Emma Healey talks about her most recent book, WHISTLE IN THE DARK, inner demons, missing girls, mothers & daughters, unique structure, more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Stunning, psychologically complex atmospheric tale about mothers and daughters, inner demons, and piecing back the shards of a fragile psyche. Emma Healey pops by to chat about her favorite podcasts, how her teenage breakdown–and subsequent depression–informed Lana’s character, and so much more. 

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I am overwhelmed with the subtle absorption of WHISTLE IN THE DARK
(July 2018, Harper), which explores the complexity of mother-daughter relationships, with a wry, poignant, sharply observed style. Emma Healey’s prose is both taut and lush and I was immediately drawn into her atmospheric underworld of 15-year-old Lana Maddox’s teenage depression, unaccountable days, and her eventual reappearance. 

Plus, that cover!

Told in a unique noir style in which we begin with the end, delve into a murky (in a good way) middle ground, and then reemerge on a brighter, more hopeful side, WHISTLE IN THE DARK is written in titled sections that aren’t exactly chapters, but present-day vignettes/memories/back flashes, while also propelling the narrative forward. I have to say, I loved this! I found the smaller sections easier to read (as opposed to an entire chapter), offered just enough information to leave me happily brooding in the past while also forcing me forward. I wanted to savor WHISTLE IN THE DARK.

Ultimately, WHISTLE IN THE DARK sets out to discover: 1) Where was Lana during those four days? and 2) Does she really want to be saved? 

But there is so much more. The psychological complexities, the emotional depth and the astute observations from Healey made my jaw drop. Plus, there’s a slight religious/spiritual/mystical aspect to the narrative twining through as if a glimmering thread.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Emma Healey to the author interview series.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Emma, I am in awe. Your storytelling in A WHISTLE IN THE DARK is brilliant and yet dark, and so well done. I’m curious what the original seed was that propelled you into this particular world?

Emma Healey:

Firstly, thank you very much indeed for your lovely comments about the book. I’m ever so glad you enjoyed it.

The initial inspiration for the plot came when I was in Australia in 2015 and I heard about a woman who had gone missing in the rainforest in Queensland for 17 days. She was found, not far from where she’d disappeared, suffering from sunburn and heatstroke, but essentially okay. She said she’d just got lost and had quickly become too weak to alert searchers to her whereabouts. The part of the story that really interested me though, was that the press seemed suspicious of her, hinting that she had deliberately gone off, hadn’t really been lost, was lying. I didn’t know what to do with that for about 10 months, but I knew I wanted to use the elements of that story in a smaller way. So eventually Australia became England, 17 days became 4, the media became a mother. Once I had those parameters I realized it was also going to be a book about teenage depression.

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‘…a psychological thriller that meshes the homely with the gothic… Healey broadens the remit of the thriller.’

~ Literary Review


Leslie Lindsay:

There is a slight ‘underworld’ theme, which can be interpreted on several levels. The title, of course, plays on this, too. Can you share how WHISTLE IN THE DARK is both an interior and exterior read?

Emma Healey:

Without giving anything away, I knew that a kind of underworld was the solution to the book very early on, so that physical detail was one layer. And then other features of the book suggested others – it’s about a mother who is afraid of losing her daughter, which of course made me think of the myth of Demeter and Persephone. The book focuses briefly on social media and internet research – something that we describe as being like a rabbit hole (especially when we’re procrastinating writers!). Jen is worried about her daughter physically and emotionally, and the action is about reacting to a physical absence, but really the book is about a mother trying to excavate her daughter’s mind – so there’s a tension between exterior and interior there.

I also love adding a hint of the uncanny to my writing. I think most of us find ourselves spooked or chilled by strange things at various times – an unidentified noise in an empty house, a shape that seems to change in the dark, etc. Those moments are a kind of pure drama and are full of possibilities. And they all suggest another kind of underworld. I’m hugely influenced in this by my teenage obsession with Ann Radcliffe’s books – her eighteenth century gothic novels are full of the possibility of something supernaturally dark, but always have frighteningly real-world solutions.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I want to talk about structure a bit. WHISTLE IN THE DARK is told in told in sections ranging from a few lines to a few pages, a technique that really propels the narration, whilest, giving readers plenty to think about. How did this structure evolve? Was it conscious on your part? I fond it very effective.

Emma Healey:

I write in unconnected sections, often only 500 words at a time, and then when I have collected a good number I try to see how these might fit into a narrative. And then I repeat the process – writing another set of unconnected scenes, but with a more definite voice, or perspective, and with a knowledge of the purpose of the story / narrator. And then I carry on like that till I have a first draft. So, in some ways the structure was unconscious, but when I was halfway through I started thinking of Evan S Connell’s novel Mrs Bridge. I love that book, which is written in very short, titled chapters and gives the reader a series of glimpses into the life of Mrs Bridge and her family. It works because Mrs Bridge, her inner life, is kept at arms length, but we get enough (clever, surprising, funny) details to make us think we know her. In fact the overlapping stories act like a series of private jokes – bringing us closer, making us feel like part of the community. I wanted to do something similar, and realized I could formalize my short sections, reduce the span of the novel to include just a few months (rather than a whole life), and also add in a kind of mystery.

Leslie Lindsay:

Many authors (and writing instructors) suggest that you should always know the end [of your story] before even beginning. Where do you stand on this? Did you know how WHISTLE IN THE DARK would end ahead of time?

Emma Healey:

I knew the very very end image and the final bit of dialogue, but actually the plot changed several times while I was writing it. I wrote my first novel in the same way. I’ve only once fully worked out the end of a novel and I ended up abandoning that project after thirty thousand words! I have to feel there is something for me to explore, something to discover, to make the process worthwhile. If I know too much I lose interest. I’m not a ‘pantster’ because I keep a very detailed plan, but I let that plan develop with my book, rather than dictate the content.

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Leslie Lindsay: 

I also really admire the psychological complexity and depth presented in WHISTLE IN THE DARK. Lana is fifteen and is struggling with depression and anxiety. She has a therapist and also some self-injurious behavior. Can you talk about how this piece found its way into the story? And did you have to do any research?

Emma Healey:

I had a breakdown when I was 15 and was suicidally depressed. I dropped some of my exams at 16, and didn’t go on to sixth form college (for 17 & 18 year olds). Instead I spent a year barely leaving the house and reading romance novels, one after another, in order to shut out the real world. I didn’t think I would ever explore that time in my life through fiction, and I still wouldn’t write about it in straightforward detail, but approaching the subject from a parent’s point of view (using my mother as a very very rough template) made it possible to find something new and useful and even entertaining in it.

Having gone through that experience, I was really keen to pose rather than answer questions – I wasn’t interested in providing a reason for Lana’s depression, because I know there isn’t always a reason. The book hints at exam pressure and body issues, and difficulties within friendship groups, but doesn’t use any of them as a solution. Similarly I wanted Jen and her husband Hugh to have a good relationship so the reader couldn’t mistake my purpose and think that I was trying to show how divorce leads to depression, etc. I’m also quite hard on Lana – I don’t paint her as an angel! But was always acutely aware of her suffering while I was writing the book.

Leslie Lindsay:

Emma, it’s been a pleasure! Thank you so much for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? What you’re binge-watching, if you’re working on something else, if you have a guilty pleasure, what’s on your TBR pile? Something else?

Emma Healey:

Thank you so much for your questions!

I’m unfortunately not binge-watching anything at the moment as I have 16 month old, so we only ever have CBeebies playing on the television. I do listen to lots of podcasts though, my favourite about books and writing are: Slate’s Audio Bookclub, Death of 1000 Cuts, Backlisted, and of course the New Yorker Fiction podcast. I’m also keen on true crime podcasts, especially: Death in Ice Valley, The Doorstep Murder, In the Dark, and Trace.

I’m working on the beginning of a new book, with lots of chapters set in woodland. At least I think I’m working on a new book, I might just be using that as an excuse to get out into the countryside now that autumn is here (I love the autumn).

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

Emma Healey, photographed at the UEA campus, Norwich.ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emma Healey grew up in London and is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her first novel, Elizabeth is Missing, was published to critical acclaim in 2014, elizabeth-is-missing-us-coversold over a million copies, and won the Costa First Novel Award. Her second novel, Whistle in the Dark was published in 2018. She lives in Norwich with her husband, daughter and cat.

 

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

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

Stunning fictional portrayal of the French Revolution, Marie Tussaud, & so much more in this glimmering historical fiction, LITTLE–with amazing illustrations–by the immensely talented Edward Carey

By Leslie Lindsay 

Richly imagined novel of the woman who would one day become known as Madame Tussaud is charming as it is eccentric. 

And I was mesmerized.

IMG_0682Edward Carey is here chatting about how the cast  of characters was ‘exhausting and worrying,’ how LITTLE is like a ‘very dark fairytale,’ how Louis XVI was really a ‘pretty bad king, but a great locksmith…and would often go to the top of Versailles to shoot feral cats,’ and so much more. 

Narrated by Marie Grosholtz, the ‘tiny,’ bright and ambitious orphan, apprenticed to a wax sculptor, readers fall easily into her charm, her wonderful, strange, and fascinating world of wax modeling. 

I so loved LITTLE (Riverhead, 2018), which is tumbling with drama, from the challenging early years of Marie’s life (her father died from the Seven Years War) and her mother’s suicide, through her apprenticeship at to Doctor Curtius (who was a physician but also a wax sculptor), the streets of Paris, Versailles, and through the French Revolution. Seriously, LITTLE has so much going for it–love and loss, sharp eccentricities, morbidity, but also hope and art.

I was completely taken and wrapped in this wholly original and immersive narrative. In fact, I found myself reading more slowly than usual because I wanted to savor the spirit of persistence and enchanted rendering of such a special soul.

Scattered throughout the text are pencil drawings by the author as if he were channeling Marie. This really enhances the storytelling and brings such life to the words. 

In short, I loved LITTLE. sLQBjcaM_400x400

But I’m not the only one.

Margaret Atwood says this about LITTLE:

“Don’t miss this eccentric charmer! LITTLE, by Edward Carey, narrated by Madame Tussaud of waxworks fame [on] her strange life and times, including the almost fatal French Revolution, a prime season for heads.” ~via Twitter.

And LITTLE receives a starred review from Kirkus:

“Carey channels the ghosts of Charles Dickens, Henry Fielding, and the Brothers Grimm, to tell Marie’s tale, populating it with grotesques and horrors worthy of Madame Tussaud’s celebrated wax museum…A quirky, compelling story that deepens into a meditation on mortality and art.”

Library Journal selects LITTLE as a Fall Editors’ Pick and says this about it:

“Lavishly illustrated with Marie’s strange and compelling drawings, Edward Carey’s Little is a boldly original reimagining of the life of the woman who would become the legendary Madame Tussaud.”

Please join me in welcoming Edward Carey to the author the author interview series.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Edward, it’s such a pleasure. I loved this book. I know you say LITTLE took ‘a really long time’ to finish. Fifteen years, in fact. But you’ve published other things in the interim. Can you talk about the original spark for LITTLE, and then a bit about why this one was slow to formulate?

Edward Carey:  

In my early twenties I had a wonderful very bad job as a guard at Madame Tussaud’s in London. The job was basically: look after the wax people, protect them from the flesh people that came to visit. The public came in and pointed and prodded and were not especially courteous to the wax populace, but it was fascinating watching people reacting to these full size dolls. It was while I was working there that I learnt about the real life of Marie Tussaud, that she had been in Paris before after and during the French Revolution and that she had cast Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from life and then, later, their heads after they had been guillotined. She seemed to know everyone, Marat, Franklin, Robespierre, Rousseau, Napoleon. The most fascinating figure in the waxworks was a self portrait she made of herself when she was an old woman. She put this waxwork at the till and would sit down beside it. She had such a wise, winning face. I knew then I would love to write about her someday, her story seemed like a very dark fairy tale…and slowly it seemed to me that I should try to write a novel about her. So this was the original spark. And then, later, when I started to work on it I became a little nervous about how to approach her, about how to properly shape the story. Getting her voice right was probably the hardest part, giving her enough emotion, making her love. To begin with she was too uncanny, something like a doll herself and that didn’t work. So the novel changed size over the years, sometimes it was enormous, at others it was much, much smaller. I had to leave it alone for many months at a time before I could finally see it properly.

Leslie Lindsay:

In publishing, there’s this notion of, ‘write book at the right time,’ and so I’m curious—what pieces had to be orchestrated for LITTLE?

Edward Carey:  

There was no time factor involved really – except the fact that the book took me fifteen years to finish, which is obviously an alarmingly long time. It was under no contract as I wrote it and so I had only myself to spur me on. I think her story is good for all times. She’s a mirror to what human beings are capable of, both the best of humanity and the cruelest.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Your research is evident. I mean, wow. Can you talk a bit about that, please? What advice might you give to writers so they don’t become too bogged down in the minutia and just write?

Edward Carey:

I spent many months doing research in the British Library in London and I spent two six month sessions living in Paris, researching and writing there. This was all at the beginning. My other novels are mostly set in cities that don’t exist so I could make up whatever I wanted to. But here I was writing about Paris and one of the most famous pieces of European history. That often intimidated me. I was so eager that my Louis XVI was credible, likewise Marie Antoinette and  Napoleon[Benjamin] Franklin and Voltaire and Rousseau and Jacques Louis David…all of them! And, at times, I found the fame of the cast of my book exhausting and worrying. So I read a great deal and visited archives. To be honest, living in Paris and London intimidated me even more when writing the book. Moving to Austin, Texas, was incredibly useful! Suddenly Paris and the eighteenth century seemed so far away. I began to relax. And at last began to feel freer with the material. But chiefly what helped me was the writing of Louis Sebastien Mercier, he lived in and wrote about Paris in 1700s but what was so exciting about his writing was that he only wrote about ordinary life, not about the famous people but about the average bloke on the street and how it was to live in Paris then. This was a liberation for me, I adored his writing so much I made him an important character in the book – and the person who guides Marie around Paris (telling her about it, when she’s forced to stay in one house and never leave it).

Leslie Lindsay:

I love the art interspersed throughout the narrative. You’re also a visual artist and these drawings are ultimately your creation, but channeled by Marie. How did this piece come into the story? It really enriches the reading experience.

Edward Carey:

For LITTLE very early on I carved from wood a mannequin of Marie (which features in the book), I wanted to know her size exactly, and this wooden mannequin is her exact size. I also painted a portrait of her in oils that I pretended was painted by the great artist Jacques Louis David, I wanted to have David – who was Robespierre’s chief propagandist – in the book right from the start. I also wanted to know how to make a waxwork so I could describe the process properly, so I made a wax death mask of Marie’s teacher Doctor Curtius. But mostly the artwork involved drawing. I tried to see the world through Marie’s eyes not just with words but with her pencil – I had her sketching fish heads in the kitchen, Mercier’s shoes, Curtius’ tools, extinct monkeys, and also the two people she loved. I tried to litter the book with her observations. Slowly these drawings mounted up. I tried also, when she couldn’t face drawing the actual awful event before her, for Marie to make substitute: for example when Marie’s mother commits suicide she sketches a wood pigeon from the butcher’s; when she sees a dead woman on a Parisian street she draws a deceased rat; when Louis XVI is guillotined she draws the mold she makes of the dead king – so that you see the dead king’s head in negative not the actual head, a sort of ghost of it. I also thought that Marie would never draw herself, so you never see her actual face in the book, you see everyone else, and you have her voice narrating the story, but Marie’s own features are kept a little aloof.

Leslie Lindsay:

I loved Marie. Her spunk, her voice, her brilliance. But there are so many other characters presented in LITTLE. Doctor Curtius, Edmond, the widow Picot, Princess Elisabeth. Aside from Marie, did you feel a particular affinity for anyone?

Edward Carey:

I do love Mercier, and I owe him a lot, his prose is simply stunning and I tried to write something in his voice – and I tried to make him the conscience of the novel. As I went about my research I discovered that Louis XVI was rather a shy fellow and that he was much happier tinkering around with locks on his own – he was actually a very accomplished locksmith – I also discovered that he used to go up on the roofs of Versailles to shoot at all the feral cats that lived around the palace (this seemed so extraordinary to me I had to put it in the novel). Louis XVI was not a good king and was often paralyzed with indecision, but also he never expected to be king, his father and brother died before him and so he, unhappily I think, found himself on the throne. Some characters in the book are made up. Jacques Beauvisage (christened by cruel nuns) is a street urchin, an orphan, a frequenter of public executions, and he acts as the human guard dog to the waxworks house in the novel – I tried to make him represent all the bloodiest aspects of Paris at the time. To have the Revolution appear even closer to Marie, I had Jacques be one of the principal actors in the September Massacres where priests and monks were murdered by the hundreds. Suddenly, the Revolution had come home to Marie at the waxworks, formerly they were merely observers but now one of their number was taking part.

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Leslie Lindsay:

There’s no getting around the macabre. And it is Halloween after all, so let’s talk about the guillotine for a moment.  And those murders and severed heads in Marie’s lap. Of course, this scene is quite visceral. What two or three scenes stand out in your mind as some of the most memorable?

Edward Carey:

The first (in chronological order) would be the bloody head of the Comte de Launay, Governor of the Bastille. When the prison was stormed de Launay was killed by the mob and his head severed from his body. This was no neatly sliced neck delivered by the guillotine but rather one that was hacked about and then thrust on a pike. I thought of the shock of that, a human head so misplaced, and Marie being forced by the mob to cast it. The second would be the king’s head after his execution, now Marie had in her lap the head of someone she actually knew, and so she must have been both tender with it but also revolted. The third is Jean Paul Marat murdered in his bath. Marat, who was one of the most fanatical and vile of the personalities of the French Revolution, suffered from a bad skin complaint and to soothe this he sat in a slipper bath and worked as he bathed. Charlotte Corday, a beautiful woman from Cannes, pretended to give him information on enemies of the state, instead she thrust a knife into his chest. It was an unusually hot summer at the time and Marat’s body began to decompose with alarming rapidity. Jacques Louis David, great painter and Robespierre’s chief propagandist, wanted to eternalize this ‘martyr’ in oil paint but the body was disintegrating too fast. And so Marie was ordered to cast the body so that it might be preserved and so that he could paint it after Marie had cast it in wax. She did as she was told (which can’t have been pleasant) and the two Marat portraits were in the end strikingly different. Marie’s shows a pock-marked man with sallow skin and mouth and eyes open, the body twisted in agony. David’s shows a beautiful Christ-like figure at peace.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I could probably ask questions all day, but we both have other things to do. What might I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Edward Carey:

I just want to add, if I may, that this is a fictional account of Marie Tussaud’s life. She took liberties with her own autobiography and embellished her story, this gave me the freedom to invent also. The novel is a dark fairytale about history and being dragged into it, but also it’s two love stories (Marie had two enormous loves in her life) and, most of all, it’s a survivor’s tale. About how a small foreign girl managed, despite everything, to walk through a bloodbath and to come out on top in a very masculine world. To me Tussaud is an almost fantastical person, a kind of small, beautiful sprite, a mythical figure: the little woman who collected history.

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

Order Links: 

IMG_0025ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edward Carey is a writer and illustrator whose books include The Iremonger Trilogy: Heap House, Foulsham, and LungdonObservatory Mansions; and Alva & Irva: The Twins Who Saved a City. His artwork has been exhibited in Florence, Collodi, Kilkenny, Milan, London and Austin; his essays and reviews have been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Observer, Corriere della Serra, La Repubblica, and other places. In addition to his own work, he illustrates other writers, including Bill Wittliff and Jessica Frances Kane. His new novel, Little, is published by Riverhead.

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

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[Cover and author image courtesy of the author and used with permission. Color illustration retrieved from Edward Carey’s Twitter account and is his original art. Artistic photo of book cover from L.Lindsay’s personal archives and can be viewed via Instagram @LeslieLindsay1]

Does our environment shape us? Mindy Mejia is here chatting about the pull of setting and how it can shape or destroy, loss, reinvention & more in LEAVE NO TRACE

By Leslie Lindsay

The mysterious disappearance of a father and his 9-year-old son into the Minnesota wilderness and then the return of that son a decade later on grief, abandonment, family, and more. Mindy Mejia is here chatting about her newest book, LEAVE NO TRACE (Emily Bestler Books/Simon & Schuster, October 2018).

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Mindy Mejia’s 2017 domestic thriller, EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE introduced gritty small-town secrets and the precarious Hattie Hoffman, sending readers in search of ambition, obsession, and the elusive one-day read.

She’s back with another compelling thriller, this time set in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Maya Stark is 23-years old and beginning her career as a speech pathologist at Congdon Psychiatric Facility. Her boss/mentor, Dr. Mehta suggests Maya work with the young ‘back-from-the-dead’ Lucas Blackthorn, who, after ten years of missing (presumed dead) in the wild of Minnesota is back, largely non-verbal and fighting demons. Maya isn’t sure. She’s young and relatively inexperienced.

Yet Maya has secrets, too. Her mother abandoned she and her father years ago and she’s had a series of run-ins with the law. And might Dr. Mehta be more than just her boss?

The prose is gorgeous and alternates in POV, reading much like a slow-burn mystery: why did the father and son disappear? Where have they been all this time? But these other elements meld to bring a more complex narrative to the table. There’s love and loss, family ties, friendship, all wrapped in the tender, delicate cocoon of the fragile shell of Minnesota’s wilderness.

Mindy Mejia spins a tender tale with an ending that is ultimately intrinsically serendipitous and I am thrilled to welcome her to the author interview series.

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Photo by Rudolf Jakkel on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Mindy, thanks so much for popping over. I’m always so intrigued with books set in Minnesota, maybe because I lived there for awhile, maybe something else. Can you tell us why this book, why this setting?

Mindy Mejia:

This book was inspired by a story I read about a father who escaped the Vietnam War with his infant son and they lived in the jungle, completely cut off from the human world, for forty years. I’m a Minnesotan and the US Midwest is the landscape in my head, so one of my first reactions was to wonder if something like that could happen here. And the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was the first place that came to mind.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

LEAVE NO TRACE is a complex, multilayered narrative, dredging up pieces from the past, secrets, and mental health issues. But there’s more: friendship, love, loss, and the wilderness (which almost becomes its own character). At the core, LEAVE NO TRACE seems to be a novel of re-invention and rehabilitation. Can you talk about that, please?

Mindy Mejia:

Both of the main characters in this book have lost their parents in some way, and that shared sense of loss is what initially draws them together. My mother was very sick when I was a child, and I grew up in constant fear of losing her. The first story I wrote when I was five years old was a detailed account of her death and funeral, which naturally got me sent straight to the school guidance counselor. Crime writing, for me, is a way to write into my deepest fears, to walk straight into that worst case scenario, because by writing into it I can write past it and process the fear. That’s where we see the re-invention and rehabilitation. There’s no way for Maya and Lucas to avoid these devastating losses, but they have to dig into themselves and discover how to survive them.


“Mejia’s thrilling tale works both as an engaging mystery and a haunting meditation on grief, abandonment, and the lost places within ourselves. Brutal, devastating, and utterly riveting.”

~Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


Leslie Lindsay:

Your first book, THE DRAGON KEEPER, was published by Ashland Creek Press. I’ve read some of their books and have always loved the environmentalist approach, the soft touches of nature. Do you consider yourself an ‘eco-fiction’ writer?

Mindy Mejia:

I love their catalog too! It is eco-fiction, but that’s such a broad category—more of a guiding principle than a genre. Ashland Creek Press offers books for every reader: mysteries, YA, thrillers, romance, and short story and nonfiction as well. In my own approach as a writer, I’ve always viewed setting—which is both the natural and constructed world, the entire ecosystem of our lives—as greater than character. Setting plays a foundational force, it can allow a character to flourish or it can destroy them. Sometimes my characters are oblivious to this, but I never am.

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Photo by invisiblepower on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I dog-eared a page where you talked about other families who cordoned themselves off from society. The Ho Van’s, Chris McCandless of Alaska, Christophe Knight, and the Lykovs. Can you tell us a little about them—and your research in general?

Mindy Mejia:

As I mentioned, the Ho Vans were my initial inspiration for the book and soon afterward someone told me about the Lykovs of Siberia, another family whose lives were in danger in the 1930’s. They escaped to the taiga and lived out their lives in that endless subarctic forest. When I was researching these families, their stories seemed to have a fundamentally different narrative than the accounts of individuals who had left society, such as the Grizzly Man and Alexander Supertramp. Those individuals sought freedom from the constraints of human society, but these families—the Lykovs and the Ho Vans—were afraid for their lives. Their stories were about sacrifice and love; these parents gave up the world to keep their children safe. Maya discovers these stories as she’s trying to find a way to connect with Lucas, and she realizes something must have similarly driven the Blackthorns out of the human world, and that becomes the central mystery of the book.

Leslie Lindsay:

The page is blank. What’s calling to you and how do you fill your time when you’re between projects?

Mindy Mejia:

I’m working on my next book right now, which combines accounting and kickboxing! When I’m between novels and the page is truly blank, I like to work on side projects. I’m planning a blog series right now called Tax Advice for Writers, since I’m also a CPA, in order to help my fellow authors handle the business end of their writing. I also review books, read as much as possible, and catch up on administrative stuff. After I finished LEAVE NO TRACE and was waiting on my editor’s comments, I wrote a 20,000-word piece of fan fiction just to blow off some steam. I’ve never done that before and it was embarrassingly fun.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Mindy Mejia:

I can’t think of anything. Thank you so much for letting me share a bit about LEAVE NO TRACE! It’s been lovely chatting!

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of LEAVE NO TRACE, please visit: 

Order Links:

Mindy MejiaABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mindy Mejia is an internationally acclaimed thriller writer whose work has been translated into over twenty languages. She’s the author of THE DRAGON KEEPER and EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, which was a People’s Best New Books Pick and listed in The Wall Street Journal’s Best New Mysteries. Her latest novel, LEAVE NO TRACE, is on sale now. You can find out more at MindyMejia.com.

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

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#Minnesota #BWCA #amreading #authorinterview #fiction 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Emily Bestler Books/Simon Schuster and used with permission. LEAVE NO TRACE cover image with ‘read’ from L.Lindsay’s personal archives and can be retrieved via her Instagram account @LeslieLindsay1]

 

 

NYT Bestselling author Lisa Unger is here chatting about dreams, sleep, Jungian psychology & so much more in her gorgeously written UNDER MY SKIN

By Leslie Lindsay

A twisty, captivating labyrinthine of grief, love, and murder in Lisa Unger’s newest psychological thriller, UNDER MY SKIN (Park Row, October 2). 

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She’s a New York Times and International bestselling, award-winning author. Her books have been published in twenty-six languages worldwide, have sold million of copies, and have been named “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, and the Sun-Sentinel, among others.

*Named one of The Best Mysteries & Thrillers to Read in Fall 2018 by PopSugar*

*Named a Best New Book by Booklist*

*Named one of The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2018 by CrimeReads*

*Named one of Fall 2018’s Most Exciting New Mysteries & Thrillers by Bookish*

*Named one of The Biggest, Most Anticipated Thrillers of the Season, Fall 2018 Best Mystery Book Pick and Editors’ Pick by BookBub*

*Library Journal 2018 Killer Thriller*

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It comes as no surprise when I say Lisa Unger has been a go-to thriller/psych suspense writer of mine for some time now. Her books always engage and keep me guessing; plus her creativity and imagination, as well as her psychologically astute observations draw me in effortlessly. 

In UNDER MY SKIN, Poppy Lang is grieving. It’s been over a year since her husband, Jack, was brutally murdered on his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. She was supposed to have joined him, but…

Poppy completely unraveled and ended up wearing a red dress she knew nothing of and in the hospital. Where was she during those lost days–and what happened to Jack? A year later and the case is still unsolved, but Poppy is ever the Nancy Drew. She’s haunted by his death, she’s sleep-deprived, she’s trying to move on but just *can’t.* She’s seeing a therapist, has a best friend, attempting to date, continuing to work, but when the nightmares–the microsleeps– start in earnest, Poppy isn’t sure what to believe. Plus, what’s up with that hooded man?

The mind is murky place. Is Poppy’s playing tricks on her? Is something else going on?

I found Unger’s prose utterly stunning with a dream-like lucidity. UNDER MY SKIN is a captivating, tense, complex, and thought-provoking read.

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

Leslie Lindsay:

I think this is book five for us and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have you again. UNDER MY SKIN is such a lucid examination of one woman’s grief. Can you talk a bit more about how this story presented itself to you? Was it a character, a setting, a question, a subject you wanted to explore?

*Lisa Unger*:

I always love our talks, Leslie! The germ for UNDER MY SKIN was actually a Jungian thought that had been kicking around my head for a few a while:

“Between the dreams of day and night, there is not so great a difference.”

It’s so layered if you think about it, and it had me pondering the difference between our waking and dreaming lives, the doorway between those places, the slippery nature of perception.  So, while I was researching these things, I started to hear the voice of Poppy Lang.  The fact that she was in the throes of grief and the aftermath of trauma caused me to dive deep into those areas of the psyche.  Our grip on reality is so fragile.  Even after a couple of nights of bad sleep – as any mom will tell you – the world starts to look like a very different place. So combine that with grief, trauma, addiction and things unravel pretty quickly. And so it was all these ideas, as well as Poppy’s journey toward wholeness that drove me through the narrative.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I have to say—sleep! Dreams! Nightmares! They are such fascinating concepts. The mind is powerful. Sometimes we take information from our waking life and weave it into our dreams, sometimes our dreams reappear in our waking life. Do you remember your dreams? Do they ever inform your writing?

*Lisa Unger*:

That’s so true. The mind can be a magician, a powerful trickster. And we know more about outer space than we do about our brains. So, as I see it, there are more questions than answers about our dreams, our perceptions and memories, what’s real and what isn’t real. I do have a very vivid dream life. And often these dreams inform my fiction. Sometimes narrative problems resolve while I’m sleeping and wake me up at 3 AM!  And my best creative hours are from 5 AM to noon. I am happiest when I roll out of bed and go straight to my novel.  I still feel very connected to the dream brain during that time.  Once the waking mind takes over, it’s always looking for distractions! But the dream brain is always happy to keep telling its stories.


“UNDER MY SKIN is a perfectly dark and unsettling, spellbinding thriller. Told with both eloquence and urgency, Unger knows just how to hook her readers and reel them in. This book is not to be missed.”
Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL


Leslie Lindsay:

At one point you referred to UNDER MY SKIN as a ‘Tilt-a-Whirl of a novel.’ Aren’t they all? What’s your process like? Does it vary project to project? What piece(s) in this one kept you awake at night?

*Lisa Unger*:

So, there’s a germ, usually. A moment where I feel a little zap.  Then there’s usually an obsession and a deep dive into research, as I mentioned. And then a voice, or voices.  And I follow those voices through my narrative. I don’t have an outline. I don’t know who is going to show up day to day, or what they’re going to do. I certainly don’t know how the book is going to end. I write for the same reason that I read; I want to know what’s going to happen to the characters living in my head!

This one was a bit of a Tilt-A-Whirl, because like Poppy, I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t real for her. I wasn’t certain that I could I could trust her judgments and perceptions.  And I wasn’t clear on what really happened during the four days she was missing.  I was worried about Noah. I didn’t know what role he played in what happened to Jack, what was happening to Poppy. And I wasn’t sure I could trust him. There were lots of 3 AM wake ups with this one!

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Leslie Lindsay:

At the heart of UNDER MY SKIN is the lingering toll of grief, and how it is interwoven with love. Can you talk a little more about that please? And do tell me if you think I’ve gotten the theme wrong.

*Lisa Unger*:

That’s true. It did evolve as a big theme in the novel, flowing purely from character; it was Poppy’s journey and I followed her passage though that dark space. In doing so, I wound up exploring how we love each other, how we cling to the past, how it can be so hard to let go. Also, how time and loss can color our memories. It’s part of a larger theme on how our experiences change and shape our perceptions. Love, grief, addiction, trauma – all these states color how we see the world, making it difficult sometimes to know what’s real.

Leslie Lindsay:

Poppy was obsessed with finding her husband’s killer. What’s obsessing you? It doesn’t have to be literary.

*Lisa Unger*:

Oh, I have so many obsessions! I continue to be obsessed by perception, dreams, memories, identity, and all the secret abilities hidden within our very human brains.  I’m still exploring question of psychic ability – what’s normal and what’s “paranormal.” Halloween is coming up – so I’m obsessed about costumes, since that’s a big deal in our family! Let’s see: food, British television, yoga, politics, the environment, my next novel … I could go on and on!

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Leslie Lindsay:

Lisa, it’s been a pleasure. What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

*Lisa Unger*:

As usual, Leslie, you’re pitch perfect! I can’t think of a thing you missed. Thank you for your thoughtful questions. I always love answering them.

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

*Read the prologue

*Order Links:

Lisa Unger Author PhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling, award-winning author of sixteen novels. Her new release UNDER MY SKIN is named one of the most anticipated and top thrillers of fall 2018 by BookBub, Bookish, Library Journal, Booklist, PopSugar and CrimeReads! 

Her books are published in twenty-six languages worldwide, have sold millions of copies and have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, Indie Booksellers, Goodreads, and Sun-Sentinel to name a few. 

Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR and Travel+Leisure Magazine. Lisa Unger lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida with her husband, daughter and labradoodle.

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#amreading #psychthriller #sleepanddreams #authorinterview #domesticsuspense 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Park Row and used with permission. Cover image on patio from L. Lindsay;s personal archives and can be accessed via Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1]

 

 

 

A fairy tale? A hero’s journey? Something else? Laird Hunt talks about the motifs in his new book, abandoned homes, witches & so much more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Luminous tale of a grim journey about one woman in Colonial America whom is oozing evil but doesn’t realize it–a modern-day fairy tale in Laird Hunt’s new novel, IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS. 

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It’s that time of year when we cast our gazes to the eerie and dreadful. So when this little book (don’t let the size fool you), came to my attention I knew I had to read it. IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS (Little, Brown October 16, 2018) is a contemporary rendering of a historical literary horror; it reads like a classic but was written in 2018.

Hunt takes readers on a harrowing journey to Colonial America where one woman goes missing…or does she leave her homestead? Perhaps she has been *asked* to leave or maybe kidnapped? It’s never really stated one way or another and multiple interpretations can be shed. Alone, barefoot, and possibly lost, the woman meets another woman at a little stone house in the woods and all changes.

IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS is subtly disturbing about woodland magic, witches, hatred and redemption, the unknown. It reads like a dream–or more accurately–a nightmare with a dark surreal-ness.

Please join me in welcoming Laird Hunt to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Wow. I devoured this book. I always, always want to know: why this book? Why now? What question did you set out to explore—did you find your answer?

Laird Hunt:

The world keeps coming up with ghastly answers to the question of “why this book/why now?”  One need look no farther than the recent case of Jamal Khashoggi, the high-profile Saudi journalist who was possibly murdered then dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Some months before that story broke I read of a woman, Wa Tiba, in Indonesia, who went out one night to check on her cornfield and was subsequently found swallowed whole by a python. Then there are stories like those of the kidnapping and enslavement of young women and girls by Boko Haram and Isis.  And of course there is plenty to feed a sense of dark fire on the domestic scene. In that context, the justice meted out on a man, the “handsome singer”, in the novel intersects usefully with the righteous fury of the long-overdue #MeToo movement.  Books bubble up out of the cauldrons of their time. I set out to write something that was more firmly aligned with historical fiction but the novel kept wanting to take up the timeless and the terrifying  that seemed (and seems) to be everywhere around us.

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Leslie Lindsay:

As I read, I got the sense the world is browning at the edges and closing in. Ominous. Perplexing. Dark. Grim. There’s a lot you do in terms of setting and evoking emotion. Can you talk about your process for a bit—did you start with a character, a setting, a situation, or something else?

Laird Hunt:

The book started on a cold, wet late winter/early spring day in upstate New York when my wife and I went for a walk down gravel roads that run through deep woods outside Cherry Valley. We had passed an old, abandoned house that morning, one that had more than a touch of chilling fairy tale about it, and the woods and that house got fused in my mind.  I had been writing novels with female protagonists for a good while so it didn’t surprise me at all when, still on that walk, I got a glimpse of a woman walking with a purpose I didn’t understand yet through the trees. I sat on the image and accompanying feeling of dread for some time before I wrote out a highly compressed version — approx. 35 pp — of what would then only slowly grow into the novel it is now.

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All my recent novels have worked this way to some extent. An image and feeling glimpsed and felt, a subsequent burst of speedy first-drafting, months and even years of expansion and revision. In the case of this one, I have to give particular credit to my agent, Anna Stein, who read it in that highly compressed form and got very excited about its possibilities. In the context of its being short for a while I should note that the manuscript at one time was also almost twice as long as the final version. There too Anna was an important reader – in this case letting me know that she thought I had gotten completely carried away. I’m still interested in revisiting the direction I took the book in that version, but she was right that what I wrote about a little boy who goes to find his mother  (his journey is pointed to in the published novel’s final short section) went off the rails.

Leslie Lindsay:

I so felt compelled to look up metaphorical meanings of the elements and symbols that tend to repeat throughout the narrative: pigs, ships, the sea, cream, berries. Pigs are smart but often perceived as dirty. They root around for what they need and don’t give up easily. Of course, ships are associated with a journey and also tumultuous times. Can you give us more insight—or am I way off-base?

Laird Hunt:

So there were a couple of things going on with those motifs. On the one hand, I was interested in the dogged persistence of key elements in and across traditional tales (tears, teeth, secret rooms, locked doors, strange sounds, woods, elusive treasure), which carry so much power and meaning; on the other hand, I wanted to link this book via key elements (wells, pigs, black bark, knives, necks)  to the ones that had immediately preceded it: Kind One, Neverhome, The Evening Road. Another important early reader of this novel, the poet Anne Waldman, who knows those other books well, remarked after she had gone through a draft of this one, in reference to the scene in which two of the porcine individuals stand up on their back legs, turn toward each other and embrace: “It’s those damn pigs again!” As for what these things represent, what you describe about pigs is certainly part of it for me — as is the connection to the witch-goddess Circe and what she does to Odysseus’ men and what Yubaba does to Chihiro’s parents in Spirited Away — but what I mostly wanted was to make available a system of echoes (or moans) that would set off a series of uncanny associations for the reader and perhaps work against common expectation and understanding.  Goody’s grandmother is always talking up the sea and ships and freedom to her but the boat Goody actually gets to go for a ride in is made of human bones and human skin and it doesn’t float it flies. The grandmother’s vision of boats would seem to be clearer and more pure, but it’s the awful one that carries Goody through the air and thrills and transports her.


“It’s tough to give a simple description of this book, except to say that it tackles witchcraft in colonial America, providing a mythology that’s sure to disturb.”

Bookriot


 

Leslie Lindsay:

Speaking of journeys, is this woman [Goody] a hero? Is she mad? Does she even exist? Perhaps there are multiple interpretations? Can you talk about that, please?

Laird Hunt:

I had an ancestor, Elizabeth Phelps of Andover, whose death of an incurable fever, brought about the death of another woman, Ann Alcock Foster, convicted at Salem after Phelps husband found “witnesses” to accuse Foster of witchcraft. Who is on the side of right in that paradigm? In the late 17th century in New England it was perilously clear whom the community and the law thought had right on their side, but of course we see things completely differently now. Will the commonly accepted idea that the vortex of practicing witchcraft and being bewitched and concomitant, deadly finger pointing are entirely symptoms of gross inequity and oppressive patriarchal systems continue to serve as the optic for these experiences over time? Who knows…?  Goody feels the pulse of all the world’s awfulness banging so loudly in her chest that it must and does burst out of her, but I would like to hope that the gnarled intricacies of human rage and love are seen as just as important. It’s not all down to how much the world sucks.  I feel her as very real. I would not like to meet her, and would keep my distance if I did, but I do like thinking about her.  And about her new friends.

 

Leslie Lindsay:

I love the part of IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS in which Eliza and Goody are in Eliza’s cellar and they are writing—or attempting to write. Goody indicates that she ‘likes it very much,’ and Eliza says she writes as though she were ‘in the middle of a dream that never ended, a painting that was never completed…’ What significance might this scene have on writing in general?

Laird Hunt:

It was terribly important to me that Goody and Eliza and the others in the woods be the ones to tell their stories. This was a central component of their assumption of agency.  The stories are snapped off and middle-started, shards in many cases, or just a few words (“I hate the world, I do not hate the world, I love the world, I do not love the world”), but they are theirs and we are reading them.  The writing in the house in the dark of the woods gets done in the root cellar rather than up above ground; the ink that blackens their fingernails and fingertips is like dirt in that way. They are digging, exploring, questing in the caverns of their imaginations and memories. I’m of the opinion that what they find out with their quills about themselves and about the world is quite revealing.

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Leslie Lindsay:

One last question: What’s haunting you nowadays? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Laird Hunt:

I feel future-haunted. I’m haunted by the rising of the seas and by ever-growing storms and by microplastics in the ocean and the wars that will be fought over water (like the wars already being fought over natural resources of many varieties). I’m haunted by what my 13-year-old daughter and any children she might have will be forced to confront during her lifetime. Maybe she and her generation will be better stewards than we have been.  You really have to hope so.

Leslie Lindsay:

Thank you, Laird. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Laird Hunt:

I think this is a pretty rich exchange already: thank you for the great questions!

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS, please visit: 

Order Links: 

220px-LairdHuntABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laird Hunt is the author of several works of fiction and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, a two-time finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in Fiction, and the winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award. A former United Nations press officer currently on the faculty of the University of Denver’s creative writing program, he and his wife, the poet Eleni Sikelianos, live in Boulder, Colorado, with their daughter, Eva Grace.

 

 

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

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#OctoberReads #fall #authorinterview #bookreview #literaryfiction #horror 

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[Special thanks to Little, Brown. Author image retrieved from Wikipedia. Image of abandoned Cherry Valley, NY home retrieved from Zillow all on 10.15.18. Cover image from L. Lindsay’s personal archives and can be accessed via her Instagram account @LeslieLindsay1]

Fragile 9-year-old boy misses his mother dearly in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE, plus Stephen Giles talks about writing for adults vs. kids, his love for isolated homes, more

By Leslie Lindsay

Sinister and intense story of melancholy and loneliness with an imaginative 9-year-old boy at the center in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE. Plus, it’s just been picked up by New Agency for film! 

Stephen Giles is here chatting about his love for country homes, his distaste for the dentist, and how he misses an old cubby house  in the backyard when he was a kid. 

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Locked doors. An atlas. Attics. Cellar. England. Mystery and, maybe murder. 

Samuel Clay is living in a crumbling old estate in England with his housekeeper, Ruth Tupper. He’s missing his mother terribly, who has ‘gone away’ to America for the last 119 days (he’s been keeping count). Mrs. Clay is now widowed and the family’s finances have fallen to disarray–perhaps there’s some money or bankers in American who will help her get the ‘capital she needs.’ What’s worse, is Samuel’s mother left in the middle of the night, without so much as a word of good-bye to her son, leaving him in the care of the housekeeper.

Beyond sporadic postcards from his mother in America, Samuel hears virtually nothing of his mother. He’s lonely, yet highly imaginative and inquisitive. Samuel’s only friend is Joseph and a little rabbit in the garden he calls Robin Hood.

THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE is a precarious dance between truth and perception, childhood and adulthood, ‘there’ and ‘not-there,’ and so much more.

I found the writing absolutely glimmered. I was immediately thrust into this drab world created by Stephen Giles and wanted to know what happened to Samuel’s mother. This is a perfect, swiftly-paced novel for this dreary time of year as we become a little more turned inward, a little more contemplative, and the fear of little deaths around.

Please join me in welcoming Stephen Giles to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Stephen, it’s a pleasure. I always want to know—what question were you hoping to answer in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE—and did the answer satisfy or lead to more questions?

Stephen Giles:

This is such an interesting question. I suppose the most elemental question I had to ask myself was  why. I had the basic plot outlined and I knew where I was heading but I didn’t know all the whys. Why did Samuel’s mother go away? Why is the housekeeper Ruth the way she is? Why is Samuel so psychologically fragile, so fixated on his mother’s absence? The wonderful thing about questions like these is that they often lead you into places that take you by surprise and demand more of the narrative and that is incredibly exciting for a writer. I think ultimately I was satisfied by the questions though there is no doubt that this is a story that throws up more questions than concrete answers. Rather like life, it seems to me.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I understand this is your first book for adults. In what ways do the forms differ? Plus, I can see a nice cross-over between readership. I’d imagine some ambitious YA readers might be intrigued. Can you speak to that, please?

Stephen Giles:

I think the primary difference between adult and middle grade fiction is one of tone. My middle grade books were primarily comic adventures and writing for a readership of 9 – 12-year-olds informs both the type of story I am telling and the way I tell it. So the tone is light and breezy. The challenge with writing my first book for adults with a child as one of the main protagonists, was telling a much darker and very adult story through the eyes of nine year old boy. Your observation about the book crossing over into YA is very interesting and I did wonder about that as I was finishing the book. It’s always hard to know what will appeal to YA readers but I’d be delighted if that happened.


“A fiendishly efficient, gorgeously written, nasty little thrill ride of a psychological thriller. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s entirely possible that I’ll never sleep again. A true tour-de-force of a debut novel.”

—Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham and Jane Steele 


Leslie Lindsay:

I’m a sucker for old homes, estates, mansions…you name it! Was the house in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE modeled after any actual estate? Did you play around with setting, or was it always to be set in England?

Stephen Giles:

I’m a sucker for isolated country houses too and I’ve written one into every book I’ve ever written which is probably a little excessive. The house in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE wasn’t modeled on any particular estate, it only lives in my imagination, but I’m sure it was informed by countless 19th century novels like JANE EYRE or UNCLE SILAS. In terms of the English setting, I did toy with a few other locations including the Hudson Valley but having just finished a middle grade trilogy set largely in England, I felt more comfortable sticking with the same setting. Which is incredibly lazy!

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Leslie Lindsay:

Samuel is a 9-year-old boy longing for his mother. But also his father’s old toys and things are in the attic—which he sometimes drags down into the house to play with. Is there anything from your childhood that you long for, even occasionally—and what is it exactly about these old things that stirs such nostalgia?

Stephen Giles:

It’s not a toy but the house I grew up in had a cubby house in a far corner of the backyard – it was a ramshackle structure that was barely standing but it had a blackboard along one wall and a bunch of old discarded bits and pieces and I spend countless hours playing there. I can still picture it in great detail and sometimes as the adult world crowds in on me, I long for the simplicity and comfort of that cubby house. I think the power of old things or old memories is that they are assure us that there once were better days or less complicated times. Which probably says more about the deceptively warm glow of nostalgia than anything else.

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s on your to-do list this week? What are you most looking forward to and dreading? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Stephen Giles:

This week I have a bunch of interviews to get through in my hometown and I’m also up to my neck in writing a new book, so that is where my real focus is. I’m most looking forward to seeing Crazy Rich Asians and catching up on my reading. I’m dreading the dentist and the feeling of utter defeat at week’s end when I realize I’ve failed yet again to live mindfully or be even slightly in the moment.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Stephen, it’s been a pleasure. What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Stephen Giles:

I’ve enjoyed all of your questions, so thank you. What should you have asked me? Well, if you were like every other interviewer on the planet you would have asked me what advice I would give to aspiring writers. And as I’m never sure how to answer that adequately, I’m very glad you didn’t!

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

Order Links: 

31kedQKjMqL._US230_ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Giles is the author behind the Ivy Pocket children’s series, which has been translated into twenty-five languages. He lives in Australia. The Boy at the Keyhole, now out from Hanover Square Books, is his first work for adults.

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

 

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#neoGothic #amreading #England #homes #boys #mothers #authorinterviewseries

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Would you time-travel if your child’s life depended on it? Diane Chamberlain tackles this & more in her breathless, dreamy THE DREAM DAUGHTER

By Leslie Lindsay 

Can a book be both mind-bending and heartfelt? In Diane Chamberlain’s hands, it absolutely can. THE DREAM DAUGHTER is a dash of science-fiction meets a mother’s tenacity for love. Diane Chamberlain talks about how the timing of the book had to be ‘just right,’ how she’d probably never time-travel, and putting a memoir on the back-burner.

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But first, the accolades: 

“A heady and breathless wonder of a read.”
Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

Publisher’s Weekly says this about THE DREAM DAUGHTER:“Chamberlain expertly blends the time travel elements with the wonderful story of a mother’s love and the depths of sacrifice she makes for her child. This is a page turning crowd-pleaser.

And Bookstalker Blog follows with this:

“A unique story about time travel and how happy endings aren’t always destined to play out the way we planned. A unique twist as usually time travel novels are about love between a man and woman this instead is a mother and child love story. Wonderful.”

Diane is the New York TimesUSA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 25 novels translated in twenty languages and she’s always held a special place in my heart. Her stories are so multi-layered and genre-crossing and always, always, thought-provoking. But THE DREAM DAUGHTER is so glimmering, so brilliantly different than anything she’s ever written and I am  beyond touched to host her again.

The first pages of THE DREAM DAUGHTER are set in 1965 Chapel Hill, NC as Caroline Sears is thrust into her first day of work as a physical therapist [Read an excerpt here]. She meets a man who needs rehab–but many of the other staff say they don’t want to work with him–he’s stubborn and odd and some feel he may be dealing with the aftereffects of a suicide attempt.

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Five years later, in 1970, Caroline is married and expecting her first child but soon discovers her unborn baby girl has a fatal heart defect. She’s devastated–it’s 1970 and there’s very little that can be done. But Caroline’s brother-in-law, a physicist, says otherwise. If Caroline could only get to 2001, she could save her baby via fetal surgery. But Caroline is skeptical–and resistant–to his ideas.

Spanning decades and dipping into the years 2001, 2013, 2018, as well as 1970, Diane Chamberlain takes us on an unforgettable mind-bending journey. You will feel every emotion–from fear and courage to disbelief, grief, and a mother’s tenacity to love. The plot is intricate and spellbinding, made richer with Chamberlain’s attention to character development and a textured setting.

THE DREAM DAUGHTER is Diane Chamberlain at the height of her powers; it’s classic, yet fresh–and all for the love of a woman’s unborn child. 

Please join me in welcoming Diane Chamberlain back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Diane, it’s a pleasure. I know THE DREAM DAUGHTER has been in your mind for a long time. You needed the stars to align ‘just so’ before you were ready to dive in. Can you talk about your initial inspiration and also how you knew the time was right?

Diane Chamberlain:  

Hi Leslie! Thanks for having me back. I think the inspiration for THE DREAM DAUGHTER really began long ago when I was working as a hospital social worker in a high risk maternity unit. This was in the early eighties. Back then, there were many conditions a baby might be born with that would cost them their lives, while today, those same conditions are treatable. That started me wondering: what if a woman learns in 1970 that her unborn baby has one of these conditions, but she’s told by someone she trusts that in the year 2001, the condition could be treated . . . and that there was a way for her and her unborn child to actually travel to 2001? I fell in love with the concept and had a blast writing this book. I believe it’s far more a mother/child novel than a time travel novel, but that time travel element really makes for some fun twists.

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Leslie Lindsay:

As a writer myself, I have plenty of stories rattling around. But there’s this thing about ‘timing.’ Others might say, ‘writer’s block.’ When I slow down on an idea—even an active narrative—I get the sense my story is whispering, ‘not yet.’ Can you talk more about that, please?

Diane Chamberlain:  

I told my agent about my idea for THE DREAM DAUGHTER many years ago and she definitely said “not yet!” She was right. I needed to get my career to a certain level before my readers would come along with me on a ride like this one. I am so pleased I finally got to write this book of my heart.


“Chamberlain stretches her sense of familial relationships and toe-curling suspense in new directions, weaving in elements of trust, history and time as she explores the things we do for love. ..The Dream Daughter will delight Chamberlain’s fans and hook new readers.”
—Booklist


Leslie Lindsay:

I found THE DREAM DAUGHTER pushes boundaries in a good way, delivering a luminous novel. What did you find most challenging about this one—the scientific research involved or something else?

Diane Chamberlain:

In retrospect, nothing was particularly hard about this book because the bones of the story had been in my mind for so long. I suppose the most challenging part was being sure that I had the technology and other elements of daily life straight in each era. For example, when did people start wearing ear buds to talk into their phones? What was available on the Internet in 2001? I think at times it was as mind-bending for me as it was for Carly.

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Leslie Lindsay:

This question is a little tangential. Just recently, Steve Job’s daughter, Lisa, released her memoir about growing up as his unacknowledged daughter. She states something along the lines of [I’m paraphrasing], “We all have a right to tell our stories as accurately as we see them.” Your character, Joanna, has a ‘thing’ for Apple and even names her dog Jobs. 1) What are your thoughts on memoir and 2)  how did Joanna’s character development present itself to you for THE DREAM DAUGHTER?

Diane Chamberlain:

I am fascinated by memoirs, especially since I’ve dabbled in writing my own. Two things stand out for me. One is that our memories are often wildly inaccurate. I have three siblings and when we describe a situation from our childhood, we get four different versions. But what matters is the way our memory/interpretation of that situation impacted us, so even if our version is technically wrong, it doesn’t matter. The second thing is the fine line between writing the truth and bringing hurt to someone else . . . or ourselves. That is why I’ve put writing a memoir on the back burner. As for Joanna, I don’t remember how I came up with her “thing” for Apple. I think it’s one of those surprises in writing fiction: it just appeared for me and I went with it.

Leslie Lindsay:        

If you could time travel, would you? Where would you go—to the past or the future?

Diane Chamberlain:

First of all, no, I wouldn’t. With rheumatoid arthritis, I have enough trouble with 2018! But IF I wanted to, I would definitely go backwards. I have little fascination with whatever technology awaits in the future. I would much rather go back to when my grandparents were alive so I could get to know them better. I guess it’s all about relationships for me.

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Leslie Lindsay:

What’s on your fall reading list?

Diane Chamberlain:  

Well, I have a stack of Advance Reading Copies [ARCs] sitting here that I’d like to work my way through! I’m most interested in the books of some of my October writing buddies, A Well Behaved Woman by Therese Fowler and Becoming Mrs. LewisBecoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry.

Leslie Lindsay:

Diane, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Diane Chamberlain:

I look forward to hearing how your blog readers enjoy THE DREAM DAUGHTER. So far, the advance reader reviews have been wonderful, and I appreciate my readers for taking the chance along with me to try something a little bit different.

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

Order Links: 

Diane_ChamberlainredbyJohnPagliuca2013ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diane Chamberlain is the New York TimesUSA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 25 novels published in more than twenty languages. Influenced by her former career as a social worker and psychotherapist, she writes suspenseful stories that touch both heart and mind.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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#timetravel #fiction #TheDreamDaughter #authorinterviewseries #amreading #motherhood

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

 

 

Gilly Macmillan is back talking about her new book, I KNOW YOU KNOW inspired by a historical murder case in a small town, plus her fascination with true-crime podcasts

By Leslie Lindsay 

A chilling and twisty murder mystery about two murder cases twenty years apart, a present-day podcast, in this framed tale, I KNOW YOU KNOW (William Morrow/HarperCollins, September 18). Gilly is always a pleasure and she’s here chatting about how as individuals we’re always evolving; plus studying historical photos to get things ‘just right,’ and tapping into childhood imagination.

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In just three short years, New York Times bestselling author Gilly Macmillan has made quite a name for herself in suspense fiction. I was most captured for WHAT SHE KNEW (2015) but her subsequent books have been just as good—what’s more, they are wholly original and don’t seem to follow the same path. I love the literary risks she takes to remain unique, while consistently producing top-writing and thought-provoking narratives.

Cody Swift lost his two best friends twenty years ago, when he was eleven. Now, a filmmaker, he wants to get to the bottom of the truth and so has begun recording and airing a podcast, ‘Time To Tell,’ about the grim murders. But there’s new evidence brought to light: a long-dead body has been discovered in the same location as the boys were left decades beforeThe new discovery launches a new investigation. Now, John Fletcher, the original investigator reopens the case from twenty years ago. Could the two murders be linked? How?

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I KNOW YOU KNOW is told in a frame-style of storytelling; that is, we weave in and out of past and present via Cody Swift’s present-day podcast, backstory of the detectives, present-day story of the detectives, and a present-day telling of one of the mothers of the deceased boys (Jessica Paige) who had moved on, remarried, and had another child.

Overall, I found I KNOW YOU KNOW a complex, multilayered tale about failed humanity, a miscarriage of justice, and how we cope with tragedy. 

Please join me in welcoming Gilly Macmillan back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Gilly, it’s always, always a pleasure. I was so intrigued with those first few chapters. Your writing comes across gorgeous and effortless (though it is a grim scene). Can you talk about your initial inspiration for I KNOW YOU KNOW?

Gilly Macmillan:

It’s such a pleasure for me, too, and thank you for your kind words. Two things inspired the book. The first was an historic case I read an article about. The murders of two young boys had ripped apart a tight community similar to the one in I KNOW YOU KNOW. When I researched the case further, I came across an interview with the boys’ mothers which was very moving. These two women were still mourning their children and looking for answers twenty years after the boys’ deaths.

The second thing to inspire me was my love of true crime podcasts. Very often the most powerful voices you hear on these podcasts are the families of the victims, which fed my growing interest in how families move forward after they have been shattered by an appalling crime, something I’ve explored in Jess’s character in I KNOW YOU KNOW. Additionally, the first series of Someone Knows Something, a superb Canadian podcast, was written and narrated by a man who returns to his home town to look into an unsolved case. It was very powerful hearing him revisit his childhood home after many years away and inspired me to put Cody Swift in the same situation.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

You typically set your stories in the town you live, Bristol. Do the places you mention in the book—the dog track, the IKEA, the Medieval town centre really exist? And what is it like to set a story where you reside? Does it bring the narrative more to life for you?

Gilly Macmillan:

The Glenfrome Estate is fictional but everything else in I KNOW YOU KNOW is, or was, real. Bristol’s city center was badly bombed during WWII and much of its medieval heart was lost, but small pockets remain and some extraordinary buildings were saved. I live very centrally so all of these places are part of my daily landscape and it absolutely helps bring the narrative to life. I visit all the locations I write about as I’m writing to look for detail. For I KNOW YOU KNOW I also studied historic photographs to help imagine the dog track and its surroundings. For the sake of the story, some of the details of the locations might not be 100% percent accurate by the time they appear in the book, but I try to keep changes to a minimum and recreate the atmosphere of the places as closely as possible.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Oh, and these characters! They are so multilayered. I found myself wanting to know more about Jess Paige, Charlie’s mother. She has quite a backstory! And John Fletcher, the detective seemed to have quite a presence. 1) Did you find yourself more intrigued or aligned with a particular character and 2) Do you ever think maybe one of them will show up in a future book?

Gilly Macmillan:

I related to Jess’s character because of how she struggles to be a good mother. I haven’t faced the challenges she has (thank goodness!) but I think a lot about how I parent, what I get wrong, what I get right and how to do better. Exploring that struggle through Jess’s eyes, with all the hardship she’s endured, was fascinating and challenging. John Fletcher was a favorite, too. He is complex and surprising and appeared on the page almost fully formed. He intrigued me from the start. I loved writing each and every one of the characters but I haven’t imagined them beyond the covers of I KNOW YOU KNOW yet. Never say never, though!

Leslie Lindsay:

I KNOW YOU KNOW seems to be the most complex narrative you’ve written to date. What’s your process like?

Gilly Macmillan:

I think you’re right. The complexity was a huge challenge. My process is more chaotic than I would like. I start my books with the setup and a few of the characters in mind, but I don’t have much more than a broad idea of where they will end and I work out how I’m going to get there along the way. This was a particular challenge in I KNOW YOU KNOW because of the complexities of the timelines and the way the characters relate in the past and the present. I didn’t quite tear my hair out during edits but I came close at times!


“Gilly Macmillan digs in deep and gets right to the heart of her characters in this rich and engrossing novel. Vivid, smart, and propulsive, I KNOW YOU KNOW [is a] thoroughly immersive thriller of the first order.”

— Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of UNDER MY SKIN


Leslie Lindsay:

As I read, a few themes came to mind: how we cope with tragedy, a miscarriage of justice, how everyone always has something to hide, and how we often seek to keep things perfect and pristine. After all, who really wants their dirty laundry aired? What do you hope your readers take away from I KNOW YOU KNOW?

Gilly Macmillan:

One thing I thought about as I was writing was how our lives change so much over the years and how many alternate possibilities there might have been for us along the way. In any one moment we are driven by a specific set of impulses: our moral compass at that time, the assumptions we make about our own lives and the lives of others and the things we have already done or had done to us. A decision we make in one instant could be very different on another day and that’s intriguing.

That pristine and perfect veneer you mention – often so painfully exaggerated by social media – tends to smooth life out in unrealistic ways. In I KNOW YOU KNOW I’ve tried to get beneath that. I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to consider how we feel about people once we get beyond our first impression of them and learn their secrets and motivations. People change and our views about them can change depending on what we know and where we are at in our own lives. This fascinates me and I hope it fascinates my readers, too.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Cody Swift wanted his childhood best friends back. Is there anything from your childhood you wish for, perhaps even little?

Gilly Macmillan:

Freedom from responsibility! I love my family and my career and I can’t imagine life without either, but the responsibility of managing both takes up so much of my time that I sometimes long for my childhood days where time seemed to stretch out forever and your imagination could roam without the daily anxieties that plague us as adults.

Leslie Lindsay:

Gilly, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but may have forgotten? 

Gilly Macmillan:

It’s been a pleasure for me, too! Thank you so much for having me. I am binge-watching Mad Men currently. I know I am very late to the game, but I’m enjoying it very much. Ozark Season 2 is next on my list. In other news, I’m very excited to be launching I KNOW YOU KNOW this fall and I’m currently editing my next novel, THE NANNY, which is a chilling psychological thriller set in an English country house with a cast of characters I absolutely adore. THE NANNY will be out in 2019!

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

Order Links:

gillyABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew and The Perfect Girl. She trained as an art historian and worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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#domesticsuspense #amreading #crime #murder #authorinterview

[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Image of Bristol rooftops as seen from library from G. Macmillian’s personal archives via website. Special thanks to WilliamMorris/HarperCollins]

 

 

What happens when a ‘starving, razor-clawed beast is inside your body flicking to get out?’ Tessa Fontaine talks about this & more in THE ELECTRIC WOMAN

By Leslie Lindsay

Marvels and miracles. Mothers and daughters. Life and death. I promise, THE ELECTRIC WOMAN will stun and captivate you and then you’ll want to read it all over again. Tessa Fontaine is hear chatting about joining a traveling side show, her love of writing, her favorite M&Ms and so much more. 

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I am such a sucker for a fabulous memoir so when this one came knocking, I was mesmerized. And it’s so well-written, THE ELECTRIC WOMAN (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux May 2018) practically sings; I cannot stop thinking about–and talking about–this book.

Tessa Fontaine expertly braids two tales of death-defying acts into one bold, remarkable narrative–that of her 2013 season with the World of Wonders, the last official traveling sideshow in America and that of her mother, who suffered a severe stroke in 2010. Her mother is told countess times, ‘this is the end,’ but she is determined not to let go of this world.

On stages all across America, Tessa is eating fire, charming snakes, and performing as the electric woman–but she’s thinking of her mother–who is on here own ‘world tour,’ of sorts to Italy, a place she and her husband longed to travel. But she’s voiceless and in a wheelchair and maybe she won’t come back.

I fell in love with Tessa’s determination, her willingness to ‘hack it,’ and I was so in awe of her writing and how everything she wrote–the carnies, the misfits, the grit–tied in so effortlessly. This would be no easy feat as the emotional and physical breadth of THE ELECTRIC WOMAN encompasses so much, including a touch of brain science and biology.

This is an enthralling read and will have you pondering your own capabilities, how much you love, what you might be able to withstand, and those brittle relationships that hinge on trust and forgiveness.

Please join me in welcoming Tessa Fontaine to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Tessa, welcome! I am raving over this book. I mean, wow. I think I know what was haunting you when you set out to write THE ELECTRIC WOMAN, but can you tell us more about what was going on during that time?

Tessa Fontaine:

Thanks, Leslie. Two and a half years before I joined the sideshow, my mom had a series of massive strokes that left her unable to walk or talk. It happened at the same time my family lost their house, so in many ways, everything got thrown upside down for me. I was overcome with grief. My mom wasn’t dead, but she also wasn’t the person I knew before.

At first, I hope the book could be a distanced, journalistic account of America’s last traveling sideshow, but the monster living in me disagreed.

I felt like a starving, razor-clawed beast was living inside my body, flicking my heart and tearing at my guts to get out.

I’d never felt that before, that obsessive, relentless drive to tell a particular story. The sideshow was inexorably tied up with the story of my mom’s long illness—and watching her suffer, trying to help, failing to help, rethinking the risk we choose for our bodies, all of that was part of my sideshow story. That’s one of the things that struck me so much about the sideshow, that there were these extraordinary performers choosing to do dangerous acts and assume risk over and over again, acts that are sometimes painful—and how surprisingly parallel that was with the way my mom had to suffer in her various therapies as she worked so hard to try to recover, and then chose to suffer as she and my stepdad decided to take a long-delayed trip around the world, from which nobody thought they’d return. That suffering was necessary for the eventual wonder.


“This is the story of a daughter and her mother. It’s also a memoir, a love story, and a tale of high-flying stunts. It recounts an adventure toward and through fear as Tessa Fontaine performs as an escape artist, fire-eater, and snake charmer with the World of Wonders, a traveling sideshow.”

 Southern Living


Leslie Lindsay:

Your mother’s first stroke was in 2010. You joined the World of Wonders in 2013. The book came out in May 2018. I’m curious how long it took you to actually write. It’s a loaded question, I know…but can you give us a sense of the timeline?

Tessa Fontaine:

Sure thing. While I was on the road with the show in 2013, I took obsessive notes. I wrote a few short essays there that were published while I was with the show, sort of “Notes from the Road,” but really I finished the season at the end of 2013 with just a pile of notes. It took two and a half years for me to write the book. I started when I got to the PhD program I was beginning, at the University of Utah, in the beginning of 2014. I finished in 2016, and worked on edits for a year with my glorious, brilliant editor at FSG, Jenna Johnson. Then, once a book goes into the publishing pipeline, it’s a full year after you finish final edits before the book comes out.

Leslie Lindsay:

And the World of Wonders! I am so intrigued and worried and fearful of the feats you endured. That snake! The fire! You had absolutely no training in any of this beforehand. Can you tell us why you choose the carnival and why you didn’t just run away screaming?

Tessa Fontaine:

Years before I began writing THE ELECTRIC WOMAN, before I even knew that the sideshow I’d eventually join, the World of Wonders, existed, I was obsessed with sideshows. My stepdad told me stories about a very early friendship he had with a retired sideshow performer, a little person, whose mother had been a bearded lady. I had no idea what path would unfold when I started doing my own research, even when I joined the show. But I followed my obsession. My mom’s stroke and suffering was another obsession. It was a very hard, very painful obsession that was a big part of my daily life. Nothing I wrote could be separated from it, because it was the defining lens of my experience. I like to think about writing in terms of obsession, because the things we’re genuinely interested in, delighted by, the threads we tug and tug reflect our particular way of thinking—and that is one of the things that makes reading so exciting. But to get back to your exact question—I think not running away is the whole point of the book for me. Yes, feats in the sideshow are scary and painful and things it would be obvious to run away from. The same is true for helping your mother’s severely disabled body get on and off the toilet. But you don’t run. You stay with the pain. You stay with the danger. You stay with the love.

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Leslie Lindsay:

You met so many bright, colorful personalities during your time with the World of Wonders. Are you still in touch?

Tessa Fontaine:

I’m still in touch with a number of the performers, yes! And one of the greatest parts of being on book tour has been seeing some of them pop up at events. I’m so in awe of the performers. And the show still tours around –everyone should follow the World of Wonders on Facebook, and go see the show!

Leslie Lindsay:

And yet you’re a writer at heart. You teach and are working on a PhD in creative writing. I could ask what advice you’d give to writers…aren’t you glad I’m not? Instead—have you always wanted to write? And how do you keep the saw sharp? What inspires—and challenges—you?

Tessa Fontaine:

I’ve always wanted to write and I’ve always written. When I was very young I wrote cautionary poems about guns, and then about being a two-inch tall fairy and what I would use each kind of plant and food item for. Like, acorn: hat. Carrot stick: sled. I wrote the beginnings of a lot of novels in elementary school full of plot twists involving amnesia and diamonds. And then plays featuring circus-performing insects who live in grocery bags. And on and on. I’ve always felt that I understand the world and myself best through writing it down. I’m not a great oral storyteller. I’m mediocre at talking about myself. But I’m happy to write and write, either making things up or processing the facts of the world as I understand them. I keep the saw sharp by always using it. I usually write five days a week, even if it’s only a little bit, even if it’s terrible. I read constantly. Reading books keeps me wanting to write books keeps me wanting to read books keeps me wanting to write. I’m inspired by learning about weird things in the world around me. Like that birds see in UV. Like the way kid logic works when they’re solving problems. Like obsessive subcultures such as the sideshow. I have the same challenges as most writers, which is a pretty constant crippling self-doubt. But I think that’s ok. It’s annoying, but it keeps me having to ask if what I’m working on is worthwhile, is carefully rendered and thought-through.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What do you hope others take away from THE ELECTRIC WOMAN?

Tessa Fontaine:

To scratch a wild itch. Do something bold. Sit still with a person who can’t be in the world the same way you are—an older person, a person with a disability, a person you haven’t spent much time with. Talk to them. Go forward with a thing that’s important to you, even though it is painful. It won’t stop being painful. But you just do the thing anyway.

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s next for you? Are you working on another novel-length book? Something else?

Tessa Fontaine:

I’m working on a novel! It’s dark. I tried to write funny animal stories instead, but they didn’t pan out.

Leslie Lindsay:

Tessa, this has been so fun. Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask, but should have?

Tessa Fontaine:

You forgot to ask about my favorite kind of m&m! Peanut.

Also, one more note: we need all kinds of people to write all kinds of stories to ensure that there isn’t one story that seems like the only story out there. So keep writing. Keep reading. And always read more than you write.

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

Order Links:

200062495.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editor’s pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, an Amazon Editors’ Best of the Month featured debut & Amazon Best Books of 2018 (so far), an iBooks favorite, and more.

Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Essays about the sideshow won the 2016 AWP Intro Award in Nonfiction, and have appeared in The Rumpus, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Autre, and elsewhere. Other work can be found in Glamour, The Believer, LitHub, FSG’s Works in Progress, Creative Nonfiction, The Normal School, Seneca Review, DIAGRAM, New Orleans Review, [PANK], Brevity, and more.

​Raised outside San Francisco, Tessa got her MFA from the University of Alabama and is currently a doctoral student in creative writing at the University of Utah. She has received awards and fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Taft Nicholson Center, Writing by Writers, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and more.

She has taught for the New York Times summer journeys, at the Universities of Alabama and Utah, in prisons in Alabama and Utah, and founded a Salt Lake City Writers in the Schools program.

​Around the country, she has performed her one-woman plays in theatres ranging from New York to San Francisco. The scar on her cheek from a 2am whip act is slowly fading.

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

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

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#amreading #memoir #mothersanddaughters #grief #WorldofWonders #circus #authorinterviewseries

New York Times Editor’s Choice * ​​Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick * Amazon editor’s Best Books of 2018 (so far) *

 ​Amazon Best Book of May * ​iBooks Favorites: MayRefinery29 Best Books of May​A Patch Book You Need to Read in May * Mag the Weekly’s Reads of the Week (Pakistan) * San Francisco Magazine Memoir to Read Right Now * ​​A New York Times “One of Ten New Books We Recommend This Week” * ​Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

Featured in:

The New York Times *Vogue * Southern Living * The New York Post *  WNYC * The BBC  Elle * Shondaland * ​Business Insider * Bookpage’s 11 Women to Watch in 2018

[Cover and author image courtesy of FSG and used with permission. Image of author eating fire retrieved from author’s website on 9.13.18]

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

By Leslie Lindsay 

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

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

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

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

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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


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

Kirkus Reviews


Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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

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

fashion woman notebook pen
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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

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

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

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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

white and black butterfly on white flower
Photo by Satria Wira Bagaskara on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

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

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

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

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

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

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