What if you felt trapped by your past–and needed permission to breathe? Jaclyn Gilbert tackles this & more in her debut fiction, LATE AIR

By Leslie Lindsay 

In this piercing, lyrically compelling debut novel, Jaclyn Gilbert tackles marriage, loss, and finding one’s way home. 


In the shadows of a predawn run, Murray tries to escape what he can’t control: His failed marriage. Grief. Even his own weakness. Murray is a college running coach insistent on his relentless training regimen and obsessed with his star athlete, until he finds her crumpled and unresponsive during a routine practice one morning.

Unable to avoid or outrun reality, Murray is forced to face the consequences of his own increasingly tenuous grip on life—exacerbated by the dangers of his perfectionistic, singular focus as a former athlete and survivor of an unspeakable loss from his past.

Weaving together the strands of two lives that form a union, Jaclyn pieces together  alternating narratives–Murray and his wife, Nancy, as we experience their early moments of hope and desire as well as their fears and failings. There’s time and trauma, grief, and ultimately healing.

I asked Jaclyn a bit about her process, how she discovered the story and what resulted is this sweeping essay on letting go of perfectionism and giving oneself permission to breathe. 

Discovering Late Air

Jaclyn Gilbert

I was running along the Bronx River Parkway in graduate school, when the idea came to me—not for the novel—but for the story that it would later grow out of.  I had run Division I cross country for Yale, and every Monday and Wednesday we trained on the campus golf course.  I remember being too nervous about these grueling workouts to consider what else might happen on the course outside of my legs and lungs burning; I was consumed by own fear of falling short of my coach’s expectation.  In that moment, something about the perspective of looking in on my past life as a college runner terrified of failure took on a new weight as a twenty-nine-year-old woman muddling through an MFA program, set on digging deeper into her past, but unsure of where to begin.   I also knew that I didn’t want to write a story that felt too familiar and close to my own experience, so I chose the vantage point of a coach in his sixties—Coach Murray—not only because he called forth certain aspects of my own college coach’s personality, but also because he had access to a different realm of experience, a wisdom I couldn’t know or fully realize unless I entered his body and began to imagine the range of experiences that had shaped him over time.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


All goes to say that I hit many road blocks along the way, each as difficult as the last, but all as surmountable as my own willingness to confront the unknowability’s of Murray’s pain—the unfathomable loss from his past that he is constantly trying to quiet through his material fixation on the body and his runners.  Gradually, I learned, too, that coming to terms with Murray’s past meant also coming to terms with my own need to use distance running and perfectionism to distance myself from the parts of my life that I am too afraid to look at or remember, the parts that eluded my control during my teens and twenties.  In that sense, the process of writing LATE AIR was, above all, a process of letting go what I thought was true about myself to make space for this other truth: that I found running as a teenager to escape my father’s emotional abuse, and that need for escape veered on compulsive and injurious, even though up until writing this book, I had deemed running a source of salvation, a means of reaching some higher, unattainable version of myself.   But the more I delved into the depths of Murray’s own repressed psyche, and that of his perfectionistic other half, Nancy, more I could see that it was all an illusion.  The pain that I thought I was choosing was really a means of detaching from the deeper, unnamable pains of my past.  Running was my means of coping from my father’s chronic neglect—but his absence also came to define my self-worth in college, when he made impossible requests of me to fuel his own gambling addiction at the expense of my own safety, even though I would have given everything to be affirmed by him, to be present and seen in his eyes.


Yet any time I tried to avoid that truth—the emptiness I was so afraid of feeling again after my father betrayed my trust when I was eighteen—my writing suffered.  I quickly learned that my readers knew more than I did about myself through the questions they asked about Nancy and Murray’s pasts, their separate childhoods, their broken marriage, their opposite fates.  Every time I returned to a new draft, I knew the answers to their questions lived in what I had to be willing to embrace most honestly on the page—truths about the sudden losses that can mark our relationships, truths about running and the body that required owning my history of chronic injury, truths about my own quest for self-acceptance and forgiveness as a daughter, runner, and writer.   I had to push through the endless rough patches that are revision to learn to sit inside my own body and experiences, rather than escape them through the fiction that tempted me most: that I could hide from myself through my characters.  I had to patiently write toward myself through their own journeys to reconcile what they couldn’t predict or alter about their pasts.


This book most importantly asked that I interrogate Murray and Nancy’s separate ways of grieving from as many angles as possible.  In tracing their separate journeys inside and outside the limits of their bodies, their opposing needs of running toward and away from their shared pain, I could find greater compassion for my own journey to heal. And that, to me, was how the title for LATE AIR, came into being—in learning from my characters what it would mean to give myself the permission to breathe.   Finding breath also meant relinquishing my desire to control very aspect of this “other” fictional narrative, to open my mind and body to my senses, to receive the moment, in the same way Nancy must learn to toward the end of the book, her body becoming like a map of lived, momentary experience, a vessel for observing language, rather than reacting to it, in motion, and in stillness.

sharpened blue wooden pencil
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


This process felt much like reading or writing poetry, which is why I think the title LATE AIR fit in the end.  And this title came appropriately “late” in the writing process.  I was working with my agent to find a title that felt amply atmospheric and nuanced enough to capture Murray and Nancy’s elusive divide and later reconciliation.  For weeks, I felt incredibly stuck, trying to find a name for the unnamable truths their story was chasing after—but one afternoon, I resolved to flip through all of my favorite poetry books, copying the titles of poems in a fugue state, and the moment I copied “Late Air” in Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Poems, something about it I couldn’t explain felt particularly right.  But this naming opened up a whole new layer to the process. I had to earn this title through the final stages of revising the novel with my editor.  Together, we isolated all instances of air and breathing in the story, and I had to immerse in each one of those passages, slowly coming to articulate LATE AIR’S hardest truths about love, loss, and finding breath—in allowing ourselves to let go of what we cannot control or change, by embracing the uncertainty of every moment.

“Late Air breathes some welcome oxygen into the modern novel. The characters, both major and minor, are created with great care, and the story is moving and extremely readable. Jaclyn Gilbert is up and running!”

–Richard Cohen, author of Chasing the SunBy the Sword, and How to Write Like Tolstoy

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Order Links: 

4inAuthorPhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jaclyn Gilbert received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and BA from Yale University.  She is the recipient of a research fellowship from the New York Public Library, a contributor to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and her work has appeared in Post Road Magazine, Tin House, Lit Hub, and elsewhere.  She has led writing workshops at the Valhalla Correctional Facility, the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and Curious-on-Hudson in Dobbs Ferry.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and Weimaraner, Phin.  Late Air (Little A, 2018) is her first novel.

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


#literaryfiction #marriage #grief #running #amreading #debut #writinglife #perfectionism #selfacceptance 


[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 12.13.18. Special thanks to Little A Publishing].

Wednesdays with Writers: Getting to “know” characters, Lisa Unger talks about the dichotomy of ordinary and extraordinary, how she ‘found’ the title to INK & BONE, how writing is a delicate union of observation & imagination, of intuition & creativity

By Leslie Lindsay 

From her stunning debut, BEAUTIFUL LIES, to last year’s critically-acclaimed CRAZY LOVE YOU, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger is a force to be reckoned with.Ink and Bone

Today, I’m super-excited to welcome Lisa for her third visit and book chat. Join us as we delve into the dark world of a reluctant, edgy young psychic, the granddaughter of Eloise Montgomery. If you’re an Unger fan, you’ll know exactly who Eloise Montgomery is—we’ve met her in THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS series as well as a token appearance in CRAZY LOVE YOU. And if you’re not yet familiar with the complex, fearless, and original mind of Lisa, then it’s time to get you acquainted.

Visited by apparitions and haunted by dreams since she was just a child, 20-year old Finley Montgomery has never been fully able to control the things that happen to her, from her personal life to other psychic-related events. She moves from Seattle, WA to the fictional town, The Hollows where she lives with her grandmother in hopes of understanding and harnessing her gifts.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, I can’t believe it’s been three years! Welcome back. I’ve loved all of your books and just find them so original and fascinating. And now, INK & BONE makes its way into world…what was it keeping you up at night that lead to the conception of INK & BONE?

Lisa Unger: Has it been three years?!  Thank you, Leslie, for your very kind words and for inviting me to your blog again.  It’s always a delight to “chat” with you.

Mainly it was Finley Montgomery, the wild child at the center of this book, that drew me into INK AND BONE. With her gleaming purple Harley and her tattoos, her hot pink hair and her strength of spirit and the ghosts she’s trying to outrun.  Then, of course, there’s my ongoing obsession with a fictional town called The Hollows. And, finally, it was Eloise Montgomery, Finley’s grandmother who I’ve been getting to know for a couple of years.  Last year, I had the opportunity to explore Eloise in the e-novella, The Whispering Hollows.  The novella, spanning thirty years, and weaving in between the novels in which she’s featured, allowed me to dive into her character in a way I hadn’t before.  She’s had a number of her own books, but INK AND BONE is really an important evolution in her journey.  The novella is also where I first started to get to know Finley.  She was so compelling, so different from Eloise, I knew she was going to need her own story.  And even though there are a number of powerful voices in the novel, I think INK AND BONE is really her book.

L.L.: But you don’t have to read THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS before enjoying INK & BONE, do you?

Lisa Unger: No, definitely not.  All my books are written to stand alone. And although the novels set in The Hollows are often chain linked by character, it’s not a series in the traditional sense.  You’ll see some of the same people, their stories may evolve, and certainly The Hollows is changing.  (Of course, as the author, I have a preferred order, and you can find it by visiting my website)   But each story is its own universe, and is an experience unto itself.  No one will feel lost entering at any point.

L.L.: I understand you worked closely with John Edward, a psychic medium (and book publicist!) who specializes communicating with the dead. Can you tell us what that experience was like?

Lisa Unger:  Actually, I worked on John Edward’s book, ONE LAST TIME as a book publicist.  He wasn’t a book publicist! I was an assistant on the project, so I didn’t work with him very closely. But he definitely had an impact on me.  onelasttimehardcover
Some of the readings he did for people I knew were nothing short of amazing. I have always been curious about the idea of psychic ability, and John Edwards is clearly tapped into some other plane of existence.  But he’s also this very kind, down-to-earth and normal guy.  It was that dichotomy, of the extraordinary and the ordinary dwelling side by side in the same person, that was the germ for Eloise.  It was many years after I worked with him that Eloise found her way on to the page.

L.L.: Twenty-year old college student Finely is covered with tattoos. In that regard, she reminded me a bit of the elusive character in NBC’s THE BLINDSPOT. And your descriptions of the tattoo-ing process is remarkable. Can you share with us a bit about how you decided to give Finley these tattoos, what it symbolizes, and the research you must have done to make it appear authentic on the page?

Lisa Unger: I haven’t watched BLINDSPOT, though it’s on my TBW list! Is it good? Nor do I have any tattoos of my own!  I suppose if I were really dedicated to my fiction, I’d have gotten one. But I’m too much of a chicken!

I often have a three-pronged approach to research.  Mostly, it starts online – the whole universe is at your fingertips these days, for better or worse. Then, if I need more in-depth information, I turn to books.  And if I’m still lacking information, I’ll generally find someone to interview.  For this one, my research was all online.  I read as much as I could about download (5)the process, and watched videos of people getting tattoos, as well as a number of episodes of “Miami Ink.”  Plus, my husband has a few tattoos, so he filled me in on some of the details, as well.  If it comes up again in another book, or if Rainer has a bigger role in the future, I’ll probably find a tattoo parlor to hang out in for a while, just to keep learning more of the finer points.  Research is ongoing, a part of my life.

For Finley, there’s a deep fissure between her inner life and outer life.  She’s struggling with that split, with her abilities, with understanding herself.  Eloise worries that the tattoos are a form of masochism.  And I think that might be part of it.  But more so, it is Finley’s way of aligning her inner world with the world outside.  It’s a way she has of grounding herself in her flesh, of reminding herself that she dwells in the real world, not in the world beyond, that’s she’s solid, and in charge of herself.  Hence the title, INK AND BONE.

L.L.: And then you have Finley studying psychology—specifically, Jung—who had a ‘thing’ for the paranormal, much unlike his counterpart, Freud. Can you speak to that, please?

Lisa Unger: Jungian themes run through my whole body of work.  But it was Finley that really required of me some deep research into his life and his fascination with the supernatural.  Carl Jung was a believer.  His mother was a psychic medium, he experienced a number of synchronistic events in his therapy with patients that he felt were evidence of another plane.  He had a vivid and affecting near death experience, where he felt he glimpsed the other side – and wasn’t too thrilled to come back.  And he had a spirit guide that he named Philemon, and with whom he consulted regularly.  Unlike his counterparts, Jung believed that psychic phenomenon should be explored even though its exploration often defied the traditional scientific method.  The anomalous event, the thing that is rare, unrepeatable, or “acausal” is dismissed by science.  But Jung’s idea was that so-called psychic abilities might just be an extension of normal human ability.  At least it was something to be explored.

So I approach Eloise and Finley, and Agatha, too, in that way.  They’re just normal people, with abnormal access to energies.  There’s a rush to categorize any book that takes on these kinds of topics as “paranormal” or “supernatural” and those words have a kind of charge.  But to me, Eloise and Finley aren’t any different than any of my other characters.  They just have this different thing going on that I love exploring.

L.L.: As a writer, I’m often intrigued with structural choices authors make (and there are so many!). How did you decide to structure INK & BONE in the manner you did; Finley’s story braided with the current child abductions in The Hollows, coupled with Eloise’s journey? In fact, it seems there are a least 4 different POVs…there were lots of voices that needed to be heard.

Lisa Unger: Weirdly enough, choice doesn’t play a big role in my process. It’s not like I have something I want to say and try to find a perspective from which to say it.  All my novels weave themselves through character voice.  Sometimes it’s just one voice, sometimes it’s a few.  I hear those voices, dwell in those perspectives and have faith that they are going to stitch themselves together into a novel.  Every story has multiple facets, in fiction as in life.  Sometimes I just have access to one person’s perspective, sometimes I get to see the story from multiple angles. That was the case in INK AND BONE. 

L.L.: In many ways, being a writer is akin to being a psychic. We have to intuit our characters, their motivations, ‘see’ them in our mind’s eye, while at the same time, be especially observant of the details of life. I’m thinking your ‘only gift’ is that of a writer, but do you ever feel as if you have any intuitive abilities of your own?images (3)

Lisa Unger: I do think of myself as intuitive, as well as empathetic. But probably first, I’m a careful observer.  I listen, watch, absorb detail – in other words, I pay close attention to people and the world around me.  You touch on something interesting here.  How writing is a delicate union of observation and imagination, of intuition and creativity.  We have to inhabit our characters with compassion and an open heart in order for them to tell their stories through us.  There is a deep connection, one that goes beyond the act of the writer “creating” character.   As I experience this process, it’s more like listening to the characters who are already living in my head, trying to tell a story.

L.L.: I love how you say, you love sitting down at your desk and finding such ‘magic and joy in what pours out, that there’s no way of knowing what amazing things you’ll find. Truth be told, that’s my favorite way of writing, too. But sometimes those ‘found literary surprises’ pucker your narrative. How can a writer reconcile that?

Lisa Unger: Hmm … interesting.  How do you react when surprises “pucker” your life?  You’re either broken by it, derailed, or you flow with it and allow it to take you into whatever phase comes next.  So with fiction. Either you’re writing from an organic, authentic place where you’re letting story flow through you.  Or you’ve come to the page with a rigid idea of what you’re going to put down.  If the latter, then you’re going to be annoyed and frustrated with new ideas, thoughts, and directions because they’re taking you away from what you planned. I am not sure that’s the best way to write or to live.  Even the writers I know who work from an outline are available for the magic, the unexpected.  Because that’s the whole point.  It’s not about you, the author, what you wanted or what you thought was going to happen.  It’s about the story and, like life, we don’t always control that. Sometimes we just have to go with it.

L.L.: Oh, I feel as if I could ask questions all day, but alas, we have books to read—and write! Thanks for popping by, Lisa and best of luck on your summer tour.

Lisa Unger: We do!  Thanks so much for having me, Leslie!  I always enjoy talking with you!

For more information, or to follow on social media:

  • Facebook: authorlisaunger
  • Twitter: @lisaunger
  • Instagram: @launger

Lisa Unger (credit Jeff Unger)LISA UNGER is an award-winning New York Times and internationally bestselling author.  Her novels have sold more than 2 million copies and been translated into twenty-six languages.  She has been selected as an International Thriller Writers “Best Novel” finalist, a Silver Medal winner in the Florida Book Awards, and a Prix Polar International Award finalist.  Most recently, In the Blood won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Crime Thriller and was also named a Best of 2014 suspense thriller by Suspense Magazine.  Unger lives in Clearwater Beach, Florida with her husband, daughter, and labradoodle.  Visit her at http://www.lisaunger.com.

[Author Photo credit: Jeff Unger. Cover image courtesy of Touchstone Books/Simon&Schuster. John Edward’s book image retrieved on 6.2.16 from his website, Miami Ink image retrieved on 6.2.16 from]


Write On, Wednesday: 4 BIG Questions for Writers

By Leslie Lindsay Ireland 2014 171

Just when I was thinking of what I ought to post for my weekly writing post, I got this tag (Tweet) from a colleage, David Ozab who writes in the Pacific Northwest. It has to do with four questions that are floating around in the blogosphere about–what else–writing!  At the end of this post I’ll tag three more writers.

Question 1: What are you currently working on?

I often have my hand in many pots, but this time I have learned to focus on one project at a time. Okay, well that’s not entirely true with two young kids, an aging basset hound, and well everything else that needs doing. But you want to know what I am writing?! Oh, that’s easy.

A ghost story.

Oh, you want more information? Okay, how about a ghost story based on an urban legend originating in St. Louis, Missouri. We’ll call it a “Midwestern Gothic.”  But there is so much more going on: orphans, miscarriages, the ghosts of Christmas’s past (Well, what I’m getting at is: most ghosts are the result of human suffering, metaphorical haunts scare us more than anything)…and the possibility that psychic abilities can be inherited.

It’s all fiction, but the legend is real. Folks in St. Louis  claim the place I am writing about has been called “Zombie Road” since thr 1950’s, but it has been teeming with spirits long before then–Native Americans, Civil War soldiers, and escaped mental patients.

I also continue to blog regularly on the writing life as well as bestselling and debut author interviews (Wednesday), share fiction excerpts (Friday) over at http://www.leslielindsay.com, and keep up a blog on Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), my first “baby.” (www.speakingofapraxia.com)

Question 2: How does my project differ from others in the same genre?

Ah, always the BIG question. And a good one. This is different because there are a lot of different voices (POVs). Most haunted house/ghost stories have something to do with “old” things, this is a brand-new McMansion on the banks of the Meramec. So that begs the question, can a new house be haunted? And if so, how or why? We also dive into the past. It’s a work of fiction that teeters between contemporary and historical, mostly contemporary. 863d4-img01365-20110811-1712

Question 3: Why do you write/create what you do?

Because I can’t stop. So it sounds a bit cheesy and cliches, but I love ideas and words and capturing them on paper. I find it fun to re-live past experiences, too. Even if I didn’t exactly “live” them myself. For example in my current WIP, there’s a scene from 1984 in which a bunch of teenaged boys are partying in the woods.  Have I ever been a teenage boy? Nope. But my hubby has. Have I ever been a partyier? Uh…no. But I did live in the 1980s. Piecing it all together is somehow oddly satisfying, what can I say?

Question 4: How does your writing/creating process work?

Honestly, I don’t know! I wish there were a magic formula I could tell you.

Well first, you take an idea mix with equal parts creativity and grit. Toss in some tension and genius. Get little sleep. Multitask till you’re blue in the face. Fold in a critique partner. Read a multitude of genres. Bake at 350 for inordinate amount of time. Sprinkle with copious self-editing and then allow to be read by an agent. Sign multi-book (and dollars!) contract.

In reality, it’s more like: Have ideas. Put butt in chair. Wear the letters off  keys on laptop. Read. Write. Read about writing. Get frustrated and attempt to throw laptop out of second story window until supportive folks insist “this is good stuff, you can’t do that.” And so you sigh and roll up the sleeves cause you got work to do.

Question 5: Which Three Writers Am I “Tagging?”

Oh gosh! It’s like picking my favorite kid. Nearly impossible. But here goes:

  1. Mary Kubica author of THE GOOD GIRL (Mira, July 2014) because she writes in the hybrid women’s fiction/thriller genre, is a busy mom of young kids and debut author. See my interview of Mary here.
  2. Tanya Chernov, author of A REAL EMOTIONAL GIRL (Skyhorse Publishing, September 2012) cause she is real and writes in a very authentic voice–memoir–another genre I just adore. Read Tanya’s Guest Post here.
  3. Jennifer Weiner, bestselling author of well, many! Most recently–ALL FALL DOWN (Atria, June 2014) about a very real issue–addiction to prescription pain meds. Why her? Well, why not?! Because I’d love to hear what she has to say. Because I love her quick wit and snappy come backs. Because she can weave a fun read around a very serious issue.  See my review of ALL FALL DOWN here.

Continue reading “Write On, Wednesday: 4 BIG Questions for Writers”

Write On, Wednesday: Interview with Author Deb Caletti

By Leslie Lindsay

I am thrilled to feature National Book Award Finalist Deb Caletti to Write On, Wednesday!  When I came across her latest book, HE’S GONE (Bantam, 2013) it was quite honesty by accident.  Not the kind of accident that occurs between the covers of the book, but one in which you find yourself pleasantly surprised. 

Having a long-standing career writing YA, this is Caletti’s first book intended for an adult audience.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

And now, I’d love to introduce Ms. Caletti and her world of fiction:1-80c6806cdf

Leslie Lindsay: Thank you for agreeing to be with us today, Deb.  HE’S GONE totally ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite books.  I fell in love the gritty manner you crafted sentences, the idea that things aren’t always what they seem, the interplay of memory versus reality and the mystery of what really happened.  Can you tell us how you came up with the premise for this book?

Deb Caletti: “The idea for the book came much the same way the book itself begins. I woke up one morning, and my husband wasn’t there. I did that listening you do, where you try to see if the TV is on in the other room, or if there’s the sound of the toaster lever being pushed down. And suddenly there was the What If that often begins a novel. What if you woke up one day to find that your husband had vanished? And while my own was merely out walking the dog, the situation was much more complex for Dani and Ian in He’s Gone.”

“After I had the original premise, I decided to explore the subjects of guilt and wrongdoing, marriage and remarriage, and the way those old, treacherous voices from childhood can continue to haunt us.  During that time, I was doing a lot of thinking about regrets and mistakes.  The thematic question became this: what do us generally well meaning but all-too-human folks do with the wrongdoings we accumulate in a life?  How much guilt should we carry, and why-oh-why do some of us carry so much of it? ”

Leslie Lindsay:  You’ve jumped genres from YA to fiction.  How is that change treating you?  What would you say are the main differences between writing for young adults versus adults?  Why is it important to remember your audience?

Deb Caletti: “I haven’t made a permanent jump – my next book is a YA novel called THE LAST FOREVER, which I think is one of my best – a great book for teens and adults alike.  After that, I’ll be back to another adult novel.  The change in genres just made sense.  My previous nine young adult novels are complex and character driven, which meant my readers are already a mixed bag of ages, with a large percentage college-aged and over.  The crossover has been great for me creatively and professionally.  I think it’s important to shake things up every now and then, to stay fresh and interested in the work you do.”

“The writing process wasn’t all that different from my other books, given their thematic weight. As I writer, what I basically do is put myself in a characters shoes (and mind and heart and bathrobe) and then tell the truth from there.  I believe we are more similar than different – the thrill of new love, the crush of loss, the frustration of your car breaking down on an already bad day – the feeling is the same at eighteen or forty-eight. Love is love at any age, and so is joy and so is sadness. The surrounding elements might alter – a teen might be living in her parents’ home, versus Dani, for example, who lives in that gorgeous houseboat in He’s Gone; the loss might be a boyfriend versus a husband; that car might be Dad’s Honda versus Dani’s own old Audi. But the heart, I believe, is age-neutral – knowable, relatable, and understandable always, and heart is what creates a story a reader connects with.  As a writer, I use the same tools for both age groups – empathy and honesty.”

“That said, I was aware that my target age range was elevated with He’s Gone, and it allowed me to play with more complex sentence structures and deeper themes. There were no fences for me to stay in or out of. It was very freeing. I could just write.  No holding back.  For me, writing within those boundaries is actually in many ways more challenging.”

Leslie Lindsay: Speaking of genres, how do you feel about the term ‘women’s fiction?’   Would you consider HE’S GONE women’s fiction? 

Deb Caletti: “I’m not fond of any of the genre labels that might keep readers away from a book.  “Women’s fiction” puts a fence around the work, which tells a male reader that the book isn’t meant for him.  While He’s Gone has a female protagonist and while the story is told from her viewpoint, some of the strongest responses to the book have been from male readers who’ve really related to the corners of marriage and remarriage that are explored in it. The labels feel a little demeaning to readers.  I trust they can figure out whether a book is for them or not without instructions.”

Leslie Lindsay: Can you tell us a little about your earlier writing days?  Do you have dusty manuscripts under the bed?  How long did it take to get your first book accepted/published?

Deb Caletti: “I studied journalism in college, thinking it was a more “practical” form of writing, and because I understood the odds of making it in this profession. But, of course, I was a creative writer, not a journalist, and the lifelong dream kept following me even when I didn’t follow it.  I started writing seriously when my children were in preschool.  I finally had a hard talk with myself one day and made a vow to “do it,” whatever it took. I actually wrote four unpublished adult novels before my fifth book, THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING, was published.  I had the unusual good fortune of acquiring an agent after the first book I wrote, someone who believed in me so greatly that he stuck with me through those unsold books.  We actually thought THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING was an adult novel.  It’s about a young girl who watches her father spiral down to commit a crime of passion, and the content is pretty heavy.  When it got bought as a YA novel, my life in YA began.  I always call it the luckiest accident.  I’ve loved my YA life.  But writing adult novels is a coming-full-circle for me.  And, yes, my agent and I are STILL together.”

5x7_to_useLeslie Lindsay: Do you have any specific writing routines?  Things you have to have “in order” before you start?  (For me, it’s often a clean house.  But if you were to look at my office, you may question my housekeeping skills). 

Deb Caletti: “Given that I usually publish a book a year, there are three jobs going on at any one time – writing the newest book, working with the publisher to prepare the one I’ve just finished for publication, and doing the PR for the book that’s just been released.  So, generally, I’ve got to get right to it.  Step one: fill the coffee cup!  Strong, please!  I check my mail in the morning for any urgent business from my agent, publishers or publicists, and then I write.”

Leslie Lindsay: Would you consider yourself a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter?’  A little of both?  How do you typically go about the process of writing from idea to finished book? 

Deb Caletti: “I know where I’m starting and where I’m ending up, but not necessarily what’s going to happen along the way.  My process is, begin at the beginning and keep going until the end.  It’s a lot like life that way, and also in the way that you figure out quite a bit of it as you go.  You change your mind, you make discoveries.  I start with my basic plot, and then I decide on the themes I want to explore.  I decide which characters are going to make the trip.  For me, writing a book is a therapeutic act, an attempt to understand both myself and all of us poor old souls doing our best to ride the joys and sorrows of life.”

Leslie Lindsay: What advice might you give to an aspiring author with a completed manuscript?

Deb Caletti:This business requires boldness, determination, and passion.  Make that manuscript the best it can be, and I mean THE BEST.  Send out the queries to agents in the way they request, and then send out some more.  If the feedback isn’t what you’ve been longing to hear, fix the book and/or move on to the next one, and the next.  If that book doesn’t do it, don’t get stuck there.  Write an even better book and try again.  This is a craft.  Some successful writers have written five, eight, thirteen books before writing the one that will finally be published.  Too, know what this business really is and isn’t about (key word: business).  Know what it can give and what it won’t likely give.  With that knowledge, guard your heart and GO.  Have the persistence of a dog with a knotted sock.” 

Thank you so very much for sharing your insights and musings with us…and most of all, the gift of your literary work. 

For more information about Deb Caletti and her books, check out these sites & social media:

About the book:
Where to follow:

[All images provided courtesy of Deb Caletti and used with permission.  Special thanks to Deb for collaborating!]

Fiction Friday: Special Guest, Anne Browning author of The Booby Trap

By Leslie Lindsay

Anne Browning Walker, author of The Booby Trapis with is today answering questions and providing hints, tips, and insight into her latest book and her writing process.    As a writer, I am especially sympathetic to her last comment on all of the distractions to the writer’s life!   I think you will all find this a joy to read

What inspired your latest novel, The Booby Trap?  Product Details(image source: Amazon.com 12.28.12)

I was inspired to write The Booby Trap after a road trip with my husband through the South.  We passed signs for so many small towns with weird names, like Belcher and Toad Suck.  I thought about how people from those towns might be misperceived, based on where they were from, or perhaps an accent.  From that germ of an idea grew my main character, Bambi, who is misjudged because of her name and her good looks and the place where she’s working. 

Who are the main characters of this story?

ABW: My heroine is a sexy PhD candidate (they’re out there!) named Bambi Benson, who has to overcome some pretty tough circumstances in life.  One of them is her name, which doesn’t convey her brains, ambition, or general humanity.  By contrast, Trip Whitley, the hero, seems to have had it easy.  He’s good-looking, charming, has the support of his family, and went straight into the family business.  But Trip is spoiled, which drives the book toward his relationship with Bambi in the first place.  They both have problems to overcome over the course of the novel.

This is your first novel. What kind of special research went into it? You know the geographical and literary history of Massachusetts fairly well (Emerson’s house, Little Women, etc.), in addition to the history of the arts in general.

ABW: Part of the reason that I based the novel in Massachusetts is that my husband and I spent three years there.  I’ve had the opportunity to visit all of the places that Trip and Bambi visit.  I’ve seen the Frog Pond at Boston Common and Louisa May Alcott’s grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  I feel like firsthand experience is very helpful when writing a novel, especially your first one.

You stated that you crafted your heroine with your closest friends in mind. So how did they inspire you, and what was the end result?

ABW: My friends are smart, thoughtful, educated.  Many of them have pursued advanced degrees, but I wouldn’t call them nerds in any way.  I wanted to build a character like that, who was smart but felt comfortable in the world and in her own skin.

Romance has always been a staple in literary culture, but it’s red-hot right now. Why do you think that is?

ABW: Two reasons.  First, I think that romance has been changing over the past thirty years, and women today are discovering that it isn’t what they thought it was.  Women have power in modern romances, and that appeals to modern women.  Once you set aside your stereotypes and pick up a book, you discover that.  Second, romance’s recent spike in popularity owes a lot to Fifty Shades of Grey.  My book is different in a lot of ways from Fifty Shades, but I’m happy that it’s brought a lot of attention to the genre.

Is it possible to be a modern woman: career-driven and smart, and still be a fan ofromance novels? Do you think this means the modern woman isn’t entirely fulfilled?

ABW: Of course!  Romance novels, just like other fiction, are an escape.  And most modern romance novels don’t feature women who are powerless.  They feature women who are smart and career-driven and manage to squeeze love and great sex into all of that.

Who was the inspiration for Trip Whitley? Would you consider him a modern-day man?

ABW: Trip Whitley is an amalgamation of people.  I cherry-picked traits from people I know, both male and female, to create him.  Looks-wise, I always saw him as a younger version of the actor Bradley Cooper, but I hesitate to let that on because I always find it jarring when movies of books are made and the casted actors look very different from the characters in my head!

ABW: I would consider Trip a modern-day man.  He falls victim to his assumptions, which people do today as much as ever.  Ultimately, however, he wants a modern partnership with Bambi.

Have you been burned by stereotyping before?

ABW: You know, I can’t remember a time that I have been.  But I’ve stereotyped before.  I’ve made judgments based on first impressions that turned out to be incorrect, and I think it cuts both ways.  Sometimes you discount a person because of what they seem to be, and sometimes you give them too much credit.  I’ve succumbed to both misjudgments.

Any hints you can give us about your latest novel?

ABW: I’m in the process of writing it now, and I’m a bit of a pantser (translation: I fly by the seat of my pants, as opposed to being a plotter), so I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but it’s the story of a steamy road trip that reunites two college flames.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

ABW: Come visit me at my website: annebrowningwalker.com or follow me on Twitter (@AnneBWalker) or Facebook (facebook.com/AnneBrowningWalker)!  I always like to have conversations with fans, readers, and fellow writers!  ABW Headshot1(image source: http://www.inreads.com/2012/09/26/inauthors-anne-browning-walker-on-knowing-the-rules-of-the-game/)

Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

ABW: places to write.  First is on my couch at home.  I’m comfortable there, so I can really get on a roll.  But sometimes, it’s too distracting.  I have the TV in front of me, my iPad just a step away, and an apartment that needs to be cleaned!  So my second favorite place is just downstairs at my building’s coffee shop.  I lug my laptop, order a large coffee, sit down, put my headphones on, and write.  I challenge myself to keep typing until I’m finished drinking the coffee.

[Leslie’s note] Ha!  But usually for me…it’s finishing that coffee and that delicious scone then going back for seconds because, you know…that chapter is just not good enough till you eat three scones and drink two mochas!  (okay…I am exaggerating a bit). 

Special thanks to PRbyTheBook for connecting me with Ann and The Booby Trap.