2013 Club: Taylor Jenkins Reid's Forever Interrupted

FOREVER, INTERRUPTED book coverToday's guest: Taylor Jenkins Reid Why we love her: When we heard Sarah Pekkanen raving, we knew Taylor Jenkins Reid had to be good. And, of course she is! Just read this book, you'll understand.

Her debut: Forever, Interrupted

The scoop: “Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.”

Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

Our thoughts: We fell in love with this love story.

Giveaway: Two copies. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. The winners will be chosen on Sunday, July 28th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Taylor signed a two book deal with Atria and has a second book coming out in the Summer of 2014. It's called After I Do. She also has a dog named Rabbit. Love that!

Where you can read more about Taylor: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Taylor Jenkins Reid author photo1. DO’S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

Read books, write books, and perfect the art of talking about yourself. You have to know what's being written about in order to figure out what you want to add, you have to train yourself to be a great writer, and then, once you have a book to sell, you have to sell it yourself to agents and, eventually, readers!

2. DON’TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn’t do

Take it Personally. Take it Personally. Take it Personally. It's worth stating three times because it is the most important thing to do and yet, the very, very hardest.

3. MUST HAVES: On your desk?

Iced Tea. Always.

On your Facebook feed?

Life! My Facebook news feed is where people tell me all about their day to day life and writing is nothing if not learning about life. So much inspiration (and needed distractions) there.

App on your phone? Instagram. I spend so much time communicating with words that it's nice to see people using pictures to do the work.

4. LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat?

I don't know exactly but you can bet it was by Beyonce.

Book you read? Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. Loved it as I knew I would.

Time you laughed? I laugh so often it's hard to remember. I think that's a good sign.

5. HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found “the one?”

I think I queried 22 people. I remember I had a little list with all of their names and codes for how they responded. I was very excited to put an exclamation point by Carly Watters' name. Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing? When I'm actively writing a book, I write 3-5,000 words a day. Sometimes that takes four hours. Sometimes it takes ten. If it takes ten, it's usually because I spent six wasting time online.

6. BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal?

A nice dinner on the beach in Malibu.

Trick to overcome writer’s block?

I'm inclined to believe it doesn't actually exist. When I don't know what to write, I just give myself permission to write terribly, knowing I'll probably delete it. But once your fingers start moving, and you get the bad ideas out, usually the good ideas come forward. Way to think of a book idea? I tend to start with a small feeling or philosophy I want to explore and then grow out from there. It's always a great moment when you see a scene in your head, make a book idea out of it, start writing that book, and finally get to that scene that was the seed for the book in the first place.

7. NEXTS: Show you’ll DVR?

I'm very excited about Breaking Bad coming back in August. And in September, all the good network stuff is returning! Scandal, Nashville, and New Girl, my DVR awaits your premieres.

Book you’ll read? J. Courtney Sullivan's The Engagements. So excited to start.

Book you’ll write? My second book for Atria is finished. It's called After I Do and it's about a married couple that decides they need to take some time apart. I'm sitting down this week to start a third book and see where it takes me!

Thanks, Taylor!

2013 Club:Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye book coverToday's guest: Jessica Brockmole Why we love her: She has written a captivating debut and we are already anticipating her next!

Her debut: Letters from Skye (Out today!)

The scoop: A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

Our thoughts: As not only authors but best friends who live two thousand miles apart, we appreciate the power of the written word. Letters from Skye, told entirely through letters, is a powerful story of love and loss.

Giveaway: 3 copies! (One of them is signed!) Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, July 14th after 3pm PST

Fun fact: Lisa met Jessica last night at a book signing and it made her love the novel even more.

Where you can read more about Jessica: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Jessica Brockmole author photo1. DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

Trust, innovate, and listen. Trust in your own passion, then use that passion to fuel writing that makes your heart sing. Listen to those writers who went before you, as their encouragement and advice are invaluable.

2. DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

Doubt, imitate, give up. Don’t stop believing in yourself or thinking that you have to write to a certain formula. Persevere!

3. MUST HAVES: On your desk?

Stacks of all the research books for my current project. Even if I’m not reading them, I like to surround myself with the history.

On your Facebook feed?

All of my writing friends. To see their news, from publishing deals to the excitement of finishing a draft, inspires me!

App on your phone?

Twitter. Some of the best history stuff is posted before I wake up, and I catch up while doing my morning elliptical.

4. LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat?

Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter. Never fails to pull emotion from me while writing.

Book you read?

The crisply excellent The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell.

Time you laughed?

My kids make me laugh all the time. Do I have to pick just one?

5. HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?"

I sent 180 queries out over the course of three books, before I signed with the fabulous Courtney Miller-Callihan of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?

When I find myself doing more of the latter than the former, I give my social media passwords to my critique partner for safekeeping. I do my writing while the kids are off at school, and at night after everyone is in bed.

6. BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal?

Sleeping in and then going out for the most heavenly lemon ricotta pancakes at a local restaurant. Oh, and bouncing a lot!

Trick to overcome writer's block?

I don’t believe in writer’s block (I don’t want to give myself an out), but when I’m frustrating myself through an idea, I change location and I keep moving. Running, driving, pacing a circle through my kitchen.

Way to think of a book idea?

I am always thinking of book ideas, unfortunately. A footnote in a history book, a dropped storyline on a TV show, a mused “what-if,” all get jotted on index cards and tucked into a drawer. When I’m ready to start a new project, I take all of the cards out and see which ideas fall together to make a book.

7. NEXTS: Show you'll DVR?

I love shows with smart writing and, at times, a healthy dose of irreverence. The next thing I’ll DVR will be one of the shows on USA.

Book you'll read?

I have Julie Kibler’s Calling Me Home up next on my Nook. Excited to read it!

Book you'll write?

I’m currently working on a book coming out with Ballantine next summer. Set before and during WWI, it centers around a pair of artists and how the war changes their budding relationship and the world of beauty they once knew.

Thanks, Jessica!


2013 Club: Mary Simses' The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe book coverToday's guest: Mary Simses Why we love her: This debut is sweet and charming!

Her debut: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe' (Out July 9th!)

The scoop: A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother's hometown.

Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish--to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough. THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE is a warm and delicious debut about the power of a simpler life.

Our thoughts: A delicious debut you'll devour! (Say that three times fast!)

Giveaway: TWO copies! Just leave a comment to be entered. We'll select the winners on Sunday, July 7th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: You can read the first chapter of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe here!

Where you can read more about Mary: Her website, Facebook and Goodreads


Lucien Capehart Photography

DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

Start small. I think writing short stories is the best way to get started. Most novelists have done this, including me. Writing a good short story forces you to create and develop a character and take a plot from the beginning to the end in a few pages. It’s also a lot less daunting than writing an entire novel.

Find a fiction writing class and/or writer’s group in your area. What you can learn from others about voice, plot structure, character development, and general story-telling mechanics is invaluable. And other writers can provide so much inspiration. I got back into fiction writing, after a long hiatus, by taking an evening class at a university. That was what really got me going and was probably the most important thing I did.

Write things down – ideas for stories, bits of conversation you overhear, interesting situations you learn of, character names you come up with. Keep a little booklet where you can jot down notes and put it on your bedside table at night. It’s too easy to forget things if they’re not written down.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

Don’t think the fact that you have a regular job means you can’t be a writer. And don’t use that as an excuse not to write. Write whenever you can – at night, on weekends, early in the morning, on busses, on airplanes, on jet skis (well, maybe not on jet skis . . .).

Don’t fall so in love with your words that you can’t be a ruthless editor. It’s important to be able to let go and cut excess verbiage, knowing it’s for the good of the story. Whether it’s legal writing or fiction writing, I’ve found that if I can put the work away for a little while, I can come back to it later with fresh eyes and the will to get rid of what’s not necessary.

Don’t keep your work in a drawer. If you want to get it published, you’ve got to get it out there, whether it’s a short story you’d like to place with a literary magazine or a novel you hope to have accepted by a major book publisher. Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market is a good source of information on fiction markets, agents, and contests. I found it very helpful when I was trying to get short stories published.

MUST HAVES: On your desk? On your Facebook feed? App on your phone?

My writing desk is very small because it’s just a laptop table for my tiny Sony laptop. Although I have a home office, I never write there – that’s where I pay bills and do other more mundane things. I prefer to write in the bedroom, in a nook that has two big windows and a lot of light. I typically have a cup of tea or a cold drink handy, and one of our cats is usually lying near my feet – or in my lap with his paws dangerously close to the keyboard, which sometimes makes for very interesting prose.

Facebook feed. I like to get information on what authors and musicians I admire are doing. Other than that, I’m just happy looking at the photos of graduations, birthday parties, vacations, and dogs-and-cats-doing-cute-things that come in.

Phone apps. Scrabble –I love to play the computer; Shazam – for those emergencies when I can’t identify a piece of music I like; and Pandora – for music in general. I also like to open my Little Piano every now and then and attempt to belt out a tune on its miniscule keys, although it’s tough without sharps and flats. (I used to play the real thing, full-sized and with all eighty-eight keys.)

LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Book you read? Time you laughed?

“It Could Happen to You,” performed by Diana Krall. I could put just about anything of hers on repeat – forever. Sultry voice, amazing pianist, and she does all of the old jazz standards I love.

Last Book I read: Hemingway’s Girl. A sweet novel, historical fiction.

Last time I laughed: In the car with my fifteen-year-old daughter and her friends. I began imitating the music they like (which I don’t like), they thought it was funny (you never know, with teenagers), and we all started cracking up.

HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?

Agents: I was very lucky, and mean very lucky here. The author, James Patterson, who is a friend of mine, read my manuscript. He liked it, gave me some wonderful suggestions, and then took the final manuscript to his publisher, Little, Brown, with the caveat that although there was, of course, no guarantee they would publish it, at least they would read it. They did end up deciding to publish it, which was wonderful news. Although I don’t currently have an agent, I may look for one for my next book.

Hours I write: My days aren’t consistent so it’s hard to say. I try to write every day, at least for a little while, but on some days I don’t write at all and on others I write for hours. When I’m not writing, I feel as though I should be writing – not because I feel guilty but because I enjoy doing it so much.

Hours wasted online: I don’t waste too much time on line. Once or twice a week I post things on my author Facebook page, including photographs I’ve taken. (Like my character, Ellen, I’m a inveterate shutterbug.) I keep up with email and I do sometimes surf the net but it’s usually for research on something I’m writing about. Usually.

BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Trick to overcome writer's block? Way to think of a book idea?

Celebrate a book deal: My husband and I celebrated my book deal by having dinner and a great bottle of wine at a restaurant we love. A good friend and author advised me to celebrate all of the little milestones along the way – from getting the book accepted to finishing the edits to receiving the galleys to returning the galleys to receiving the final copies. She said that because the process is so long, by the time the carton of books finally arrives at your front door it’s almost anti-climactic, and that celebrating along the way is really important. Did I do that? Well, a little bit. Probably not enough. It’s good advice though.

Trick to overcome writer’s block: Brainstorm with someone who can give you fresh ideas. Do something other than write – let your mind go on holiday for a while. That’s usually when I’m able to resolve a problem I’m having or when something that’s been muddled begins to gel.

Way to think of a book idea: Eavesdrop on peoples’ conversations, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, look through magazines. Write historical fiction about someone whose life you think was interesting. There are a zillion stories out there.

NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Book you'll read? Book you'll write?

The HBO show, “Family Tree,” which I think is hysterical. I’m a big fan of Christopher Guest. I love his humor. And I’ve been working with a genealogist on a family tree project myself so I can relate to it. I’ll also DVR Downton Abbey when it comes back on just because it’s such great eye candy.

Book I’ll read –  Atonement by Ian McEwan. Although I’ve read a few of his other books I’ve not yet read that one. I’d also like to reread The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies, one of my favorite authors.

Book I’ll write – I’m working on a book about a woman who goes to visit her parents at their family home on the Connecticut  coast and must come to terms with some unfinished business in her past.

Thanks, Mary!

2013 Club: Holly Robinson's The Wishing Hill

Holly Robinson's THE WISHING HILLOur guest today: Holly Robinson Why we love her: It's always delightful to discover a wonderful new author!

Her debut: The Wishing Hill

The scoop: What if everything you knew about your life was wrong?

Years ago, Juliet Clark gave up her life in California to follow the man she loved to Mexico and pursue her dream of being an artist. Now her marriage is over, and she’s alone, selling watercolors to tourists on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.

When her brother asks her to come home to wintery New England and care for their ailing mother, a flamboyant actress with a storied past, Juliet goes reluctantly. She and her self-absorbed mother have always clashed. Plus, nobody back home knows about her divorce—or the fact that she’s pregnant and her ex-husband is not the father.

Juliet intends to get her mother back on her feet and return to Mexico fast, but nothing goes as planned. Instead she meets a man who makes her question every choice and reawakens her spirit, even as she is being drawn into a long-running feud between her mother and a reclusive neighbor. Little does she know that these relationships hold the key to shocking secrets about her family and herself that have been hiding in plain sight.…

Our thoughts: We think you'll really connect with this heartfelt novel.

Giveaway: 3 copies! Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners after 3pm on Sunday, July 7th.

Fun Fact: Another reason to never give up--it took Holly 25 years to sell a novel. And now here she is!  Congrats!

Where you can read more about Holly: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


HollyRobinsonPhotoMedSize-220x300DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

1. Read everything, even the science fiction your nerd husband gives you.  You never know where you'll find inspiration.

2. Listen more than you talk, especially at family gatherings where your great aunt Betty is telling that story about her brother's broken heart or in restaurants where people are making a scene.  Stories are everywhere, waiting for you to capture them in your net.

3. Believe in yourself enough to give your writing the time it deserves.  You are in charge of your schedule, and only you have the power to schedule writing into your day.  That means paying for day care to write fiction, people!  You're definitely worth it!

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

1. Write the stories that you would want to read, not the stories that you think will sell.  Your passion will shine through on the page only if you put your heart into the words.

2. Don't bother being jealous.  As in all of life, there will always be writers smarter and more successful than you are—and others who will never make it as far as you have right now.

3. Don't write anywhere near the kitchen. Too tempting to eat, sweep or do dishes.

MUST HAVES: On your desk? On your Facebook feed? App on your phone?

On your desk:  An iPod with headphones to shut out the noise in the library or the kids fighting in the living room, a small but essential package of dark chocolate-covered almonds to dole out every paragraph or every chapter as needed, and a thermos of tea or coffee.

Leave your Internet disabled if possible and lock your phone in your car.

LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Book you read? Time you laughed?

The last song I listened to on repeat was Pink and Nate Ruess singing “Just Give Me a Reason” because it captures the uncertainties of love as well as any novel.

The last book I read was Lily King's brilliant FATHER OF THE RAIN; King writes about love—love of a daughter for a father, a man for his wife, a woman for a man, a sister for a brother—better than any other contemporary author.

And the last time I laughed?  Just a minute ago, when my cat rolled over and fell off my desk, then looked insulted in that way only cats can.


HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?

I was fortunate to find a wonderful agent through one of my graduate school classmates.  He has represented me for twenty years—through many magazine articles and nonfiction books; my own memoir, THE GERBIL FARMER'S DAUGHTER; celebrity memoir ghost writing projects; and now, finally, a novel, after having five of them rejected!  (See: I beat both of you!)

Because I make a living as a writer, I write nearly all day, or at least until I get interrupted by my children needing a ride or the dog begging for a walk.  Or maybe it's the other way around:  children begging, dog needing.  Whatever.  Since I spent many years as a single mom writing around the edges of my life, I'm not much of a time waster if I have a deadline.  I know the value of an hour!

BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Trick to overcome writer's block? Way to think of a book idea?

I celebrated my last book deal in a way I hope to do with all of my books:  with a party for all of the friends and family members who helped me along the way!

Book ideas come to me from everywhere. The universe is always trying to give writers book ideas.  The trick is finding one that wakes your creative muse and keeps her sitting on your shoulder and yammering in your ear until you've finished writing it!

NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Book you'll write?

My husband and I are deep into Game of Thrones.  (Remember that I'm married to a nerd!)  I also am a fanatic fan of reality shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, mainly because they make me feel better about my rejections.  At least I don't have to write for my life on national TV!

The book I'm working on now, BEACH PLUM ISLAND, is a novel about three sisters searching for a brother they never knew they had until their dying father told them he existed—it's due out in April 2014 with NAL/Penguin.

Thanks, Holly! 


2013 Club: L. Alison Heller's The Love Wars

the-love-wars-coverOur guest today: L. Alison Heller Why we love her: Her debut novel is FANTASTIC. And she is CUTE as hell.  And FUNNY too! (Yes, we're girl crushin'!)

Her debut novel: The Love Wars

The scoop: Even though Molly Grant has only a handful of relationships behind her, she’s already been through more divorces than she can count.

At the premier Manhattan law firm where she’s a matrimonial attorney, the hours are long, the bosses tyrannical, and the bonuses stratospheric. Her clients are rich, famous, and used to getting their way. Molly’s job—and primary concern in life—is to work as hard as possible to make sure they do. Until she meets the client who changes everything….

Fern Walker is the desperate former wife of a ruthless media mogul. Her powerful ex is slowly pushing her out of her young children’s lives, and she fears losing them forever. Molly—haunted by an incident from her own past—finds herself unable to walk away from Fern and sets out to help her. She just needs to do it without her bosses finding out.

Now, as complications both professional and personal stack up, Molly can only hope that her own wits, heart, and instincts are enough—both in and out of court.

Our thoughts: Very Devil Wears Prada-esque! We LOVED it--fast paced and fun, you won't be able to resist The Love Wars. One of our faves so far in 2013.

Giveaway: TWO copies!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered.  We'll choose the winners on Sunday, May 19th after NOON PST.

Fun fact: Alison writes what she knows--she opened her own family law and mediation practice in 2006.

Where you can read more about her: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


alison-hellerDO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

Be Nosy! Eavesdrop, people watch and make up pretend lives for any strangers who inspire such speculation. I always thought this was just a weird thing I did, and it decidedly is, but it’s also a skill that when nurtured can strengthen your fiction.

Read Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott. Not only does it fantastically describe the writer’s state of being open and observing, but it also coaxes that openness. It changed the way I think a little bit.

Write (of course) and revise, revise, revise.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

Think that you can’t be a novelist because you don’t have an MFA.

Think that you can’t be a novelist because the first draft doesn’t turn out the way you want. (That means you’re doing it right. Or at least I hope it does.)

Give up! I’ve heard plenty of novelists reference the trick to success: finishing things.


On your desk? A lot of mail that I’ve opened but not yet dealt with. Stray sticky pads stuck in random places. Five pens, three of which are uncapped. The largest pair of noise cancelling headphones I’ve ever seen. (In all honesty, I don’t need ANY of these things, but they’re on my desk and have been for quite some time. I would much prefer to chalk this up to their being crucial than my sloppiness.)

Truly, my only must have is my computer, which I love and take pretty much everywhere.

On your Facebook feed? True confession: I am a lurker—an unrelenting, take-no-prisoners lurker on both Facebook, specifically and the Internet, generally. I LOVE looking at pictures—the adorable toddler pictures, the good times at a bar pictures, the we-hiked-up-a-mountain pictures, the we-got-a-fish tank-and-this-is-us-setting-it-up pictures. I am rather heavy-handed with the likes, which I hope is enough to save me from being a creepy lurker and at least land me in the friendly/benign category.

App on your phone? Pages and Notes. It frustrates me beyond to try and edit on that tiny keyboard (and small screen), but it’s still comforting to feel like I can do it wherever.

I also have a surprising amount of apps for dressing up princesses, but I swear those aren’t for me.


Song you listened to on repeat? Under African Skies by Paul Simon. There’s a scene in my second book in which sisters listen to it on a car trip, so I was playing the song over and over while conjuring and writing. In the book, the track sparks one of the sisters to remember her childhood, which was almost nothing like mine except that I too listened to Paul Simon a lot growing up.

My Dad loved music, Paul Simon’s included, and since he passed away two years ago, playing the songs he loved has been one of the ways that we remember him and continue to feel connected. It’s wonderful, but also sad. I had no idea that Under African Skies would bring on the nostalgia (because honestly, it’s the earlier stuff I remember listening to as a kid) but it did.  I got completely sidetracked from the scene and—between the crying and the memories and singing along and the continued pressing of repeat—things got a little messy.

Book you read? PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt. LOVED it.

Time you laughed? The last time was a few hours ago when I arrived at my daughter’s preschool for pick up and saw hanging on her little hallway cubby hook the dress AND tights she had been wearing that morning. I briefly imagined her casting off her clothing like some pirouetting fairy sprite too ethereal to be bothered with such earthly confinement (an act that would have been in character for her) before thinking to check whether her spare clothes were missing. Thankfully, they were, at which point I allowed myself the laugh. (The reason for the change was rather tame—water spill.)


Agents did you query before you found "the one?" I had read somewhere to send out queries in shifts of 15-20 because your manuscript will change along the journey of finding representation. Because I’m nothing if not obedient, I had sent out my first shift of about that many and got several rejections, very quickly—one less than a minute after I sent it out, which I felt had to be some sort of record. As part of my surveying stage, I also signed up for one of those “find an agent” writers’ conferences being held in my city.

Here’s how it went down: on Friday, I attended the conference with my first two pages and query and was basically told that I needed to scrap everything before anyone would get within fifty feet of it. I returned home demoralized and spent the weekend fairly moany and groany. On Monday—two days after that—my now-agent, part of the initial batch of 15-20, who had previously requested a full manuscript, called and offered representation.

Mine was sort of like a classic agent quest on speed. I got incredibly, incredibly lucky that someone on the top of my list from my first batch made an offer. But, I also experienced that metallic taste of rejection—blank looks after nervous oral pitching (the worst) and the feeling that I was just throwing queries into a black hole.

The moral: taste is subjective. Polish your manuscript as best you can and listen to the suggestions, but sleep on them and go with your gut on what’s a valuable comment and what’s noise.

Hours do you write per day? I don’t have a strict count because any goal would be too vulnerable. I usually try to use the morning hours. If I can’t because of my divorce work, I will attempt to mobilize after dinner (the time when I am usually at my weakest as a human being).

Hours do you waste online when you should be writing? A lot. This is another reason much why I don’t hold myself to a strict word count. If anyone has any tips of how to spend less time on Internet, please let me know.


Way to celebrate a book deal? I was really good at celebrating. I bought a handbag I’d been eyeing. I drank champagne. I had far more celebratory meals than the event warranted. Truly, in the celebrating-your-own-book-deal category, I shone.

Trick to overcome writer's block? Reading or writing something else can help, as can the passage of time—sometimes you just need to NOT actively think about something for the ideas to start breaking free from your brain.

Way to think of a book idea? Primarily newspapers; stories from friends (gossip, I guess, although that term sounds rather mean); and magazines. I get excited when a story makes me stop and ask what if and why.

My idea for my second book came along with the true story of a regular guy—with a family, house, respectably boring job and probably a golden retriever—who’d committed a crime in the workplace. There are plenty of whys in there, but I couldn’t stop wondering about his wife—was she surprised or in denial? How did it square with her morality and family priorities? What, if anything, did she tune out? What was she consciously aware of? And so on. The story changed drastically as I got into it, but that was the germ.


Show you'll DVR? Right now I think I’m DVRing Mad Men and The Good Wife. My DVR, however, has likely decided on its own that it’s too full and tired and underappreciated to tape either. I’ll realize it later in the week when I go to watch them and have another exhausting yes, you can! talk with it. And the DVR might appear to get with the program (no pun intended), but will ultimately ignore me again. That’s our dynamic as of late.

Book you'll read? I just cracked open WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel— my sister and mother (along with most others on planet earth) loved it and I can see why. I really want to read Amy Shearn’s THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN both because I’m a mother in Brooklyn and because it looks wonderful. And, of course, as soon as I can get my hands on it, the all-around fabulous and talented Meg Donohue’s ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS. Doesn’t just reading the title make you feel the fresh sea breeze across your face?

Book you'll write? My second will be out in 2014 and I just handed in the first round of revisions on it to my editor. It has a working title, but we changed THE LOVE WARS so many times (four) that I’m reluctant to put it out there until it’s cemented. Also, as life is generally better for me and those around me when I have a work-in-progress, I’ve started the initial draft of my third, which doesn’t take place in NYC—a first for me.

Thanks Alison!

The 2013 Club: Amy Sue Nathan and The Glass Wives

The_glass_wivesOur guest today: Amy Sue Nathan

Why she rocks: We can't believe this is her debut novel! Can't wait for her next book! (Which sounds juicy, btw. Details below!)

Her debut: The Glass Wives (Out May 14th!)

The scoop on it: Evie and Nicole Glass share a last name. They also shared a husband.

When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all.  But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?

Our thoughts: We loved this book about the complexities of friendship! A must-read!

Giveaway: TWO copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, May 12 after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: She hosts the popular Women's Fiction Writers blog! (In all her spare time!)

Where you can read more about Amy Sue: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and her website.


AmyNathanSmallFileDO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

1. First, believe in yourself and your story. If you don’t, chances are you won’t be able to convince anyone else to believe in it either.

2. Second, remember that kind criticism is your friend. It’s not easy (nor is the first “should”) but it’s essential.

3. Third, take a break when you need a break. I’m a big believer in letting things simmer and stew. When I’m stuck I don’t sit in front of the computer, I walk away from it. That seems to always allow me to find the answers to my plot or character issues or to get reinspired.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

1. First and foremost, ignore the naysayers. That means if someone rolls his or her eyes when you say you’re writing a book, or seems disinterested in your ambition, cross ‘em off your list. At least for a while.

2. Next, do not compare yourself or your book to others. I’m still working on that one.

3. Last but not least, don’t forget that what works for one writer doesn’t always work for another. Do what works for you.


1. On your desk? I have learned to always have a drink on my desk, otherwise I tend to forget to get up and drink. That means coffee, water, sugar-free lemonade, or if I’m working at night, it could be wine!

2. On your Facebook feed?   On my Facebook feed I always follow my writer friends. They inspire me.

3. App on your phone? The app on my phone I can’t do without is weather. It’s very important for me to know the temperature in many different cities. Tell me where you live and I’ll add it to my list.


1. Song you listened to on repeat? Confession time: I rarely listen to music.

2. Book you read? But the last book I read was THE LIFE LIST by Lori Nelson Spielman, which comes out July 9th. It was fabulous and I read it in less than two days!

3. Time you laughed? The last time I laughed was a few minutes ago when one of my dogs poked her nose in front of the computer. She wants to know why you don’t want HER to answer questions.


1. Agents did you query before you found "the one?" In total I queried 116 and my agent was somewhere in the middle.

2. Hours do you write per day? I don’t write every day, but when I do, it’s hours and hours and hours. I’m an all or nothing kind of writer.

3. Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?  Online hours are wasted? I don’t think so! Okay, maybe. Sometimes. Okay—way too many.


1. Way to celebrate a book deal? My best friend of thirty-three years is flying out to celebrate with me. My son will be home from college and my daughter is staying home from school.  We are having a small launch party to celebrate that night, but the big event will be at my local library a few weeks later.  I think all of those things make it “the best” for me!

2. Trick to overcome writer's block? My trick for overcoming writers block is to block out writing. I walk away, do something else, forget about the issue or problem.  The muse is displeased when ignored. Ta-dah! Problem solved.

3. Way to think of a book idea? Ideas come to me. I pretty much have nothing to do with them, except I write them down immediately so I don’t forget, which I’m apt to do.


1. Show you'll DVR? I’m embarrassed how many shows I DVR. I love TV and I love documentaries. My DVR runneth over.

2. Book you'll read? Right now I’m re-reading THE THIRD SON by Julie Wu.

3. Book you'll write? The book I’m writing now is about a blogger, but not just any blogger.  This woman misrepresents herself. Okay, she lies. It’s a story about those big life lies, what makes people tell them and what has to happen to compel someone to come clean and deal with the consequences. It’s also about the perils of getting lost in an online life at the expense of a real life.  I also have two more books in the hopper.  I have no idea what a hopper is, by the way, but that is definitely where my books are waiting for me and they’re pounding to get out.

Thanks, Amy!




2013 Club: Andrea Lochen and The Repeat Year

Repeat_YearOur guest today: Andrea Lochen

Why she rocks:  You'll be hooked on this debut novel from page one.

Her debut: The Repeat Year (Out today!)

The scoop on it: Everyone has days, weeks, even months they wish they could do over—but what about an entire year? After living through the worst twelve months of her life, intensive care nurse Olive Watson is given a second chance to relive her past and attempt to discover where she went wrong…

After a year of hardships, including a messy breakup with her longtime boyfriend Phil, the prospect of her mother’s remarriage, and heartbreaking patient losses at the hospital, Olive is ready to start fresh. But when she wakes up in her ex-boyfriend’s bed on New Year’s Day 2011a day she has already livedOlive’s world is turned upside down.
Shouldering a year of memories that no one else can recall, even Olive begins to question herself—until she discovers that she is not alone. Upon crossing paths with Sherry Witan, an experienced “repeater,” Olive learns that she has the chance to rewrite her future. Given the opportunity of a lifetime, Olive has to decide what she really wants. Should she make different choices, or accept her life as she knows it, flaws and all?

Our thoughts: We loved this story of what you do when you actually get a second chance.

Giveaway:TWO copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 12pm PST on Sunday, May 12th.

Fun fact: Read an excerpt of The Repeat Year here.

Where you can read more about Andrea: Her website and Facebook .



Andrea_Lochen1. DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

1) Learn how to take constructive criticism

2) Find a writing community

3) Say yes to new and interesting opportunities—the more you live, the more you’ll have to write about!


2. DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

1) Fall so in love with your first draft that you’re unwilling to make any changes

2) Take rejection personally (especially from the people who clearly don’t “get” your book)

3) Make all your characters aspiring writers


3. MUST HAVES: On your desk? A yummy scented candle from Anthropologie, several to-do lists, and a drawerful of my favorite candy (Chewy Spree are my guilty pleasure while writing).

On your Facebook feed?  Grammar jokes, pictures of ridiculously cute animals and babies, updates from my favorite authors.

App on your phone?  I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m probably the last person in the country without a smart phone, except perhaps, my grandfather.  We’ll see how much longer I can hold out on this trend!


4. LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Taylor Swift’s “Holy Ground”

Book you read? John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which is even better than all its hype!

Time you laughed? I teach creative writing at a university, and my friend recently shared a Tumblr blog with me called “My Life as a College Professor.”  It cracked me up because it’s so true in a totally irreverent way!  It points out professors’ pet peeves, embarrassing moments, little victories, and major failures using hilarious animated GIFs.


5. HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?"  More than I care to admit, but Stephany Evans was worth the wait!

Hours do you write per day?  I don’t write every day, but when I do, it’s for a solid chunk of six or seven hours.

Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?  My ratio of hours spent writing versus online dallying is probably 3:1 on a good day and 1:3 on a bad day.


6. BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? With my first book deal, I danced around the living room and called everyone I knew.  Then my husband suggested we go out for dinner anywhere I wanted.  I chose Pizza Hut.  True story!  (What can I say?  I love their pizza!)

Trick to overcome writer's block? Taking a long walk, preferably along Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin, but anywhere scenic and solitary will do.

Way to think of a book idea?  I tend to come up with the novel premise first and initially have no idea what it means or who the characters will be.  Therefore, I play the “what if?” game a lot.  In the case of The Repeat Year, my question was, what if a person was given a chance to do-over a year of her life?


7. NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Downton Abbey; I can’t believe I have to wait until January 2014 for Season 4.  Maybe I’ll have to move to England before then, so I can watch it sooner!

Book you'll read? This is Paradise, a collection of short stories about Hawai'i that debuts this July.  It’s written by my dear friend, Kristiana Kahakauwila, who’s extraordinarily talented.

Book you'll write?  My second novel doesn’t have an official title yet, but it’s about a young single mother who discovers one summer that she can see her four-year-old son’s imaginary friends.

Thanks, Andrea!





2013 Club: Selena Coppock and The New Rules For Blondes

NewRulesForBlondes_FinalCoverOur guest today: Selena Coppock Why we love her: Her writing is FUN with a capital F!

Her debut: The New Rules For Blondes

The scoop: Writer, comedienne, and full-time Blonde, Selena Coppock offers up adventures, misadventures, and golden-hued nuggets of wisdom in a laugh-out-loud anthem for those of us who really do have more fun.

The modern blonde is savvy, wise, confident, capable, and not afraid to laugh at herself when the occasion calls for it. She knows who she is and is prepared to subvert all stereotypes (although she's not above wielding her golden tresses to her advantage), and knows how to be both classy and a little brassy.

In the way only a Boston-bred New Yorker who once won "Best Hair" in her high school graduating class could, Coppock doles out tongue-in-cheek advice about avoiding hair disasters, the consequences of dating a man who cares a little too much about his own hair product, and so much more in an outrageous essay collection that will have even the staunchest of raven-haired beauties considering a trip to the nearest salon.

Our thoughts: Whether you are blonde or not, you will love this book!

Giveaway: Two copies!  Just leave a comment and you'll be entered.  We'll choose the winners on April 28th after Noon PST.

Fun Fact: She's a comedian too!

Where to read more about Selena: Her website, or Twitter!


DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

images1. Set Boundaries: I know this sounds really Dr. Phil of me, but it's important to set boundaries to ensure that you have work time, brainstorming time, quiet time to get your writing done.  For some people, it's helpful to be strict about it (for example, I found it useful to reserve my weekends as MY time and I never strayed from that for the 8 months during which I wrote my book) and for other people, it can be looser (for example, I know some people who write 2-3 nights/week but it changes from week to week).


2. Don't Have Too Many Cooks In the Kitchen: Some people might workshop chapters and pieces with writing groups or trusted friends and that's great, but you should trust your personal workflow and for me, that's a pretty solitary venture.  I had a vision for what I wanted my essays to be and, however bonkers, I didn't want to bend from that (until my agent & editor were giving notes).  Don't be afraid to NOT get input from friends--it's YOUR project, you get to be the boss.


3. Seek Different Ways to Get Exposure/Published: As a standup comedian, I have been my own publicist for the entire time I have been performing and I've found that any publicity or press is helpful.  So feel free to cast a wide net--write random blog entries on your personal blog and guest blog on other blogs and perform at storytelling shows (if you're comfortable with that) and go to MeetUp groups of writers and attend literary events--there are SO many different pathways and all of them are "correct."

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

1. Ponder What People Will Think of Your Work: Once my book was sold and I knew it would  be out there in the world, I began to think, "What will people think of this joke?  Will they be offended?  Will so-and-so be upset with me that I said this?" and that is SO  BAD.  My storytelling teacher Margot Leitman used to teach us to write and tell stories as though the people who might be upset are dead.  It's a bit morbid, but it works.  You simply cannot write with a nagging sense of worry weighing on you.  When it comes to the question of "what will people think?" I use the standup response of what you should think of an audience if they don't "get" or like you: F 'em.

2. Think That There's 1 Way You "Should" Write: Tons of people write and sell books while working other jobs.  Some people don't.  There's no 1 way it "should" be done and it doesn't mean that you aren't a "serious writer" (whatever that means) it it's currently a hobby or weekend activity.  We're each on our own path and you do what is right for you, as far as work/life balance.

3. Be Scared to Just Start Typing: I find it best if I start writing (or typing) feverishly and pare down later.  Just get it OUT to start and you can tinker with it later on, but holding yourself back from even commencing is not a productive way to work.


1. Music that somehow helps you write: I don't know what it is about Arcade Fire, but I found that band to be really good background music for me as I wrote.  That and assorted jazz music.  I logged a lot of hours on Pandora.com while I was writing.

2. Twitter and Instagram are two of my favorite things on my phone right now: I'm a bit of a Luddite, so perhaps Twitter and Instagram are obvious, but I was a (somewhat) late convert to both and now I love them.  It's really fun to see where your friends are and what they are seeing (on Instagram) and twitter is a comedian's dream app--just spout out throwaway jokes and see how many retweets you get.  RIght when Paul Ryan was announced as Romney's running mate I wrote a tweet about Ryan ("Guys: Paul Ryan likes Ayn Rand and Rage Agains the Machine? He's the coolest guy in our 9th grade class!) and it got about 250 retweets, which (sad to say) was one of the most exciting days of my life.  I might need to get out more.

3. There are so many amazing Podcasts out there: and I find them really inspiring, so I've downloaded quite a few to my phone.


1. Song you listened to on repeat? I tend to beat the heck out of a song (on repeat for weeks) and right now that song is "Catch My Breath" by Kelly Clarkson.  How much does Ms. Clarkson rule? That girl can do NO wrong as far as I'm concerned.  "Catch My Breath" is not only catchy, but the lyrics about "catching my breath, letting it go, turning my cheek for the sake of the show" are something that I find it especially relatable as a performer.

2. Book you read? Recently I've been reading "We Killed: The Rise of Women In American Comedy" by Yael Kohen and "Nasty" by Simon Doonan.

3. Time you laughed? The last time I laughed was this morning with my sister Laurel (also a performer/comedian and Jan on the Toyota commercials) and brother-in-law Bobby Mort (a brilliant writer/actor/comedian)--those two crack me up and you just can't beat family jokes.


1. Agents did you query before you found "the one?"I am very fortunate that my agent (Elizabeth Evans with Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc) is a great friend from college.  I have been writing recaps of "The Bachelor" on my personal blog for years and she sent that along to a wonderful editor at It Books (Stephanie Meyers--now at Mental Floss Magazine) and Stephanie liked my tone and writing and knew what type of book she wanted to buy.  So I was able to get in through the back door somewhat (though my years of blogging and storytelling are really what opened the door for me).

2. Hours do you write per day? I still have a 9-6 job (I'm a book editor for a test prep company) and after a full day of reading and editing manuscript, I really couldn't bear to go home and write, so I gave myself Saturday and Sunday to write all day.  I still write here and there during the week (mostly standup bits, jokes when they come to me) but the bulk of the work on my proposal (3 versions of it) and book was created only on weekends.

3. Hours do you waste online when you should be writing? The online thing is SO hard.  I set certain rules for myself and goals (like if I cranked out a full hour, I was allowed to check Twitter for 5 minutes).  As it got closer to my deadline, I had to disconnect my computer from the WiFi entirely--that helped a LOT!


1. Way to celebrate a book deal? A few cocktails with friends was how I celebrated my book deal and it was lovely.  Then when the book was totally done (after the 8 months of writing the original manuscript and rewrites) I went out for a big, steak dinner with a friend to celebrate.  It's important to stop and toast these milestones so that you savor the entire experience.

2. Trick to overcome writer's block? I find running to be really helpful when trying to organize my thoughts or work through a problematic chapter.  If I'd hit a wall, I'd just put on my sneakers and go run in Prospect Park and usually during that hour of running my brain would sort of work through the blocks and I'd arrive at home with new ideas or a new way to organize a chapter.


1. Show you'll DVR? I'm fired up that Mad Men is back, as I love that show and vintage clothing, hair, and make up.  So this season is already programmed on the DVR.  I also can't wait for Netflix to release the newest season of Arrested Development.

2. Book you'll read? Books that I want to read very soon include some new releases written by my friends: The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf and Screw Everyone by Ophira Eisenberg.  Those two gals are both hilarious and wonderful and I can't wait to read their books!

3. Book you'll write? Once the dust settles post-New Rules for Blondes release I might explore either a book about dating or a book that's a bit darker than this one.  I'm hopeful that if people enjoy my writing style in The New Rules for Blondes, they might be willing to go a bit darker with me (no pun intended!) and explore topics that are a bit more serious.  Who knows!

Thanks, Selena!


2013 Club: Kimberly McCreight and Reconstructing Amelia

ReconstructingAmeliaOur guest today: Kimberly McCreight

Why she rocks: Her debut is riveting! Think: Gone Girl

Her debut: Reconstructing Amelia

The scoop on it: In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump.

Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save.

Our thoughts: Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

Giveaway: One SIGNED copy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, April 28th, after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: Check out the story of how she became a writer here! (She did everything she could to avoid it!)

Where you can read more about Kimberly: Her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Photo credit: Justin Cooper


DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

First, join a writer’s group or take a class.  Good feedback is critical to making progress as a writer.  But please be sure that it’s a supportive group.  Cutting feedback that isn’t actionable—i.e. burn this, immediately—is worse than no feedback at all.

Secondly, read widely.  Being a great writer starts with being a good reader and that includes everything from classic literature to modern thrillers.  Seeing what other people do and how they do it—and what you like and don’t like—will help you find yourself as a writer.

Finally, keep writing.  For some people, their first novel comes out exactly right, for others it takes practice.  I certainly fell into the later group.  Just because your early efforts don’t pan out doesn’t mean that your next book won’t be a whole lot better.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

First, don’t chase trends.  Being aware that there exists a marketplace for books is smart, but deciding that you’re going to write Y or Z because A and B were so successful last year is doomed to fail.  First of all, you won’t be able to write anything good if your heart’s not in it.  There’s also a good chance the trend will have already passed by the time you’re done.

Second, don’t take early rejection to heart.  Every novelist gets rejected at one point or another—by an agent or an editor or a critic.  It’s just a part of the process and the best you can hope for is to learn from it.

Finally, don’t ignore thoughtful feedback.  While you don’t want to be derailed by negativity, you don’t want to ignore helpful insights that could be the key to writing a better book next time or making critical revisions now.

MUST HAVES: On your desk? On your Facebook feed? App on your phone?

On my desk are always a Diet Coke and sugarless gum and I consume far too much of both.  Don’t tell my children.  It’s a terrible example.

My friends are the most important things in my Facebook feed, nothing makes me happier than seeing what they’re up to, especially because some of my dearest live way too far away.

The apps I use most are Hopstop for train directions and WeatherBug.  When you spend a lot of time getting around on foot with two kids, you’ve got to be prepared.

LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Book you read? Time you laughed?

I actually have a playlist of about twenty of my favorite songs call “Kim’s Edits” and I play the whole thing on repeat.  It’s a really eclectic compilation of songs that I love.  One I did specifically play on repeat a lot was The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham from the Crazy Heart soundtrack.

One book I read while revising was 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  His talents are so towering that reading him always inspires me to work that much harder.

And luckily my children keep me laughing all the time.  It helps enormously to have that kind of unbridled joy and deep silliness around when you’re writing about dark things!

HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?

My current agent is actually my third.  Because Reconstructing Amelia is my fifth completed manuscript, I probably queried hundreds of agents over the years with other projects before I landed with my current agent.  But I love her and I know she’ll be my last.

I work from 9-5:30, five days a week, though not all of that is working on my latest work in progress.  Sometimes, I’m doing things like this—answering fun questions—and sometimes I’m researching.

And “waste” time online?  I prefer the term research.  Deciding on a whim to spend two hours tracking down that best friend from fourth grade who you haven’t talked to for twenty-five years, that’s got to be research for something, right?

BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Trick to overcome writer's block? Way to think of a book idea?

I think the best way to celebrate a book deal is with your family.  For us, it was such a long road in getting here and everyone—my husband, kids and myself—had to give up so much to make it happen, that all I wanted to do was share it with them.  The actual night it happened, I think we did something exciting like order a pizza from the “fancy” pizza place.  To be honest, the fact that it had happened was thrilling enough.

I think the trick to overcoming writer’s block is to make yourself write for your allotted hours or allotted page count every day even if it’s all a bunch of really crappy stuff.  Eventually, you stop caring and the stakes will feel lower and the words will start flowing again.  And then you can throw out all the garbage you forced out in those lean days.

Newspapers, nonfiction books and magazine articles usually provide the initial spark for most of my stories.

NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Book you'll read? Book you'll write?

I’m DVRing Mad Men and I’m looking forward with a heavy heart to the end of Breaking Bad.  I’m excited for the new season of The Killing and I love the Walking Dead, even if it does scare the crap out of me.  I’m looking forward to reading Sonya Sotomayor’s biography, My Beloved World, as well as Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear.

On the fiction front, next up is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Becky Masterman’s debut, Rage Against the Dying.

As for my next book, I’m about three hundred pages into a first draft.  It’s another mystery with a deep emotional center and a character from Reconstructing Amelia even has a supporting role.  I’m very excited about it!

Thanks, Kimberly!


2013 Club: Julie Kibler and Calling Me Home

CMH_Cover_small_101112Our guest today: Julie Kibler Why she rocks: She's a fantastic writer & she has great advice! (See below!)

Her debut: Calling Me Home Out today! February 12, 2013!

The scoop on it: Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It's a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.

Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle's guarded past, scarcely hesitates before agreeing, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.

Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle have developed more than just a business relationship. They are friends. But Dorrie, fretting over the new man in her life and her teenage son's irresponsible choices, still wonders why Isabelle chose her.

Isabelle confesses that, as a willful teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell deeply in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family's housekeeper--in a town where blacks weren't allowed after dark. The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences makes it clear Dorrie and Isabelle are headed for a gathering of the utmost importance and that the history of Isabelle's first and greatest love just might help Dorrie find her own way.

Our thoughts: Beautifully written and incredibly touching, we loved this story. Read an excerpt here

Giveaway: FIVE COPIES. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, February, 17th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Julie also writes for Book Pregnant, a group of debut writers who talk about what to expect when you're expecting a book!

Where you can read more about Julie: Her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads. (Girlfriend is social media covered!)




DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do...

  1. Take your time! It's amazing how quickly it passes.Not selling the first book you write doesn't mean you'll never sell a book. Trust me on that. Starting my first (unpublished) manuscript feels like yesterday now.
  2. Be generous with your time and energy while you're aspiring. Your generosity will be returned to you exponentially when you are launching your first novel! (Host authors on your blog, attend their signing events, buy their books!)
  3. Realize that your novel is not the only thing on everyone else's mind—even if it's ALL you can think about. Life goes on around you. Try to join in as often as you can. Living leads to better writing. I have this lesson on repeat.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do...

  1. Assume you already know everything you need to know about writing. It leaves egg on your face.
  2. Compare yourself with other aspiring novelists or published authors. Your journey will never, ever look like theirs or play out in the same way. Comparison is the sure road to killing your self-confidence, little by little. So easy to say, so hard to do...
  3. As tempting and easy as it is with the technology available today, don't surround yourself only with other novelists. When your book releases, you'll wish you knew a lot of everyday readers, too. (Thankfully, I think I did ok with this!)


On your desk? Suave Advanced Therapy Hand lotion. I am an addict. Truly.

On your Facebook feed? Family news. It's amazing how much more I know about my family, especially those who live far away, now that there's Facebook. Things that don't come up in phone conversations often appear in my newsfeed. I am watching my little nieces who live more than 2,000 miles away grow up there! I love it!

App on your phone? Ebook apps—Nook, Kindle, Overdrive, etc. I do about 80% of my reading on my iPhone.


Song you listened to on repeat? "Horses"/Dala (www.dalagirls.com) I missed hearing this group live by a few minutes at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest a few years ago and have regretted it since.

Book you read? I'm always juggling about four these days. Last one I finished is The Promise, by Ann Weisgarber, an advance readers' edition from Pan Macmillan, my UK publisher.

Time you laughed? I hope I laugh every single day. My clever youngest daughter makes me laugh every day, especially. Last full-on belly laugh? When I was talking to a close friend after I had my first newspaper interview last week, and told her how I forgot the name of one of my minor characters from Calling Me Home. It wasn't funny at the time, but if you don't laugh about things like that, how do you survive?


Agents did you query before you found "the one?" I was very lucky with Calling Me Home. I queried maybe five agents, but Elisabeth Weed was my first choice from the get go. I queried her first with the previous manuscript, too. And she's the best, as is her foreign rights agent, Jenny Meyer.

Hours I write per day: I am a burst writer. I write like crazy when I'm in the midst of a burst. I beat myself up a lot when I'm not. If I'm writing consistently in one of those bursts, it's usually from about 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. I'm the worst night owl you'll never know.

Hours I waste online when I should be writing: Most of them. Yeah.


Way to celebrate a book deal: Chocolate dessert and a peach Bellini. And maybe a thick, juicy steak … Yeah, definitely that. I remember now.

Trick to overcome writer's block: I ask my character, "WHAT do you WANT?" before I go to bed. I can't do this if I need to wake up early, because that voice generally haunts me all night. I'm exhausted the next morning, but I usually know what they want, and that's the key to a good story.

Way to think of a book idea: For me, it tends to happen in the midst of an everyday conversation. Something I hear sets my heart and brain racing, and I'm off and running.


Show you'll DVR? Can you believe I don't own a DVR? We have basic cable. If I could DVR, it would be Parenthood, though the season is over now. I love that show.

Book you'll read? A manuscript from a dear friend who is seeking her first blurbs. I've already peeked at the first few chapters, and I know once I start, I'm in for the duration.

Book you'll write? I could tell you but then I'd have to think of another one, because once I start talking about them, they seem to lose their magic.

Thanks, Julie!

2013 Club: Alison Atlee and The Typewriter Girl

TYPEWRITER coverOur guest today: Alison Atlee Why she rocks:  A true talent, Atlee's writing captivated us!

Her debut: The Typewriter Girl (Out tomorrow--January 29th)

The scoop on it: When Betsey disembarks from the London train in the seaside resort of Idensea, all she owns is a small valise and a canary in a cage. After attempting to forge a letter of reference she knew would be denied her, Betsey has been fired from the typing pool of her previous employer. Her vigorous protest left one man wounded, another jilted, and her character permanently besmirched. Now, without money or a reference for her promised job, the future looks even bleaker than the debacle behind her. But her life is about to change . . . because a young Welshman on the railroad quay, waiting for another woman, is the one man willing to believe in her.

Mr. Jones is inept in matters of love, but a genius at things mechanical. In Idensea, he has constructed a glittering pier that astounds the wealthy tourists. And in Betsey, he recognizes the ideal tour manager for the Idensea Pier & Pleasure Building Company. After a lifetime of guarding her secrets and breaking the rules, Betsey becomes a force to be reckoned with. Now she faces a challenge of another sort: not only to outrun her sins, but also to surrender to the reckless tides of love...

Our thoughts: A refreshing debut, we were completely in love with Betsey!

Giveaway: FIVE copies. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 3pm PST on Monday, February 3rd.

Fun fact: Alison has fun ways to involve her in your book club.

Where you can read more about Alison: Her website, Twitter, Pinterest & Facebook.


AlisonAtleeDO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do...Find a schedule you can live with, not just aspire to. Find ways to mark and celebrate your progress. Find friends who also write.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do...Wait for the perfect time. Wait until everyone in your life approves. Wait while you learn everything about your story/genre/querying/the publishing business.

MUST HAVES: On your desk? Nothing in particular. Just not nothing.

On your Facebook feed? I’m too much of a newbie there. Recommendations, please!

App on your phone? Audible audiobooks.

LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? The soundtrack for Pan’s Labyrinth.

Book you read?  If we can count audiobooks, I just finished Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett. It’s 26th in the series, but my first Discworld novel, and boy, was I confused for the first hundred “pages”!  Ended up loving it, though, and Stephen Briggs’ narration is stunning. I’m practicing his stilted interpretation of The Auditors for my own amusement.

Time you laughed? During a meeting. Someone made a Freudian slip that really wasn’t all that hilarious, but it turned into a Pez-dispenser-on-the-knee moment for my friend and me.

HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" About seven for The Typewriter Girl.

Hours do you write per day? Two weekdays, six weekends.

Hours do you waste online when you should be writing? No idea. I don’t have broadband, so even legitimate reasons to be online feel like a waste of time...

BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Road trip! A dear friend and I went to see Oprah at an O magazine event.

Trick to overcome writer's block? I change physical positions to jog an idea—stand if I’m sitting, move to a new spot, make false eyelashes out of Post-it notes. Whatever. As for serious writer’s block, I’m not sure there’s a trick as much as a journey that’s going to be different for everyone.

Way to think of a book idea? Do housework with public radio playing in the background.

NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Downton Abbey

 Book you'll read? Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks

 Book you'll write? “The Oliver Sacks book is research,” she replied coyly.

Thanks, Alison! xoxo, Liz & Lisa

2013 Club: Elizabeth LaBan and THE TRAGEDY PAPER

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! *blows horn and gulps champagne* We are so excited to kick off the new year with a brand spankin' new feature! The 2013 Club will showcase all the best and brightest debut authors of the year. Because, we know y'all love discovering great new authors as much as we do! 

Our guest today:Elizabeth LaBan

Why she rocks: Her writing will suck you in from page one!

Her debut: The Tragedy Paper

The scoop on it: It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.

Our thoughts: Another great YA novel that's not just for teens.  We love it!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Leave a comment and we'll choose the winners on January 13th after 3pm PST.

Fun Fact: Our writer crush Jen Weiner loved The Tragedy Paper too, saying it was a "A beguiling and beautifully written tale of first love and heartbreak."

Where you can read more about Elizabeth: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do... Write a lot, read a lot, and go out into the world to find all the great and crazy stories.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do... Give up, take rejections personally, or over-edit themselves.

MUST HAVES: On your desk? I work at my dining room table and it is always a mess. The only thing I must have is my laptop computer – which is usually surrounded by piles and piles of junk.

On your Facebook feed? There isn’t really anything I must have here, just my news feed. I like to see what everyone is up to, how their kids are, and what people are cooking for dinner.

App on your phone? I just installed Twitter – I love it!

LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? I must confess, I listen to my 13-year-old daughter’s iPod. The two songs I have been listening to over and over are Some Nights by Fun. and Home by Phillip Phillips – don’t tell anyone.

Book you read? I am just finishing a book by Jacob Tomsky called Heads in Beds – a memoir about the hotel industry. It promises to let you in on lots of secrets about how hotels are run and how guests can get extra stuff. I love hotels, and I love that sort of thing, so I am really enjoying it.

Time you laughed? Last night my kids and I were laughing really hard. My daughter’s name is Alice and for some reason Alice Cooper came up. I said, very seriously, “Is Alice a boy’s name, too?” My daughter said matter-of-factly, “Shouldn’t you have looked into that already?” We were laughing so hard my husband had to come up and see what was going on.

HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" I’ve never told anybody this (I mean that!) but I queried about 50 agents before I found my wonderful, loyal, never-tiring agent Uwe Stender.

Hours do you write per day? That varies greatly. I am not someone who writes every day for a certain amount of time. Some days I don’t write at all. Lately, for example, I have not written much because I’m trying to help get the word out about The Tragedy Paper and my mother has been in and out of the hospital – so it’s been busy. But there was one weekend in November when I had a burst of excitement over the next novel I hope to write. I wrote for hours. I couldn’t drag myself away from the computer. I drove my family crazy. I’m waiting for another burst like that.

Minutes a day do you waste online when you should be writing? Maybe thirty or forty-five. I probably do what everyone does – turn on my computer, briefly glance at the top news stories, go through my Facebook news feed to see what people are talking about. (That can sometimes spin my day out of control. The other morning, for example, one mom said her kid and lots of others at our school had strep throat but didn’t have many symptoms. My daughter was a little under the weather so I had to call the doctor, whose office was closed, then find an urgent care center we could go to to get tested. By the time we were set to leave she felt much better, so we didn’t go, but we’d wasted a good hour or so). I also glance at Twitter, of course, and sometimes check Amazon to see the rating of my published nonfiction book and my not-yet-published novel. You know what? I want to amend that estimate of time wasted and change it to three to four hours!

BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? I had been trying to sell a novel for a long time. The Tragedy Paper is the fourth novel I’ve written, and the first one to be published – so we started talking about going to a particular, wonderful, Thai place when I got an offer a very long time ago. The problem was, by the time I finally got an offer, that restaurant was closed. So we went to a great sushi restaurant instead.

Trick to overcome writer's block? Get up and walk around, talk to your kids if you have any, or just talk to someone, anyone. They might give you a good idea for a next scene.

Way to think of a book idea? Brainstorm with people, and, if that doesn’t work, think about what you would like to read. I find book ideas come to life for me without my even realizing it. Something will click and then EVERYTHING suddenly seems like it will fit in the new book – I am constantly saying, “That would be a good scene in the book,” or “I have to write that down so I can remember it.”

NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Parenthood – my absolute favorite. And the new season of Girls on HBO.

Book you'll read? Every Day by David Levithan.

Book you'll write? Another young adult book – it’s starting to form, I am starting to think everything my daughter does would be a good scene in the book (that’s how I know it is taking shape!). I’m not ready to talk details yet. I wrote those first few chapters last month, but now I’m waiting to be taken over again with that amazing, all-consuming need to write!

Thanks, Elizabeth!  xoxo, L&L