All posts tagged: writing life

Amy ShEARN talks about her sublime new book, UNSEEN CITY, BROOKLYN, how she believes in ghosts, old houses, books she was influenced by and asks me a question, too

By Leslie Lindsay  A multigenerational tapestry of homes, neighborhoods, ghosts, and more in this bold and atmospheric novel. ~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ When I heard UNSEEN CITY by Amy Shearn (Red Hen Press, September 2020), I knew I had to get my hands on it. It’s a bit of a love letter to NYC (Brooklyn, in particular), but also to those childhood books that shaped us as readers (and writers!) and also about a little-known neighborhood called Weeksville. But it’s also about love and grief and ghosts and oh gosh…it’s just so good. Meg Rhys is a self-identified spinster librarian. She lives alone–with her beloved cat–in a rent-controlled Brooklyn apartment. On Friday evenings, she grabs her pile of holds from the library and bikes home, staying in most of the weekend, because that’s how she likes it. But she’s mourning the loss of her dead sister, who died tragically in an accident. She soon becomes obsessed with a library patron who is researching a possibly haunted house. His house. Rather, his parents. That house has it’s own story to …

what if your parents left you at age 15 for another coutnry? THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS by E.J. Koh talks about this, letting go, self-hood, and more

By Leslie Lindsay Powerful, raw, and elegant memoir about mothers and daughters, legacy, generations, and distance–or perhaps, abandonment.  ~MEMOIR MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ + Writing Exercise  After nearly a decade living in the United States, E.J. Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen year old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California, alone. Overnight, this young girl finds herself adrift in a world without her mother, lacking structure. But over the course of time–and the time keeps increasing as her parents extend their work contract in South Korea–her mother sends letters written in Korean. Eun Ji cannot fully understand these letters until she is much older, once she becomes a translator.  As an adult, a writer, poet, translator, Eun Ji sifts through these letters in THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS (Tin House Books, 2020)–and her past–seeking the tenuous thread that ties them all together, discovering striking similarities between them.  My heart broke for Eun Ji–my own daughter is fifteen–it’s a tender, vulnerable age, somewhere between being an adult and craving the …

Ravishing bold & meaty memoir focusing on mothers, mental health, grief, but also trauma, the female body, traditional ‘womanhood;’ plus writing structure, more in WIVING

By Leslie Lindsay  Ravishingly bold and haunting memoir about growing up Mormon, ‘wifely’ expectations, mental illness, and sexual abuse. ~Writers Interviewing Writers |ALWAYS WITH BOOK~ I was immediately taken with this compassionately visceral and lyrical memoir by Caitlyn Myer.  WIVING (Arcade Books/Skyhorse Publishing, July 2020) is so brave, so bold, all things laid bare account of the author’s upbringing, but also abuse and personal sexuality. Raised Utah in a traditional Mormon family, Caitlin Myer’s life had an expected trajectory: she would attend church-related activities, hold on to her virginity, learn to be sweet and compliant, keep a hope chest, and then when the time was right, she would marry and enter ‘full womanhood.’ I read with such an urgency a worry and an impending sense of doom–things do not go to plan. As much as I loved WIVING, it’s a challenge to summarize it in terms of plot–it comes to the reader in a fragmented, spiraling thread, and I love this structure. It’s much like life in that sense, and in what I think encompasses the entirety of the narrative: …

Madeleine Ryan talks about her stunning debut, about a sharp autistic woman, how nature is very revealing, plus the collective expression of home, how we are mirrors to that doorway, and more in A ROOM CALLED EARTH

By Leslie Lindsay  A charming and delightful read about a neuroatypical woman at a party, the man she meets, and her magical, slightly quirky view of the world.  ~WEEKEND READING|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ A ROOM CALLED EARTH (Penguin Original, August 18 2020) by debut author Madeleine Ryan is at once hilarious and heartwarming. The plot is fairly straightforward:  A young autistic woman in Melbourne, Australia attends a house party. She navigates the festivities, has brief exchanges with others, and meets an intriguing man in line for the bathroom. Just like this man, we are invited back to the narrator’s unique and magical home. This premise, however, belies what a gift this book is, for what appears to be an ordinary night out is, through the prism of her mind, extraordinary.  This is such a delightful and charming read, a glittering glimpse into the sparkling and strikingly intense and unique mind. Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Madeleine Ryan to the author interview series.  Leslie Lindsay: Madeleine, welcome! You trained as an actor …

Chad Otis talks about his debut children’s book–OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL–about his artistic process, living in a school bus as a kid, exploring the big wide world, curiosity, imagination, and being an over-caffeinated uncle.

By Leslie Lindsay  Darling children’s picture book about a little owl who goes on an adventure far from his home, asking more that just whoo-whoo. ~BOOKS ON MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ Every child–especially those around ages 2-4 love to ask ‘wh-‘ questions: who, what, when, where, and why. Especially why. Here, author/illustrator Chad Otis, brings to life the adorable owl, Oliver, in this charmingly sweet and funny tale of curiosity, OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL (Little, Brown Young Readers, August 11 2020). Oliver lives in a tree in the woods with his mother and father and siblings…but they only ask ‘who?’ Oliver needs more. He wants to know: who lives in the faraway woods? Where does the river go? Why can’t I leave our tree? So one day, he and his little friend, Bug, go. They leave the safety of their nest and meet new friends–bats and beavers, alligators and seals, too. They try new things and eat new foods and maybe they get a little scared. But it all turns out okay in the end. OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL is about getting …

Julia Heaberlin on how obsessions start early and never leave, the horrific experience of a woman’s found body parts, ‘evil passing through,’ her mother’s box of terrifying nature, reading poetry to unlock flat descriptions, plus prosthetics in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK

By Leslie Lindsay  Portrait of modern Texas, in which tradition, family, secrets, and redemption run wild, this is a slow-burn mystery rooted in gorgeous writing. It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson vanished from her family farm, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. She was the town’s beauty queen, beloved daughter, but now she’s gone. Was it a serial killer? Her brother? Her disappearance and murder haunts the town. Now, in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK (Ballantine/PRH, August 11 2020), another girl has turned up. She’s not dead, but badly injured. She’s missing an eye, she’s mute. Odette Tucker, the town’s youngest cop (and hiding a perceived disability herself) is the one to find this injured girl amidst a field of dandelions. She believes the two instances may somehow be linked. The writing in WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is delicately charged and searing, exploding with atmosphere. But it is a slow-burning literary thriller told from the POV of several traumatized characters carrying plenty of their own baggage. WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK is …

Can we save a library? Janie Chang talks about this, the Sino-Japanese war, being a refugee, COVID-19, her fascination with myths & folklore, and so much more in her new novel, THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS

By Leslie Lindsay  Based on true events of the Sino-Japanese war, THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS is a poetic and compelling piece of historical fiction. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ Blending history and beautiful imagery, plus Chinese myth and folklore, THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS (WilliamMorrow, May 12 2020) brings the past to light in this atmospheric tale. This is a captivating saga of a young woman traveling across China with a convoy of student refugees, fleeing the hostiles of a brutal war with Japan. Here is where I knew little of this piece of history. But this is all based on true events, taking place during WWII. It’s 1937 and Japanese bombs fall on the city of Nanking when 19-year old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Together, along with about one hundred students, and staff, Lian must walk a thousand miles to safety while protecting a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as “The Library of Legends.” Unexpected bonds develop on this pilgrimage…a cautious romance, but also death and skepticism, …

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

By Leslie Lindsay  Chillingly unpleasant tale of a highly dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship inspired by the true story of Dee Dee Blanchard and Gypsy Rose. ~Wednesdays with Writers| Always with a Book~ A most anticipated book by Newsweek ∙ Marie Claire ∙ Bustle ∙ Shondaland ∙ PopSugar ∙ Woman’s Day ∙ Goodhousekeeping ∙ She Reads ∙ BookRiot Stephanie Wrobel’s debut DARLING ROSE GOLD. (Berkley, March 18 2020) explores the horrific and ultimately highly dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and psychiatric issues of Munchausen syndrome by proxy; an adult knowingly abusing (injuring, starving, poisoning) a minor child in order to receive medical care/attention and other gains. DARLING ROSE GOLD is a must-read for those who enjoy Jessica Knoll, Megan Miranda, and Elizabeth Little. This story was the talk of the London Book Fair and rights have been sold in 15 countries. Informed by real-life cases like that of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, and Julie Gregory’s story, SICKENED, DARLING ROSE GOLD, as Wrobel puts it, “Begins where most novels about Munchausen syndrome by proxy end–with the reveal upfront.” Patty Watts is in prison serving a 5-year sentence for …

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

By Leslie Lindsay  A meditation of space, home, and what it means to be a mother, a wife, and a writer in this transformative memoir. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ Can a home be cathartic? I think so. Can a home teach us life lessons? Absolutely! I know we’re not supposed to fall in love with a book based on its cover but O.M.G.! And the title: HOUSE LESSONS: Renovating a Life (Sasquatch Books, March 24 2020)…AND it’s a memoir? Sold. Erica Bauermeister is the author of mostly recently THE SCENT KEEPER, but has written other books, too. HOUSE LESSONS is her first memoir. This is a tale of love and family, hope and potential, all arising quite literally from a pile of junk. The 1909 American Four Square sat in eccentric Port Townsend, WA, not even for sale with the author and her husband stumbled upon it and knew it was ‘the one.’ Previously owned by a hoarder, Bauermeister and her family go about purchasing the home and cleaning it out, rebuilding the foundation, and renovating the interior …

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

By Leslie Lindsay  An elegant, perceptive, yet powerful debut about what it means to belong, to search for self within the constructs of a home. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ HOME MAKING: A Novel by Lee Matalone (HarperPerennial, Feb 18 2020) is such an intangible kind of read–it’s not fully a novel, not fully a memoir, but somewhere between. And I really loved this hybrid-like approach. It’s told in first person and doesn’t exactly follow the traditional arc of fiction, but it more meditative, quiet, introspective like one might expect of a memoir. Having said all that, this is a work of fiction (of course, like all good fiction, it’s often mined from the ‘real-life’ of the author’s experiences). The story starts off with a Japanese woman who runs away with a French man, becomes pregnant, then puts the baby up for adoption.That baby is adopted by an American family leaves Japan, and is raised with her adoptive family in Tucson, Arizona. This little girl (Cybil) grows up to become an ob/gyn, delivering babies while her own, a daughter (Chloe), …