Tag Archives: summer reading

Wednesdays with Writers: Would you stop to help a stranded motorist? In the rain? What if that person was found murdered the next day? B.A. Paris explores this and more in her smashing psychological thriller, THE BREAKDOWN as well as writing pressure, ideas for the next book, and so much more!

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By Leslie Lindsay 

The highly anticipated second book from B.A. Paris following last summer’s stunning, bestselling BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. 

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I could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down. You know the books that make you ignore your family and other responsibilities like work and feeding your children? This is one of those. If you read 2016’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, Paris’s debut psychological thriller and were totally swept away, THE BREAKDOWN (June 20 2017, St. Martin’s Press) is just as good, if not better.

Cass Anderson is a newly married woman living in a quiet little hamlet in England with her very handsome husband. She’s struggling though after spotting a car on a lone winding lane during a torrential downpour, with a woman sitting inside…a woman who is later killed.

She’s trying to put the crime out of her mind, but it haunts her. Should she have done something? Pulled over? Perhaps if she had not taken that shortcut…

And now Cass’s memory is at stake
. Little things at first, then bigger things. But she can’t forget this woman, this car, this murder.

I don’t want to give away too much, other than the writing is breakneck speed, the short, choppy sentences are riveting. I simply did not want to put this book down; a page-turner in every sense of the word.

So, grab a cup of tea or coffee and eavesdrop on our conversation.

Leslie Lindsay: B.A., it’s a pleasure to have you back! I tore through this chilling tale, I simply could not put it down. I even dragged my children to the pool so I could lounge in the sun reading. I have to ask, what was the inspiration behind this one?

B.A. Paris: It’s a pleasure to be back, thank you for inviting me again. I love the image of you lying in the sun reading THE BREAKDOWN – probably safer than reading it at night! The inspiration behind the story actually came from two sources. The first was from a personal experience. I was driving home through some woods one afternoon when the sky suddenly darkened and I found myself caught up in a huge storm. There was no-one around and I began to wonder what would happen if I broke down, or if I saw someone who had broken down. If it was the middle of the night, would I stop to help or would I drive on? I thought it would be a great opening for a story. The second source was images (12)from various friends who had witnessed dementia in their parents and were kind enough to share their experiences with me. I’d already had an idea for a story where the central character feared she was suffering from early onset dementia, so I decided to bring these two ideas together to create THE BREAKDOWN.

L.L.: I think your skill lies in swift pacing, building anticipation, planting doubt and suspicious; truly brilliant. Yet, from the reader’s perspective, everything sort of feels stream-of-consciousness. Are you novels carefully plotted?

B.A. Paris: No, not at all. I always know what the opening scene is going to be, and I know the end I want to get to. The journey between these two points is a voyage of discovery!

“This psychological thriller is even harder to put down than Paris’ 2016 best-seller debut Behind Closed Doors; schedule reading time accordingly. With two in a row, Paris moves directly to the thriller A-list.” – Booklist, Starred Review!

L.L.: There’s so much I want to ask you, but don’t want to give it away! Can you tell us if you did any research on this story? Are the places real? Castle Wells? Browbury? I started Googling them, but came up empty-handed. What can you tell us about the setting?

B.A. Paris: As well as listening to my friends’ first-hand experiences of the effects of dementia on their parents, the internet proved to be a great source of information regarding early onset dementia. As for Castle Wells and Browbury, they exist only in my imagination, although they are loosely based on towns I know in England, around where I grew up.  

L.L. I have to draw a few similarities between BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and THE BREAKDOWN. First, they both feature young/newly married couples. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS it’s more recent—like Honeymoon stage and THE BREAKDOWN is within the first year. Children are not present in either of the books. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, other than what might intrigue you about young, childless couples?

B.A. Paris: That’s a good question! I don’t think it was intentional that I chose young, childless couples, I think it was more of a sub-conscious thing. People usually enjoy reading about young, newly married couples and children make stories more complicated, which is why I chose not to give Cass and Matthew any in THE BREAKDOWN. The plot was already complicated with the two different strands – the murder and the dementia – running through it.

L.L.: Can you share, without using complete sentences, what was going on in your life as you wrote THE BREAKDOWN?images (13)

B.A. Paris: Pressure!

L.L.: This is your second book. Was there any more (or different) pressure this time around? Can you talk about that, please? What might you have done better or differently?

B.A. Paris:  This question is great, as it explains my answer to your previous question. There was definitely a lot of pressure whilst I was writing THE BREAKDOWN. When I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, I didn’t know it was going to be published, so I was basically writing it for myself, with no particular audience in mind. With THE BREAKDOWN, I was writing it for all those who had loved BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, so the pressure to deliver the same kind of reader experience was definitely there. I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, but maybe if I’d had more confidence that I could write another psychological thriller I wouldn’t have felt quite so stressed.

L.L.: What in your real life might be a mystery or a psych thriller?

B.A. Paris: I really have to think about this one […] I would love to be able to tell you something amazing, but I’m afraid my life has always been quite ordinary. However, a few years ago one of my daughters had an experience which I may use as the basis for a future book. I can’t tell you what it was at I don’t want to give anything away!

L.L.: I could probably ask questions all day, but I want to let others get out there and get their hands on this book; it’s that good. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

B.A. Paris: I’d just like to tell you about my next book, if I may. It’s another psychological thriller and also features a couple with no children. But they do have a dog! It’s very different to BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and THE BREAKDOWN, and will be out in 2018.

L.L. B.A., it was a complete pleasure. Happy summer!

B.A. Paris:  Thank you so much for your questions, Leslie, a happy summer to you too!

For more information, to connect with B.A. Paris, or to order a copy of THE BREAKDOWN, please see: 

BA Paris_CREDIT Ev SekkidesABOUT THE AUTHOR: B.A. PARIS is the New York Time, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors. She grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters.

 

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

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[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. Image of wooded road retrieved from Shutterstock, writer at work from CafePress, all on 6.19.17]  

Wednesdays with Writers: What if your beloved summer home–a century old–was crumbling into the ocean? Michelle Gable explores the homes on Sconset/Nantucket, their storied histories traversing generations, her summer reading list, and so much more in THE BOOK OF SUMMER

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By Leslie Lindsay 

In her New York Times bestselling debut, A PARIS APARTMENT, Michelle Gable fictionalized the true story of a French courtesan and the discovery of her sealed-for-seventy-years Parisian apartment, filled to the rafters of stunning pieces of artwork and furniture; a true treasure trove of untold stories.

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And now, she turns her gaze to Nantucket, blending her love for old and new, fact and fiction, and weaving past narratives with present-day stories. It’s the ultimate melding of storytelling.

In THE BOOK OF SUMMER, Gable uses the faded pages of an alligator-skin guest book to transport readers to the late 1930s-1940s when the country was on ‘war watch.’ And then there’s Cliff House, a 99-year old summer home perched on the cliffs of Sconset, Nantucket. Due to erosion, be that familial or geographical, things are eroding.

So pack your bags, toss in your flip-flops and join me on the grand old porch that is Cliff House.

Leslie Lindsay: Michelle, it’s lovely to have you back. I recall the last time we chatted, you mentioned you were working on a new book set in Nantucket. Of course, I was enamored. What drove you to this location?

Michelle Gable:Thank you for having me back on the blog! I’ve always had an obsession with New England, in particular New England beaches, which is kind of strange for a California girl! But I like the history, and the changing seasons, and how a town’s population shifts between the months. The dynamics are entirely different in San Diego.

I wasn’t looking to set a book in Nantucket per se, but I stumbled across this article in Vanity Fair and knew it was the perfect fit! I decided to set the story on Nantucket, featuring a home facing a fate similar to that of Bluff House. It took me a bit to figure out the structure of the novel, and its characters, but I knew immediately it’d feature a guest book and that I’d call it THE BOOK OF SUMMER. I also knew the last line, and that shaped the rest.image (1)

The best part of writing this book was having an excuse to stay on Nantucket in the name of research. Last summer, my family and I rented a house on Baxter Road, where my characters have their home. We stayed on the non-cliff side, of course.

L.L.: And so it’s a real thing, these houses in Sconset crumbling off cliffs. Can you talk about that? What, if anything is being done to save these summer homes?

Michelle Gable: In my novel, the matriarch of the family, Cissy, is desperate to save her home and goes through all manner of time and funds to get her way. She thinks she can use her money and influence to “fight city hall” and force the installation of a number of controversial erosion control measures. The proposed solutions and drawbacks in the novel all mirror what occurred (and continues to occur) in real life. Nantucket did initiate the geotube installation/beach replenishment program a few years ago. Some say it’s prevented further erosion, while others disagree. There’s no obvious or clear-cut answer, that’s for sure, and in a way both sides are right.

L.L.: I love houses. Their stories are often fascinating, the secrets they hold, but also the design and architecture. It seems like they may also be a fascination of yours, too. I’m thinking of THE PARIS APARTMENT, the manse in I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS (which is actually in England). What are some of your favorite houses and their locations? They don’t have to be literary.

Michelle Gable: It’s funny because I never realized this until someone pointed it out at one of my book signings! Yes, homes have featured prominently in all three of my novels. I’ve never really followed astrology, but I am a Cancer, and that sign is known for being a homebody. So maybe there’s something to it! The central character in my fourth book is a displaced person and therefore someone without a home. This was before I realized my apparent fixation on “home as character.” I suppose “lack of home” fits in that bucket too.

In terms of favorite homes, the first one that comes to mind is my parents’, which they’ve lived in for almost forty years. It’s located in Del Mar, California, about Plaza_at_Del_Mar.jpgten minutes from where I live now. I have so many happy memories of their house (and yard) from my childhood, and my daughters’ childhoods too. They’ve spent a lot of time there over the years and even as tweens/teens still love to go see Gam-Gam and Gramps.

Also, I love my own house. We live in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, which is a funky beach town in northern San Diego County. We had the home custom built nearly ten years ago and—couldn’t you guess—it looks like it belongs in New England, not Southern California. I can tell people “I live in that white house with the brick and the picket fence” and they know exactly which house is mine because it’s very East Coast! I love it because we picked every aspect of it and because it’s ours.

And I love the shingled homes on Nantucket, especially the charming, rose-covered Sconset cottages. I took pictures of several of my favorites and put them on my Pinterest page.

L.L.: THE BOOK OF SUMMER alternates between POVs and time periods. How did you decide to structure the story this way? Was there a particular story or timeline that you felt a particular affinity toward?

Michelle Gable: I like to write with alternating POVs and time periods because that’s the format of book I most enjoy reading. Multiple perspectives are fun to play with, to imagine how the same scenario might be viewed differently depending on circumstance.

All three of my books have alternated between the past and the present (or semi-Sconset-Roses-732x328present—I’ll See You in Paris was set in 2001), and in my first two, I’d say I most enjoyed writing the historical storylines. In THE BOOK OF SUMMER, I really can’t decide. I liked the friendships (reluctant and otherwise) in the historical storyline, and the romance in the modern day.

Another commonality in my books is that they were all inspired by a true story. But, unlike the first two, The Book of Summer’s real-life thread is in the modern timeline.

L.L.: I read somewhere that if books were kids and you had to pick your favorite, THE BOOK OF SUMMER would be it. Yet so many authors struggle with their second and third books…perhaps not you? Can you shed some light on this?

Michelle Gable: It’s funny, with my first book, my editorial letter was twelve pages long, for my second it was 2-3 pages, and for THE BOOK OF SUMMER it was a one-sentence email! Book of Summer The

Once I started writing it, the book came easily, and it was pure joy the entire way through. No frustration. No second-guessing. When I was done editing I missed the characters and that’s never happened before! That said, it was harder to begin because I was grappling with too many storylines, which is a common problem of mine! Early on, I sent about forty pages to my agent with a note pleading for “help!” She asked: “whose story is this?” With that simple questions, all of my problems were solved.

Until recently, I never understood why it was so easy after that initial hurdle. But now I think I know! It has the fewest “real” people in it. Though I write fiction, when there are real people and events I try to make the story and their descriptions plausible. With the book I’m writing now, I’ve read over seventy biographies just to get thing right! Bess, Ruby, Hattie, and Cissy from THE BOOK OF SUMMER are all entirely from my imagination.

L.L.: I have to admit, I fell a bit in love with Evan Mayhew. It’s that old love, first love thing…perhaps we all have a sort of soft spot for that person in our lives. Did you have a favorite character?

 Michelle Gable:  I’m so glad that you felt that way about Evan! I did too, as I wrote him. He played a much bigger role than I expected. I’d envisioned the modern day storyline being only about Cissy and Bess, but then he showed up and I realized he needed to stay.

I don’t think I have a favorite character. My first thought was feisty, modern-day Cissy, but then again Bess takes up a huge place in my heart. Ruby is so much fun and I love, love, love Hattie. I want to write an entire book about her, though I don’t currently have plans to do so.

L.L.: In terms of themes, I see Cliff House as a bygone era. But things are shifting. The kids, busy with work and their own families, don’t come home much anymore. Marriages are wobbly. There’s definitely a connection between the delicate ground the house sits on and the family dynamics. Was this intentional on your part, or did it sort of evolve organically?

summerreadingMichelle Gable: That evolved organically as most connections in my books tend to do! I don’t typically set out to create specific metaphors or parallels. But something usually clicks while I’m writing and I think ‘a-ha!’ This is a perfect contrast!

L.L.: What’s on your ‘bucket list’ for summer? Any good reads you can recommend?

Michelle Gable: My “bucket list” would include owning a home on Nantucket, but that’s really more of a pipe dream than something that could actually happen! That said, there are places I’d like to travel this and future summers. High on the list of places I’ve never been but hope to see one day: Spain, Portugal, African safari.

As for books, fabulous recent releases include The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn, All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg, The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward (one of my favorite writers!), and Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. I loved A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, which is a recent read for me, but wasn’t released recently. I track my favorite reads on Pinterest too.

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

Michelle Gable:  Well, you could ask me what I’m working on now…but I’m not ready to talk about it yet!

L.L.: Michelle, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for popping over.

 Michelle Gable: Thanks so much for having me!

For more information, to connect with Michelle Gable via social media, or to snag your own copy of THE BOOK OF SUMMER (available May 9 from St. Martin’s Press), please visit:

Michelle 278_credit Joanna DeGeneres.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment and I’ll See You in Paris, Michelle Gable graduated from The College of William & Mary. After a twenty-year career in finance, she now writes full time. Michelle lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these social media hang-outs:

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[Author and cover images courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission. Images of Baxter Road/Nantucket retrieved from linked Vanity Fair article, Rose-covered Sconset home retrieved from , image of Del Mar, CA retrieved from Wikipedia. Books and birds retrieved from, all on 5.3.17]

The Teacher is Talking: Getting Resourceful for Summer Break

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By Leslie Lindsay

It may be summer break in most areas of the country, so your classroom is bound to be shifting a bit.  Instead of neat rows of desks lined up in your neighborhood school, your child’s classroom is now the playground, the nature trail, the swimming pool, or perhaps a friendly day camp. 

There are plenty of ways to “sneak” in summer learning without being overly teacher-ly.  Here are some ideas uncovered in just the last few days for little or no cost to you.

  • Michaels Craft Stores have two summer tracks you may be interested in following.  Track One:  Kids Club. Meets every Saturday, starting June 1st and going thru July 6th.  For ages 3+, kids can benefit from a 30-minute hands-on crafting activity (all supplies included) with a Michaels staff member and bring home a craft. ($2/child). (Examples:  Father’s Day Card, Father’s Day Duck Tape Frame, Silly Shells,  4th of July Hat, and Summer Games).  All classes run every 30 minutes from 10-12noon. 
  • Michaels Craft Stores Track Two: Passport to Imagination. Explore the 7 continents and their amazing landmarks and icons in this 7-week voyage “around the globe!” For just $2 and 2-hours, kids can participate in a crafting adventure Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays beginning June 17th.  You must register to join the fun and reserve your spot.  www.Michaels.com/Passport
  •   Check your local library!  Remember those fun summer reading book programs from your day a child?  Chances are, your library is still doing something similar for this generation.  Our library hosts a reading group, book logs, suggested titles, and small prizes for achieving certain levels.  Libraries often have low-cost or no-cost afternoon and evening programs designed just for kids and families. 
  • You may also consider hosting a pee-wee book group.  Pick a theme or a classic title geared to your child’s ages and interests. Invite a few friends (3-4 is a good number to start) and get reading. Parents, you read the book, too!  Pick an interval that works for you–meet weekly  (or twice weekly) to discuss your progress, or when the book is complete.  Make it fun!  Bake, draw, paint, or craft an activity to go along with your book.  (At our house, we’re planning to read several chapter books about 3rd grade).  For younger kids, try a series of picture books like Fancy Nancy or Thomas the Tank Engine.  Double-duty:  get reading hours for that library summer reading log while spending time with friends!
  • Panera Bread offers a BIT Kids program.  That’s Baker-in-Training.  Great for scouts and other service-minded groups, but also for kiddos who love to bake!  Reservations must be made in advance, classes are typically 1.5 hours and require a minimum of 10 kiddos ages 5-12 years.  An adult chaperone is also required to stay for every 5 children. 
  • Gather up a group of friends from your kiddie book group, neighbors, or moms and tots group.  For more information, http://www.panerabread.com/about/bit/

More ideas coming up next week!  For now–it’s summer–keep it fun, fresh, and educational!  Class dismissed…