like in the 1960s, when the character of Lainey inhabited the house. Can you share your research and why you chose this particular issue to highlight?

Ella Joy Olsen: Lainey was the last of the historic characters I explored. I could see her but I didn’t know her story. I’d already written characters intensely affected by world events and I wanted to write a character whose life was more affected by personal circumstance. Originally, Lainey was in an abusive relationship but I found I was spending too much time on her husband. I needed something different. Personally, I’ve had several bouts of depression and found an invisible illness so much more difficult to deal with than one where you can point to a wound and say, “See? This is why I feel yucky.” Through Lainey, I wanted to express the double edged sword of mental illness.

Regarding research, I read several non-fiction accounts, but most importantly, my sister-in-law suffers from bipolar and I’ve seen the effects on her life. She has a very supportive relationship with her daughter and she was nice enough to talk with me about some of the emotions, medications, and trials she’s experienced throughout her life. Thanks Linda!

L.L.: Still, ROOT, PETAL, THORN is about grief and the bittersweet connection to people, place, and time. Ivy is dealing with the recent accidental death of her husband, Eris is fraught with sending her son off to war, and Emmeline can’t decide who to marry, or why to marry…was this your intention all along, to create a sort of vignette of grief?

Ella Joy Olsen: I would say it wasn’t my original intention to write a vignette of grief, but I firmly believe in the sentiment expressed in the novel – the one Ivy uses to help her move beyond the death of her husband – that “everyone has a little sad in their story.” People seek out different reassurances when life throws lemons. Many turn to a higher power to 635898753504476015-1619945331_grief-angelexplain the unfair things. I started writing this novel a couple of years after my sister died (she was overcome by carbon monoxide in a freak boating accident). Writing the stories of these five women was, in retrospect, part of my grieving process. Originally, I simply wanted to challenge myself to write a book – but ROOT, PETAL, THORN is what emerged.

My sister’s death is still a turning point in my life (and in the lives of my family), but over the years I’ve come to realize there are an awful lot of people out there, going about their business, harboring a secret grief. So, yes, there is a little sad in every story. Learning this certain truth made me a more empathetic person. Understanding it confirmed that despite heartache, joy returns and life is worth living.

L.L.: Switching gears a bit, what’s keeping you awake lately? What has your attention?

Ella Joy Olsen: Launching ROOT, PETAL, THORN has taken most of my attention and has at times kept me awake – which is good, because as I mentioned, my oldest moved away for college in the middle of August. For the first time in eighteen years he’s not shuffling up the stairs for breakfast before school. His absence would kill me (or keep me continually awake) if I thought on it for too long, so I’m forcing attention on book launch details! And there are a bunch of details.

L.L.: What are your must-read fall books?

Ella Joy Olsen: One of the best parts of being an author is mingling in a community of other authors. They understand the journey and are so generous with their help and encouragement! I have many new favorite authors (and friends)! I try to read several of their books each month so I can support my “co-workers” and so I can recommend their books widely. Truly, this is a huge perk of my job! There are tons of debuts I’m excited about but I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’ll mention a couple of books that have been sitting on my nightstand that I fully intend to finish before Christmas: DEAD WAKE by Erik Larson and FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson.

L.L.: What questions should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Ella Joy Olsen: People always ask me if I’m writing another book. I’m in the thick of it, so I’ll reveal. The title is Where the Sweet Bird Sings and it will publish about this time next year. It’s a companion (not a sequel) to ROOT, PETAL, THORN and is told by Emmeline’s great-granddaughter. download (11)

Here’s the teaser: Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt her to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry?  Or is it love?

L.L.: Ella, it’s been a joy connecting with you and sharing ROOT, PETAL, THORN. I just loved it!

Ella Joy Olsen: Leslie, thank you so much for talking to me about my book. I love your interviews and feel honored to be among the fantastic authors you’ve featured!

For more information, or to connect with Ella on social media, please see:

biophoto1.3.jpgAbout the Author: Ella Joy Olsen was born, raised, and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah – a charming town tucked against the massive Rocky Mountains. Most at home in the world of the written word, Ella spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library System (and four decades browsing the stacks). She is the mom of three kids ranging from pre-teen to edge-of-the-nest teen, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.

Though she’s crazy about words, Ella is also practical, so she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. After years spent typing boring stuff, Ella eagerly gave up her corner cubicle and started writing fiction. She has also lived in Seattle, Washington & Savannah, Georgia.

She is a member of Tall Poppy Writers and Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association.

ROOT, PETAL, THORN (September 2016, Kensington) is her debut novel. And coming in September 2017-WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS.  [Special thanks to Kensington Press. Author and cover image provided by the author and used with permission, as well as the image of neighbor George and rose bush(es). Grieving angel retrieved from, mossy tree from, Alabama’s Shelby Hotel from, all on 7.20.16]. 

Writers on Wednesdays: Debut author Camille Di Maio talks about finding balance in life, how The Beatles influenced THE MEMORY OF US, her snoring (gasp!) problem, writing a minimum of 500 words a day, and an amazing support cast

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

I absolutely fell in love with THE MEMORY OF US, a gorgeous historical fiction debut from Camille Di Maio. Her prose is absolutely stunning, the pacing and emotional arc is quite eloquent and moving. I simply couldn’t put the book down until I knew how everything unfolded.IMG_2831

Julianne Westcott is a gorgeous Protestant socialite from a prominent Liverpool family in the midst of WWII. She has everything at her fingertips, including a mother who could only hope to marry her off to a fine, upstanding gentleman worthy of her hand. But Julianne has other plans; she enrolls in nursing school in London, though her parents aren’t 100% behind her.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. When Julianne inadvertently discovers an institutionalized deaf and blind twin brother, she begins visiting him at his place of residence. It’s there that she first lays eyes on the gardener, Kyle McCarthy, an Irish seminarian.

Falling in love, Julianne and Kyle will do all it takes to end up together; but the stakes are high. Julianne has an obligation to her school, Kyle to his vocation, and then there are her parents who forbid any such union.

Grab your coffee (or a spot of tea) and join me and Camille as we chat about THE MEMORY OF US.

Leslie Lindsay: Camille, I really, really loved THE MEMORY OF US. I found I couldn’t put the book down. The pacing was impeccable and the story of Julianne and Kyle really pulled at my heartstrings. What was your ultimate inspiration, the very first kernel that got you excited about this story?

Camille De Maio: Thank you, Leslie!  I’m so glad that you enjoyed it.  My answer here might surprise your readers.  My original inspiration came from dragging my four kids along on errands, and setting my iPod to shuffle while I drove.  Out of five thousand songs, it picked “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles, one of my favorites.  But this time was a different experience for me.  I found myself wondering – who was the lonely priest?  Who was the lonely woman?  What if they had a history together?  And it snowballed from there.  The song was released in 1966 – the 50th anniversary is actually this week – and I counted back to their youth, which I set around WWII.  So, it’s a story of young love in the shadow of war.  I was particularly excited about it when a pivotal scene came to mind – something that changes both of their lives radically – and I couldn’t wait to start putting it on paper.

L.L.: Your characters are vividly rendered, complex, and linked so well throughout the novel. Your sense of place is astute and the story propels the

reader deeper and deeper into the folds of war, love, and family expectations. I’m sort of amazed that this is your first book. Do you have other manuscripts shoved under the bed? Can you talk a bit about the journey to publication?

Camille De Maio: This was my first attempt at a book.  And I’d have to say that I consider myself a reader even before a writer.  That’s essential, in my opinion.  I am a voracious reader, and although I have no formal training in writing, I have hundreds of books that I’ve devoured.  So, I think I picked up, without realizing it, a sense of what works in stories.  Hope for amateurs everywhere!  I do have a second manuscript – this one set in Texas – that will be released in May 2017.  I’m deep in edits right now, so I’m going to be a hermit for the next week or so.

I wrote the first draft of THE MEMORY OF US in six weeks, knew nothing about the process, and sent it out to a bunch of agents.  Of course, I received just as many rejections.  But I used each rejection to understand how I needed to make it stronger.  So, between work and kids, I spent six years working and reworking it until the final version, which is draft seventeen.  Once I was confident that I had something worth sending in again, I submitted it out to several agents, taking the time to really study their lists, and two were interested in it!  I signed with Jill Marsal at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  Several months later, we had a book deal with Lake Union, and they have been fantastic to work with at every stage.

L.L.: THE MEMORY OF US is an epic tale, spanning several decades (1930s-1960s),  all set in England. How did you decide in which ways to structure this novel? As I’m sure it could have gone lots of different directions.

Camille De Maio: Although the book is not “about” Fr. McKenzie and Eleanor, I did use the song as inspiration for the framework.  I set it in Liverpool, the home of the Beatles.  A key scene takes place in August 1966, the release date of the song.  And, there are lots of little hints for fans of the Beatles to enjoy as they read it.  For example, one scene takes place on a bench in front of the cemetery of St. Peter’s Church in Woolton.  That is actually the church where Paul McCartney and John Lennon first met.  There is also a point in the book where the characters take a trip out to Wales.  The towns that they pass through are the 35300284towns that the Beatles played in during their only tour through Wales.  The setting – time and place – also provided the framework.  I loved the research stage of it.  My favorite was learning about St. Dwynwyn, who is the patron saint of lovers, like our Valentine, but in Wales.  I set a scene there, one that I never intended to write, after reading about her legend, and knowing that I had to incorporate it in to the story.

L.L.: As much as I loved THE MEMORY OF US, I had difficulty placing it in a specific genre. Not that it really matters, does it? Part of me wants to believe the book is historical fiction because its set during WWII, another part of me says it’s romance because of the relationship between Juliana and Kyle. And finally, there’s a bit of mystery in there, too. Does genre matter? And should writers write toward a specific genre, or just tell a good story?

Camille DeMaio: Good question!  I’ve had to come up with this description:  it’s historical fiction with strong romantic elements.  There is a lot more history in it than you usually find in a romance.  But, there is more romance in there than you usually find in historical fiction.  It was important to me, first of all, to tell a good story.  And, as it was set in the past, I wanted the history to be both interesting and accurate.  But I didn’t want it to bog the pacing down.  This is not a story “about” the war.  But, the war does play a role in shaping what happens to the two main characters.  More interesting to me was studying the details of the time and place – fashion, culture, speech, etc.

I think we see more and more blending of genres, and it’s a good thing.  Because of writing this book, I’ve read more romance than I had in the past.  (Although, I’ve learned that I’m a “low heat” reader!  Nothing too steamy for me.)  And, romance readers have told me how much they enjoyed the history.  So, I just believe in telling a good story and not worrying about how to categorize it. 

And you’re right – there is a bit of mystery.  I’ve read every Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Hercule Poirot that exists.  I’m sure that rubbed off on me!

L.L.: I have to admit, I kind of fell in love with Kyle a bit, too. Did he have a similar effect on you? Was there a character that was more fun to write, that seemed to flow most effortlessly? One that was more of a challenge?

Camille De Maio: Yes, I did fall in love with Kyle, and I’m glad you did, too!  While this wasn’t a conscious action, I think that as a member of  Twilight’s “Team Edward”, I was drawn to a character who is very good, very kind.  And, since he was studying for the priesthood, it seemed natural for his character to have these traits and still (hopefully) seem real.  My favorite scenes with him were the ones in which he was encouraging Julianne to do the right thing in her relationship with her parents. 

Julianne was more of a challenge.  She has to have this arc of being a socialite, somewhat vain, all of which setliverpool her up for a very big fall.  But, in the beginning, I had to be careful to give her these traits and still make her “likeable.”  There are a small handful of reviews from readers who don’t like a particular, radical decision she makes in the book.  However, not only did it have to happen to propel the story forward, but it was appropriate to the time period.  A modern woman with more social resources at her disposal could have made a different choice.  But, a woman in ravaged WWII would not have had the same options.

L.L.: In real life, if a seminarian falls in love, how easy is it to leave the vocation? In THE MEMORY OF US, it appeared to be less dramatic than I envisioned.

Camille De Maio: It is not a particularly dramatic event.  A man is in the seminary for eight to ten years before becoming a priest, and a big part of that period of time is a chance to discern his calling to this tremendous sacrifice.  Perhaps if I had told the story from Kyle’s point of view, there might have been some tough discussions with his teachers at the seminary, but nothing, ultimately, would have stood in his way from the choices he made.  He would not have taken final vows for many years.

L.L.: Aside from your job as novelist, you’re also a homeschooling mother to four and you run a real estate business. I’m tired just thinking of it! Yet, there’s something about busy-ness that sort of lights a fire. Can you speak to that please?  And what advice would you give to others who want to write, but finds that “life gets in the way?”

download (12)Camille De Maio: Isn’t there an expression that says that if you want something to be done, ask a busy person to do it?  Maybe that describes me.  Although, I am having to learn the art of saying “no”.  What I believe in is balance.  Now that writing is a big part of my life, my role in our real estate business is changing, and we’ve hired two people to assist with some of that work.  And, I make sure that my writing time is early in the morning or late at night, so that it doesn’t take away from my family.  In order to bring something in, something has to go. Thankfully, I’m a deep sleeper, and I seem to thrive on less of it.  According to my husband, I snore “like a fright train.”  Yikes!

As to those who say that “life gets in the way”, I offer a thought, which was told to me by my priest:  “You will never find time to do something.  You have to make time to do it.”  I think this is so true.  If you wait until our kids are out of diapers, until there are back in school, until they are out of the house, until you work less hours, etc., you may never write.  If writing is a goal, you have to make it fit.  Maybe that means waking up a half hour earlier.  Maybe that means turning off the TV at night and putting five hundred words on paper instead.  It’s all about choices.  What are you saying “yes” to that is making you say “no” to writing?  Think of this:  if you wrote five hundred words a day over the course of a year, you’d have over 180,000 words – that’s about two books!  And, ask most writers – once you’re in the groove of your story, five hundred words is a cakewalk.  Half hour kind of stuff.  (Side note – that doesn’t mean it’s GOOD writing, necessarily.  First drafts are notoriously awful.  But write them anyway!)

L.L.: What are you working on next? Do you plan to stay with historical fiction?

Camille De Maio: I didn’t set out to write historical fiction, but when I look over all the books I’ve read, I’ve clearly gravitated towards that genre.  I do love the research – it gives such wonderful depth to a book.  My second one, in fact, is set in Texas in the 1940s in a women’s prison.  While reading about that particular time, I discovered that there was an annual prison rodeo, and in that particular women’s prison, there was an all-girls string band that had a national radio following – yet they were all incarcerated!  Talk about fodder for a storyline.  Alternating chapters are set in modern times as a journalist and a doctor try to discover the truth about what happened to two sisters, one of whom was accused of murdering the other.

I’m editing that one right now, but I have been mulling over my third book.  It will be set in New York City between 1890 and 1963, surrounding a very particular piece of that city’s history.  I have my structure in mind, but I need to fill it in with characters.  I should start working on that in earnest this fall.

L.L.: What is obsessing/inspiring you these days? What keeps you awake at night?

Camille De Maio: Some writers excel when they are in a solitary place, perhaps a writing nook, where they are alone with their imaginations.  Other writers (definitely me) do best when they are constantly in different environments.  I am an observer, so if I’m traveling and I have my laptop, I cannot keep up with the words that fly from my fingers.  So, added to the natural addiction I have for travel, I am constantly thinking about the next place I’d like to go.  I’ve traveled to most of the states and four continents.  With my first book set in England, the second in Texas, and the third in New York, I think I might be accidentally creating a pattern for myself of writing books that are set in very distinct places.

What keeps me awake at night?  Well, as a deep sleeper/snorer, apparently, I’m out as soon as my head hits the pillow.  My poor husband – he’ll be in the middle of a conversation with me when the kids have finally gone to bed, and mid-sentence, after being completely coherent, I’ll just pass out in an instant.  But – as to what worries me – I would have to say the state of the world.  I know that sounds like a Miss America kind of answer.  But it’s true now more than ever.  It dawned on me the other day that I’ve seen the flag flown at half-staff more days than not in the past few months.  Or so it seems.  I really want to bring joy and love in to a world that is starved of it right now.

L.L.: What one question did I forget to ask, but should have?download (36)

Camille De Maio: I would like for people to know that although my name is on the front of the cover, writing a book BY FAR is not a solitary event.  It started with my mom encouraging my dreams as a kid.  My dad passing along his enthusiasm for the Beatles.  My husband telling me that I could do it when I didn’t think I could.  My kids for being patient as I did this.  My agent for taking a chance on a debut novelist.  My publisher for doing the same.  My editors for showings me how it could be better.  The cover artist for making it gorgeous.  My friends for reading awful first drafts and telling me that it was the best thing ever.  My publicist for getting the word out.  The book bloggers and promoters (like you!) who write about the books they love.  The readers for spending hard-earned money on it, and the ones who take the time to review it.  My author friends who understand this crazy life in a way that no one else does.  My brother for making my book trailer, and my sister for being a sounding board.  If you look at the acknowledgments in the back of my book, I went on and on.  But I absolutely must emphasize that this does not all happen in a vacuum.  I get all the credit and the mentions, but at every turn possible, I want people to know about everyone who has held me up.

For more information, or to follow Camille on social media, please see: 

You can follow me at:

unnamed
About the Author:
 Camille is an award-winning real estate agent in San Antonio who, along with her husband of 19 years, home schools their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more rewarding. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel. Her second, “Before the Rain Falls” will be released on May 2, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

[Cover and author image provided by C. Di Maio and used with permsission. Image of  St. Peter’s Church in Woolton retrieved from, Ben Franklin quote retrieved from, it takes a village quote from and Liverpool skyline from , all retrieved 7.28.16]

Wednesdays with Writers: B.A. Paris talks about her runaway bestseller BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, psychological & emotional abuse, letting the characters do the ‘talking,’pottery, and so much more

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

Oh wow. What a story. What pacing. Already a runaway bestseller in the U.K. with movie rights sold, B.A. Paris’s debut psychological thriller is sure to top many “must read summer lists.” BehindClosedDoors_COVER

And it should.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (forthcoming August 9th 2016) is completely unsettling and addictive, a true page-turner. Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he’s got looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better but it’s a challenge. She can’t meet up for coffee at a moment’s notice. When her friends call, she’s conveniently ‘out’ or ‘in the shower.’ She’s a gifted cook, but how on earth does she remain so slim?

And why are there bars on the window?

It may seem as if this so-called ‘perfect’ marriage is a lie.

And well, it is.

Today, I am thrilled to have B.A. Paris to the blog couch to chat with us about her gripping thriller, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

Leslie Lindsay: Oh, I am so glad you could pop by! I know Grace’s story was inspired, in part, by your suspicion that a friend was caught in a situation with very little control, unable to do as she wished. To me, this is a little bit of a relief, because if Grace’s story was based on truth…yikes! Can you share a little more about your inspiration for BEHIND CLOSED DOORS?

B.A. Paris: Thank you so much for inviting me today, I’m thrilled to be talking to you about BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Yes, you’re right, Grace’s story was inspired by my suspicions about a friend’s marriage but it could be that she is very happily married and it was just my imagination – I have a very vivid one! My story was also inspired by some articles I read about women who were controlled by their partners to such an extent that they felt incapable of functioning without them.  

L.L.: I think it’s very unsettling to know that there are some really horrific things that *do* go on out there and they may never get the redemption they deserve.  Can you talk about that, please?

B.A. Paris: The problem with psychological abuse is that there are no physical signs, so it is even harder to talk about than physical abuse, simply because it’s harder to prove. Also, if someone in this sort of situation were to confide in a friend, the most likely reaction would be ‘well, just leave.’ It’s difficult for someone on the outside to understand the amount of control involved. In one case I read about, a woman was allowed to go to the shops to buy some milk but while she was there it never occurred to her to try and escape, or to tell someone what was happening, she just went straight back, as she had been told to do. These sort of controlling relationships are based on fear, fear of what will happen if you step out of line, so the perpetrator often gets away with it simply because the victim doesn’t dare say anything.

L.L.: The character of Grace is well-drawn, but so is her sister Millie, who has Down’s syndrome. And Jack…well, what a creep! Was there a character or situation that came to you first?

B.A. Paris: In the beginning there were only Jack and Grace; it was their relationship I wanted to explore. But I knew that if Grace didn’t have something to anchor her into the relationship – a reason why she couldn’t leave – people would say that it wasn’t a believable situation. I don’t remember consciously creating the character of Millie, she was just suddenly there, writing herself into the story!download (10)

L.L.: I’m curious about some of your research that must have gone into BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. For example, you may have had to research the psychological concept of ‘gaslighting,’ and whatever psychological disorders you gave Jack. Can you share a bit of your process?

B.A. Paris:  As soon as I knew the sort of story that I wanted to write, I searched the internet for stories of people that had been controlled by their partners and who had eventually got away. I wanted to understand several things – what has pushed them to finally escape, how they had done it and why they hadn’t tried before. I read some particularly harrowing cases – one woman was kept prisoner in a pit for eight months and only fed twice a week. As for Jack, I knew from my reading that men in controlling relationships take great pleasure in instilling fear into their victim, so once I knew that, his motivation fell into place.   

L.L.: I think we all want to ‘side’ with Grace, but the truth is, she has some skeletons in her closet, too. Without giving too much away, can you share how both individuals in a gaslighting situation need to have a little imbalance to make it come across successfully—and yes, I use that word, ‘successful’ loosely.

B.A. Paris: Yes, definitely, both individuals need to have a little imbalance for this sort of relationship to function. The dominant partner, who is manipulative, exploits a weakness in the other. In Grace’s case, her weakness is her sister Millie – Jack recognizes from the outset that she would do anything for Millie and uses this as a weapon against her. But Jack has his weaknesses too – his arrogance and his conviction that he is invincible. And I’m afraid I can’t say anymore than that!

L.L.: I enjoyed your forays into Thailand. Not because what was going on there, but simply as a change of scenery. Have you been to Thailand and how did that come into your novel?

B.A. Paris: No, I haven’t been to Thailand – yet! – but I chose it for two reasons; first of all, it’s a popular honeymoon destination and secondly, I think it would have been possible for Jack to indulge in his love of fear there in a way that he couldn’t have in England. And I only really needed a hotel there, so that was easy enough to research on the internet!

Thailand-Travel_banner_3.jpg.1600x565_q85

L.L.: What do you hope readers take away from BEHIND CLOSED DOORS?

B.A. Paris: I would like them to take away an awareness that this type of mental and psychological abuse does exist and to hopefully recognize the signs so that if they have any worries about someone close to them, they can reach out to them. Or if they are going through something similar themselves, to ask for help. The most rewarding thing for me since writing the book have been the messages I’ve received from people thanking me for bringing this type of abuse into the open, because they were once in similar situations themselves.

“Debut-novelist Paris adroitly toggles between the recent past and the present in building the suspense of Grace’s increasingly unbearable situation, as time becomes critical and her possible solutions narrow. This is one readers won’t be able to put down.”

— BOOKLIST, Starred Review!

L.L.: As a writer, I am more a pantser, following whims and letting the character’s sort of tell their story. Plotting makes me want to run for the hills. But there are writers out there who swear by plotting. Where do you fall on this continuum?  And how was BEHIND CLOSED DOORS composed?

B.A. Paris: Writing BEHIND CLOSED DOORS was an amazing experience because I often felt that it wasn’t me writing the story but the characters. They seemed to take over to such an extent that sometimes, when I read over what I’d written the day before, I didn’t remember writing it and I was often shocked by what I was reading. This was especially true in relation to Jack. I never imagined when I started out that he would be so evil!

L.L.: I find that sometimes I have to get away from things I am writing and work on something else. It gets the creative juices flowing. Right now, I’m obsessed with how to re-do a bathroom. Silly, I know but somehow I will weave that into the next piece I write. What’s inspiring you nowadays? What has your attention?

B.A. Paris: When I’m writing, I tend to become a bit obsessed so it’s just as well that I work as a teacher, as it forces me to put my computer aside and concentrate on something else for a while. But I know what you mean – I’ve just taken up pottery and I know that somewhere, in a future book, I’ll somehow weave it into the story!

L.L.: What can we expect next from you?

B.A. Paris: I have another psychological drama EVERY LITTLE THING coming out in 2017. And then I’ll be on to the next one.

L.L.: Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

B.A. Paris: No, your questions have been great and I think we’ve covered pretty much everything!

L.L.: Thank you so very much for spending some time with us today, we so enjoyed it!

B.A. Paris: Thank you for letting me come and talk about BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, it’s been a pleasure to spend time with you!

For more information, or to follow on social media, please see: 

Author Photo_BA Paris_No Credit Needed.jpgAbout the Author: B.A. Paris is from a Franco/Irish background. She was brought up in England and worked in London for three years before moving to Paris, where worked in corporate banking and as a trader in an international bank. After the birth of her first daughter, she became a stay-at-home mother and went on to have another three daughters. She spent four years in the Netherlands, where her fifth daughter was born. Returning to France, she decided to re-train as an English teacher and worked for some years in an international school and then at the Université de Marne la Vallée, teaching English to Architecture students. In 2009 she set up a language school with her husband and now teaches Business English in Paris.  

[With special thanks to J. Preeg at St. Martin’s Press. Author and Cover image provided by author’s publicist and used with permission. Gaslighting image retrieved from, Thailand image from, both retrieved 7.20.16]

Write On, Wednesday: Gillian Flynn’s THE GROWNUP

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay 

The Edgar Award–winning short story from the author of

Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, published for the first time as a stand-alone book

What a concise and wacky little story THE GROWNUP is, but what more would we expect from Gillian Flynn?!

Topping out at just over 60 pages, this is not a full-fledged novel and that may be okay, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Personally, I would have loved a full-length novel (ha, and there’s a little pun in that if you chose to read the story), but THE GROWNUP is a full short story that was originally written for J.R.R. Tolkien by Flynn (as mentioned her acknowledgements section) and published as a short story within an anthology in 2014.

Be aware that, like Flynn’s earlier stories, this one is a bit vulgar at times and definitely edgy, but if you like haunted houses, ghost-y things, and have an interest in the occult, THE GROWNUP is right. up. your. alley.

Of course the ending is trade-mark Flynn with a strange little twist that will have you paging through earlier sections to see if you can spot a little set-up.

 

Why you’ll want to read THE GROWNUP: 

  • To get your Gillian Flynn fix. Last fall, we were gifted with the fabulously creepy movie version of her runaway bestseller, GONE GIRL, but since then…no book.
  • To get your old house fix. Yep, it was the main reason I reached for this one.
  • And the ghostly tale sort of goes intrinsically with the whole old-house thing. 
  • A fun little foray into the whacked out minds of Flynn’s charaters…can you tell who’s being honest, or are we all deceptively crafty at the heart?
  • A perfect stocking stuffer for just about anyone who enjoys short stories. This one is so small, it fits in the the palm of your hand. And yeah, if you read the book, you’ll understand.

For more information, please see Gillian Flynn’s website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

GILLIAN FLYNN is the author of the runaway hit Gone Girl, an international sensation that has spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists. Her work has been published in forty-one languages. Flynn’s previous novels, Dark Places and Dagger Award winner Sharp Objects, are also New York Times bestsellers. A former writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly, she lives in Chicago with her husband and children.

[Special thanks to A. Rosner at Crown Publishing] 

 

Write On, Wednesday: Meet Margaret McMullan of EVERY FATHER’S DAUGHTER

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay

“What is it about the relationship between fathers and daughters that provokes so much exquisite tenderness, satisfying communion, longing for more, idealization from both ends, followed often if not inevitably by disappointment, hurt, and the need to understand and forgive, or to finger the guilt of not understanding and loving enough?” writes Phillip Lopate, in Every Father's Daughter Coverhis introduction to Every Father’s Daughter,a collection of 25 personal essays by women writers writing about their fathers. The editor, Margaret McMullan, is herself a distinguished novelist and educator. About half of these essays were written by invitation for this anthology; others were selected by Ms. McMullan and her associate, Philip Lopate, who provides an introduction. The contributors include many well-known writers—Alice Munro, Jayne Anne Phillips, Alexandra Styron, Ann Hood, Bobbie Ann Mason, Maxine Hong Kingston, among others—as well as writers less well-known but no less cogent, inventive, perceptive, lacerating, questioning, or loving of their fathers.

I was particularly touched by the stories, which run the gamut of successful dads to distant and indifferent ones; the book truly embraces every type of father-daughter relationship…and if you’re a writer yourself, you’ll probably be inspired to pick up the pen and write your own. We’re honored to have Ms. McMullan with us today.

L.L.: How did you decide which authors to reach out to for this collection?

Margaret McMullan: In the last month of my father’s life, I read to him Alice Munro’s essay, “Working for a Living.” We had one of our last book discussions about that fox farm, the cold work, and the landscape of Canada. She was the first person I contacted. I wrote her a letter and a few months later she called and said yes, of course you can reprint my essay. I was just stunned. The other authors followed. I invited the authors my father loved or had met at some point in his life. He had dinner with Lee Smith once and she was so quick to respond. Lee led me to Jill McCorkle. I also included three former students. In the end, this collection of women writers became one big circle of friends.

L.L: How did your vision for this collection evolve from the start to end of this project?

Margaret McMullan: At first I saw this as a collection of southern writers, men and women. But then I realized I just wanted to hear from women, daughters. I moved away from regionalizing it when I began thinking of my father’s literary tastes and what kind of man he was. He was southern but he was also very much shaped by Chicago and the Mid-West. Each time I read an essay, I would think, Would Dad like this?

L.L: What most surprised you about the creation of Every Father’s Daughter?

Margaret McMullan: I was surprised how difficult such a great collection was to get published. Jane Smiley had a Pulitzer, Maxine Hong Kingston won the National Book Award, and Alice Munro had just won a Nobel Prize. I felt this book was no-proof. Who wouldn’t want to read these writers on this particularly personal subject? And who wouldn’t want to read about fathers? I’ve always thought this collection was a sure thing, but it was much more difficult to find a publisher than I had imagined. Apparently, anthologies were no longer fashionable in the publishing industry. One editor, who declined the book, has since contacted me to tell me how she genuinely regrets not taking it.

L.L.: In your introduction, you talk about how this book was a way for you to grieve. How did you come to realize this?

Margaret McMullan:This particular work felt meaningful because all along I thought so much about my father. I started soon after my father died. The work – reaching out to other women, asking for their stories, and then reading them was therapeutic because it reminded me that there are other emotions besides grief. After a while, after I organized and put together the book, after I wrote my own essay, my grief transformed. It felt less like sadness and more like love.

Margaret McMullan: I have encountered so many readers who have read the book and want to talk about an essay, and then, inevitably, these readers begin to tell me about their fathers. A conversation starts. This book has a power. We are remembering our fathers, and, in some cases, bringing them back to life.

L.L.: Did you come to realize anything about your relationship with your father as you read through the essays in this collection?                                                                                                

Margaret McMullan: I knew from the start that we were close, and that a good part of that closeness was how we stayed connected through literature. Now, I realize exactly how close we really were.

L.L.: Thank you so very much for being with us today, Margaret.

Margaret McMullan: Thank you!

See my full review on GoodReads.

Margaret McMullanAbout the Author: Margaret McMullan is the author of six award-winning novels includingIn My Mother’s House (St. Martin’s Press),Sources of Light(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Cashay (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), When I Crossed No-Bob (HoughtonMifflin Harcourt), andHow I Found the Strong (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her writing has appeared in The ChicagoTribune, Ploughshares, Southern Accents, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Sun, and many otherpublications. She received an NEA Fellowship in literature forAftermath Lounge and a Fulbright award to teach at theUniversity of Pécs in Pécs, Hungary, for her upcoming non-fiction work,Where the Angels Live. Her anthology ofessays by 25 well-known female authors writing about their fathers,Every Father’s Daughter (McPherson &Company), is also available in Spring 2015. She currently holds the Melvin Peterson Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

[Images courtesy of the author via PRbytheBook. Grief quote retrived from meetville.com on 6.15.15]

 

Write On, Wednesday: Bestselling Author LISA UNGER talks about books, writing, IN THE BLOOD & so much more!

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay

I am so very honored to have the amazing Lisa Unger with us today. Lisa is the NYT bestselling author of 12 suspenseful tales that range from crime, mystery, family saga, to the familiar psychological thriller; she’s a reader, wife, and mother (on a fun note, watch this interview with Lisa and her daughter, Ocean Rae discussing children’s books http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veY8wYhHweQ).

Lisa’s newest release is IN THE BLOOD (January 7th, Touchtone).  When my pre-order arrived in the mail, I hunkered down and didn’t stop till I finished.  It’s *that* good.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the interview for a…Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, thank you for being with us today.  Your books are crazy-good in a twisted, dark manner that keeps us turning the pages, yet they seem to straddle several genres. According to your website bio, “My novels center around strong women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and explore themes such as the power of a single choice, the corrosive nature of secrets and lies, dark family legacies, and the secrets we keep from each other and from ourselves.” That said, how can writers authentically combine these varied genre aspects into a complete whole? Is it “just” writer-ly magic? 
LISA UNGER: Thank you for having me, Leslie. And thank you for the very kind words. I suppose you’re right in that the novels do straddle different genres. 
But I think it’s important for writers to remember that “genres” are classifications designed by book publishers and booksellers to market novels more efficiently. Writers should not be thinking about genre when they write.  We should be thinking about character, setting, plot, prose and all the elements that unify to make a great book.  We should be honoring our inspiration, putting in the time, and working hard every day to dig deeper and get better at what we’re doing.
Which is not to say that genre is not important. But it’s important later, after the book is written.  In the process of writing, it is far more critical to write authentically from an organic place.  Every one of my novels begins and ends with character voice.  I follow that voice and listen to that story.  Most of my novels are dark, and all of them might be classified as mystery, or thriller, or crime fiction.  But I don’t sit down to write my next “thriller.”  I sit down to write my next novel, and I honor the character voices in my head.  It’s not intent, and it’s not magic.  It’s just being true to who I am as a writer.
Leslie Lindsay:  You’ve always wanted to write—but before you landed a book deal, you worked in publishing. In what ways do you feel your earlier work prepared you for the life as a career author? For example, I just told my critique partner, “I only wished I’d started writing seriously sooner [in my life].” 
LISA UNGER: My years in publishing taught me some important things.  I had always been a writer, but I lacked the confidence to pursue that dream. Working in publishing showed me that it was, in fact, possible to do what I wanted to do.
My years in publishing also taught me that it wouldn’t be easy.  Getting published is not an end to the journey; it’s the beginning. It’s a foot in the door, an invitation to roll up your sleeves and get to work.  It’s harder to succeed as a published writer than it is to get published in the first place.  Knowing that prepared me for the dizzying highs and crushing lows of life as a career writer.  I am grateful to have that background, that I knew the realities of the business before I finally went for it.
Leslie Lindsay: In those early days of writing, what do you think you did “right?”What could you have done better?
LISA UNGER: Hmm … that’s an interesting question.  I am not certain what I did right, or what I could have done better.  In fact, I’m not sure that we can look back at any part of our lives in regret or in self-congratulation, since we never know what the consequences of other choices might have been.
But I do know that I have always done my best.  I am certain that each of my novels represents the pinnacle of my abilities at the time of its writing.  And the only thing that has ever motivated me is the belief that every day I can be better at what I do than I was yesterday. I believe that each book I have written is better than the one that came before it.  So, to be honest, I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.
Leslie Lindsay: IN THE BLOOD—wow! It’s so well done. I knew you had me when we first meet a psychology student with a trust fund, a mess of lies, and a web of secrets. Each and every sentence is so carefully crafted with unique turns of phrase and dashing imagery. Can you give us a little kernel of how IN THE BLOOD came to be?
LISA UNGER: The germ for a novel can come from almost anything – a news story, a line of poetry, even a photograph.  In the Blood was inspired by an article I read in The New York Times Magazine about how certain doctors think they can see early signs of psychopathic behavior in children as young as five. This idea ignited my imagination and led me to do a great deal of research on the topic.  And while I was reading, I started to hear the voice of Lana Granger. The only thing I knew about her was that she was hiding something big.  But I didn’t know what.  I also knew I had to tell her story.
Like most of my novels, In the Blood is my delving into the question of what makes us who we are, and what power do we have to change ourselves.  My father used to recite this poem for me when I was a kid.  You cannot hide in snow/ no matter where you go/ you leave a trail behind/ that anyone can find.  It sounds a little creepy, doesn’t it?  He didn’t mean it to be; he’s just into the sound of words.  It stayed with me and comes back at weird moments.  And over the course of my life, its meaning has evolved as an allegory for the self.  You cannot hide from yourself.  The psyche won’t allow it. You must embrace everything, even the darkest and most unpleasant things within you. That’s the major theme of In the Blood.
Leslie Lindsay: What advice would you give writers who are at that submission stage, who have a completed manuscript, and really want to get published traditionally? How do you see the publishing world changing?
LISA UNGER: Just keep writing.  Don’t wait to see if that book publishes, even if you are at the submission stage. Just keep writing.  Dig deeper.  Try to get better.  Because that’s what will get you published in the end, being great at what you do.
The publishing world is changing all the time; it’s true.  And it’s changing so fast and unpredictably that you shouldn’t worry about it until you are actually published.  And not even then!  Just write the best book you can write.  Write organically, exactly the book that your heart wants to write.  You can’t hope to follow trends or write to sell, because those trends, too, change all the time. 
What doesn’t change is that everyone is still looking for a great story – agents, editor, and readers.  We will always look to story to escape from or understand life a little better.  We will always want a great story to lift us up, thrill us, excite us, and make us feel something.  Publishing may change.  But love of story is forever.  There will always be a place for a great book.
Leslie Lindsay:  Is there anything obsessing you right now? 
LISA UNGER: I am always obsessed with questions of identity, nature vs. nuture, family legacies, abnormal psychology, relationships, religion, the many facets of love, and the things that connect us and tear us apart.  I am most recently obsessed with psychic phenomenon, haunting, and addiction. I have a kaleidoscope of obsessions, always shifting, changing and building on each other. Thank goodness!
Leslie Lindsay: What’s next for you? Working on another book—I hope! 
LISA UNGER: My next novel, entitled CRAZY LOVE YOU will publish in April 2015.  I am currently at work on my first young adult book, and the 2016 adult title.   Stay turned for more on all of that!
Leslie Lindsay:  Thank you for being with us today, Lisa Such a thrill! Can you kindly direct readers to your website, social media? Also, an author photo and book cover image would be much appreciated.
LISA UNGER: Thank YOU, Leslie, for having me!  And of course readers can find out lots more about me on the web!
Facebook: authorlisaunger
Twitter: @lisaunger
And please do sign up for my newsletter here:  https://www.facebook.com/authorlisaunger/app_100265896690345
I am currently re-energizing the newsletter to include exclusive excerpts, giveaways, advice for writers and notes about what I’m reading, working on, obsessing about, listening to and watching.  So do sign up!  It’s going to be fun.
Lisa Unger….New York Times bestselling author of IN THE BLOOD (Jan 2014)
Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way
And now for the GIVE-A-WAY!!  Lisa has generously offered a complimentary copy of her new release, IN THE BLOOD to one lucky reader. All you have to do it SHARE* this interview via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc. and LET ME KNOW you shared by dropping me a line at leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com or leaving a comment in the comments section of this blog. If you don’t tell me you’ve shared, your name can’t be entered. GOOD LUCK!!
*The Fine Print: Give-a-way open to US residents only. Contest runs Wednesday, 2/19/14 thru Saturday 2/22/14 at 5pm. You will be contacted via email if you are the winner. Please check “junk” and “spam” folders for an email from me. If you are not the winner, you will not be notified. Respond promptly with your mailing address. Ms. Unger, or her representative, will send you the book. Your email will not be used for any other reasons.
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Unger and retrieved 2.18.14 from www.lisaunger.com
This interview was arranged by Leslie Lindsay

The Teacher is Talking: The Energy Bus Book Review

Standard

By Leslie Lindsay

I just can’t get enough of my books this week!  I think you will agree that today’s “The Teacher is Talking” meshes well with yesterday’s post about speech disorders and bullies.  Product Details

The Energy Bus by Jon  Gordon came to us by way of a birthday gift for my 6-year old.  She’s a full-day kindergarten student who hops on the big yellow every day, so a book about school buses made perfect sense.  But this is not just any school bus–it’s Miss Joy’s Energy Bus!  (image source: Amazon.co 2/12/13)

I love how this book teaches the young character that he is in charge of his own positivity–his own good thinking, and his own outcome.  It’s about coming to school ready for the day and being your best self.  When some of the older kids at school bother him, he just uses his special energy bus powers to put ’em in their place.  Of course, there are a few bumps along the road, but what one learns from the energy bus is something we can all take with us on our journey.

From the website:

“The Energy Bus for Kids shows children how to overcome negativity, bullies and everyday challenges to be their best and share their positive energy with others.

When you get kids on The Energy Bus, you’ll infuse their lives with vision, hope, love and positivity.”

For more information, see:

[No compensation for this post has been provided.  The author owns this book and is not affiliated in any way with the author.  This is not a give-a-way]