Amanda Kyle Williams, Interviewed

Today’s interview is with Amanda Kyle Williams | @AKyleWilliams

Amanda Kyle Williams burst onto the thriller scene in 2010 with her first crime novel, The Stranger You Seek, which Publishers Weekly called an “explosive, unpredictable and psychologically complex thriller that turns crime fiction cliches inside out.”  Stranger in the Room, the second book in the Keye Street series, arrived in 2012. Book 3 came out earlier this month and it’s already being called the strongest, most exciting book in a series that keeps getting better. Alison Law, a member of the She Reads blog network, interviewed Amanda about Don’t Talk to Strangers.

Amanda’s latest book, Don’t Talk to Strangers, is the third novel in her Keye Street series. If you are new to Amanda’s work, you should scoop up all of her books at your local indie bookstore, then cancel your plans because you are in for one long thrill ride. We’re giving away one copy of all three books in the Keye Street series–The Stranger You Seek, Stranger in the Room and Don’t Talk to Strangers. See the link below for contest entry details. Sorry this contest is open to U.S. residents only.

Amanda Kyle Williams, author of Don't Talk to Strangers

Photo credit: Kaylinn Gilstrap

1. For those members of our She Reads community who are new to your writing, will you introduce us to your protagonist Keye Street?

AKW: Of course. What writer says no to that? I should mention this right off because it’s one of those foundation-building things. My Chinese American detective was raised by white southern parents, and she has the accent to prove it. “I have the distinction of looking like what they still call a damn foreigner in most parts of Georgia, and sounding like a hick everywhere else in the world.” That’s Keye’s voice—irreverent, slightly damaged. She’s searching, balancing love, life and work, trying to keep her head above water, rebuilding her life. I think we root for her because she’s trying to find her footing like we all are. In Don’t Talk to Strangers, Keye introduces herself this way. “My name is Keye Street. I am a detective, private, a bail recovery agent, a process server and a former criminal investigative analyst for the FBI. And when I say former, I mean fired. Capital F. The Bureau likes their profilers sober.”

2. In the first two books, Keye Street operates out of her home based in Atlanta, Georgia. She is surrounded by her normal support system, including her adoptive family, her business partner Neil and her close friend, Atlanta Police Lt. Aaron Rauser. In the third book, you move Keye to the small town of Whisper, Georgia, where she finds out she is less than welcome. She’s working around the clock to help the sheriff’s department solve two murders, so other than some scattered phone calls and emails, she’s on her own and without good coffee. Why was it important to shift the setting and introduce a new set of characters in the third book?

AKW: It felt like the natural progression of the series. I think something we’ve come to understand about Keye is that she desperately misses the work she was doing with the FBI, the work she was educated and trained for. More and more, we see her dipping a toe in the water as a police consultant on repeat violent offender cases. It’s as close as she’ll ever get to what she did with the Bureau. It nourishes her, and feels more meaningful. So, when a county sheriff in central Georgia calls to say he has two dead girls and a tiny, clueless criminal investigations unit, there’s no question she’s going to take the job. Keye’s supporting cast is hugely popular with readers. I love that. And as a writer, I’d much rather you miss them now and then, and the city that has become a kind of character than get sick of the formula. Sometimes we need to pull the safety net out from under our characters. That’s what I did with Keye in this book. It was great fun. And challenging. She had to carry the book. That interaction with her pot-smoking business partner, her crazy family, and her boyfriend—all the things that have really informed us about who she is—were absent. On the other hand, I think we gained confidence in the character by watching her work outside her element, interact with strangers, and hunt a killer, fearlessly and obsessively. When the series comes back home to Atlanta, we’ll all be glad to see the gang again. I predict the next book will take place inside the Perimeter.

3. Readers of your books experience some pretty creepy things, as told to them by Keye, but also as narrated by the criminals. Why do you include scenes and chapters from the killer’s point of view?

AKW: It’s the only time I step out of Keye’s POV. I do it selectively. It’s something you have to be careful not to overuse. But I believe brief glimpses into the mind of a killer—how they justify it and reconcile it with the person they’re presenting to the world—is very effective. The psychopaths scare me, the ones who watch and don’t feel. So that’s why I do it. I want to scare the hell out of you, too.

4. Like Keye Street, you spent some time as a process server and developed a fascination with criminals and how they think. How did you learn to think and write like a profiler?

AKW: When I decided I wanted to write crime fiction, I immersed myself in that world. I took a couple of courses in the fundamentals of criminal profiling. Since my background is not in law enforcement or behavioral analysis, I needed to learn something about how a criminal analyst might approach a crime scene, how they infer personality characteristics on the offender based on the physical elements of the crime, and how they might work with local law enforcement on a consulting basis. I also took a course in homicide investigation from a seasoned old New York detective. So all that was a big help with language. I’m not writing technical manuals; I just want my investigator to have internal and external dialogue that feels real—especially when she’s at a scene or on a case.

5. Although your novels are thrillers and deal with some grim subject matter, you also make your characters say and do some outrageously funny things. How do you balance the scary stuff with the funny stuff?

AKW: Well, it helps if you’re basically a silly person. I wanted Keye and her gang to be funny. I like the little break in stress a good laugh gives you in a thriller. And this is a southern series. I mean, come on. We’re funny down here. It’s hard not to be inspired by the South. Humor is like switching POVs in that it can be a little bit of a tight rope. I want to give you a crime thriller that keeps you turning pages. The humor can break the tension for a second, endear the character to the reader, and give the reader a breather, but it should never slow the pace of the novel. I have a brilliant editor who has good instincts for this and stops me when I’ve gone too far. Mostly. Some might argue the missing cow in The Stranger You Seek, the booger bandit in Stranger in the Room, and Hank the poodle’s erection in Don’t Talk To Strangers were going too far.

6. After years of struggling as a student, being told that you were “lazy,” and ultimately dropping out of high school, you learned in your 20s that you were dyslexic. What is it like to look back on that time in your life—when you realized that you had a learning disorder, that you weren’t lazy or dumb, and that you could learn how to read and enjoy reading? Do you think your 20-year-old self would have believed that one day you would be a full-time writer whose words are read and enjoyed by so many people?

AKW: My 20-year-old self didn’t see a future at all. I hadn’t been diagnosed. I was working and struggling to hide the fact that I had trouble reading. I didn’t know there would be an answer for me, that I’d be diagnosed, told I could learn as much as anyone else. I promise you, I never imagined a future where I continued to wrestle with words all day. I mean, go figure. Early diagnosis is so important for kids with learning difficulties. Knowing there’s an answer, a way to learn, that you’re not stupid and slow, it changes your life. It gives you a chance.

7. As a series writer, you purposely leave loose ends in your books—things that keep your readers wanting to know, “How is this situation going to resolve itself and what is going to happen next to Keye?” Have you already mapped out the entire Keye Street series or do you approach each book like its own standalone story?

AKW: Oh lord, to be one of those writers who can map out an entire series and write long, beautiful, intricate outlines for their editors. Not me. Though, I do know generally where the series is headed and where Keye is headed. I have a plan for Book 5 and I’ve begun Book 4, A Complete Stranger. Someone told me a couple of days ago on Facebook that she and her boyfriend had decided Keye will be in a mental institution by Book 5. Not true. But I’m not sure about the author.

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Don't Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle WilliamsHailed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “one of the most addictive new series heroines,” Keye Street is the brilliant, brash heart of a sizzling thriller full of fear and temptation, judgments and secrets, infidelity and murder.

In the woods of Whisper, Georgia, two bodies are found: one recently dead, the other decayed from a decade of exposure to the elements. The sheriff is going to need help to track down an experienced predator—one who abducts girls and holds them for months before ending their lives. Enter ex–FBI profiler and private investigator Keye Street.

After a few weeks, Keye is finally used to sharing her downtown Atlanta loft with her boyfriend, A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser. Along with their pets (his dog, her cat) they seem almost like a family. But when Rauser plunks a few ice cubes in a tumbler and pours a whiskey, Keye tenses. Her addiction recovery is tenuous at best.

Though reluctant to head out into the country, Keye agrees to assist Sheriff Ken Meltzer. Once in Whisper, where the locals have no love for outsiders, Keye starts to piece together a psychological profile: The killer is someone who stalks and plans and waits. But why does the sociopath hold the victims for so long, and what horrible things must they endure? When a third girl goes missing, Keye races against time to connect the scant bits of evidence. All the while, she cannot shake the chilling feeling: Something dark and disturbing lives in these woods—and it is watching her every move.

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A Room Of Her Own: The Writing Space of Chevy Stevens

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Chevy Stevens | @ChevyStevens

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This is my office in the house, which has a balcony that overlooks our neighborhood. Oona, our lab corgi cross, loves sitting out there and keeping an eye on things. I don’t have as much room for bookshelves as I’d like, so sadly many of my books are packed away, waiting for the day when I have a library. In one corner I have a vision board—the same one I’ve had for years. I add things as I go along, photos and inspirational statements. I also have a white board where I work on the outline for my books.

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I haven’t been working in my inside office as much in the last couple of months, though. It’s too hard on my daughter, Piper. She is only a year and a half and every time she sees me coming downstairs for a cup of tea, or hears me moving around upstairs, she gets upset and doesn’t understand why she can’t be with me. It’s hard to focus when you have a toddler yelling, “Momma! Momma!” from the bottom of the stairs. I do let her play in my office sometimes, but then it usually looks like a hurricane hit—she loves nothing more than to throw all my books on the floor or rummage around under my desk. These days I work out in our travel trailer during the day. Oona likes to sleep on the seat beside me, with her head resting on my leg. It’s nice and quiet, and cozy. I also have a great view of our backyard and trees.

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When Fiction Is Inspired By Real Life

Today’s post by our own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

We’ve got a copy of Marybeth’s new novel, THE BRIDGE TENDER, up for grabs today, along with a sea shell inspired necklace. See the entry form below for details.

Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen

The Inspiration Behind The Character of Emily Shaw

It might sound strange, but I have what I would consider an abundance of friends who are widows. There’s Amanda, whose soldier husband died following a tour in Afghanistan, leaving her with four young daughters. There’s LeAnn, whose husband died of cancer, leaving her with a young son. There’s Kitty, whose husband died of a massive heart attack on a summer afternoon, while playing in the pool with their four young sons. There’s Robin, the supreme widow, who lost two husbands– one due to a horrible crime, the other due to a freak accident.

These women– and their stories– have changed my life, shaped my worldview, and adjusted my perspective. The simple truth is that they loved their husbands. They lost their husbands. And that fact has shaped the women they have become: Brave, courageous, admirable, determined, gutsy women who didn’t stop living just because the person they loved most in the world did.

It was that transformation– from grief to hope, from “my world has ended” to “I’m learning to live in this new world” that inspired the main character, Emily, of my new book THE BRIDGE TENDER. Watching these women face, and overcome, so many challenges and go on to support their families, mother their children and still eke out some joy each day informed the kind of woman she is on the page. Any part of Emily that seems real is because I had real inspiration. I have watched and learned and recorded their brave journey on the pages of my heart. And I hope, in some small way, I have paid homage to what they’ve faced, and who they’ve become. They are, each of them, my heroes.

The old Sunset Beach bridge. Photo credit: http://www.seatrailownerrentals.com/

The old Sunset Beach bridge. Photo credit: http://www.seatrailownerrentals.com/

The Real Old Bridge

I’ve written several novels set in Sunset Beach NC: THE MAILBOX, THE GUEST BOOK, THE WISHING TREE and now THE BRIDGE TENDER. Each novel is centered around a real object that draws two people together over time and against the odds. In this new novel, the object is the old pontoon bridge that used to connect Sunset Beach– an island located at the lowest part of North Carolina’s coast, just before you cross the South Carolina state line– to the mainland. The quirky old bridge worked sometimes and then sometimes, it didn’t. Fraught with problems that included broken parts, damage from passing boats, and even the tides, the bridge wasn’t exactly dependable. Stories abound of the bridge breaking and citizens of Sunset either stranded on the island and unable to get off or trapped on the mainland with no way to get back. There were practical issues to consider, to be sure, but there was also some significant safety issues.

So it wasn’t surprising when the state started talking about taking the old bridge out and putting a new, reliable bridge in. And yet the old bridge, in all its quirkiness, was part of the history and culture of Sunset Beach. Would Sunset still be Sunset without the bridge that served as its only access? Would the heart of the place be lost with the bridge? These questions nagged at all of us who love Sunset Beach as the debate over the bridge waged on and plans for its replacement were made. Eventually, as with many things in life, progress reigned and we who loved the old bridge prepared to say goodbye.

But the story doesn’t end there.

I wanted to capture this debate within the community but I also wanted to pay homage to a little band of citizens who found a way to save the old bridge. These folks rallied to find a final resting place for the bridge, to take something that could’ve been a sad ending and make it a new beginning. They arranged to have the old bridge carefully removed and reconstructed on a piece of land not far from its original home, a spot that has become a gathering place for the community complete with festivals and programs and a museum. Without these people the bridge would’ve been destroyed and history would’ve been lost.

In the end, that’s what my novel is all about– taking loss (the main character Emily is a widow who returns to Sunset Beach to fulfill her husband’s last wish for her) and turning it into something hopeful: Not letting the death of something be the final say. The old bridge has turned into something new, thanks to the devotion of a few people who did what they could. And that has made all the difference.

Marybeth Giveaway

 

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Starting A Family: What It Really Meant For One Author’s Career

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Chevy Stevens | @ChevyStevens

Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

When my husband and I first started talking about creating a family, I worried about how I would balance it all with my writing. I feared that I would lose months of time and wouldn’t be able to complete my deadline. I was right that I did lose some time in first three months I was pregnant, which was when I was trying to finish Always Watching. I was constantly nauseous and exhausted—I had to take more than a few naps on my office floor! But then I made it out of the first trimester and gained an amazing amount of energy. I loved being pregnant, the clarity of thought, the focus, the energy to get so many things done in a day. Knowing that I was going to have to take some time off when she was born, spurred me on and I didn’t waste any time. I got up early and wrote whenever possible. Some women get a nesting instinct toward the end of their pregnancy, but I had it all away along except mine wasn’t just focused on getting ready for the baby, I was also trying to finish my first draft before her due date.

Finally I was one week away from finishing my book—and one week from my due date. I was hoping the baby would hold out for a few days, but she had her own plans! I went into labor one night in the middle of December 2012—on my exact due date. My daughter, Piper, was born the next day. I didn’t start writing again until late January, balancing nursing and learning how to be a new mom, with a lot of sleepless nights! Thankfully my husband was on paternity leave or I would never have been able to find time to write. We then made the decision for my husband to stay off from work until Piper goes to school. I feel very blessed to be able to continue with my career, while having my daughter at home.

I used to think I couldn’t work with the noise of a child around me, but it turns out I loved working upstairs, hearing Piper downstairs with her daddy. However as she got older and started walking, and then climbing the stairs, it became too hard on her to see me going up and down, hearing me move around upstairs. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t be with me. Now I work out in our travel trailer. I miss them, but it allows me to focus on my writing, and then when I’m with her, I can focus on her. I had been worried that having a family would cost me, but instead it has given me everything. We have so much joy in our lives now, so much happiness, and I know that all of that has helped my writing.

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Picture This: A Visit With Lisa Jensen

Today’s post by author Lisa Jensen

It’s no secret that I loved ALIAS HOOK by Lisa Jensen. (You can read my review here) So I was thrilled when she agreed to share the visual inspiration behind her re-telling of the classic story of Peter Pan. And I’m even more thrilled that we’re able to give away two copies of ALIAS HOOK today thanks to the generous publishers at Thomas Dunne Books. See the entry form below.

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What could this photo possibly have to do with Captain Hook? Yes, my novel, Alias Hook, is set in the Neverland, and views that magical children’s Paradise from the caustic perspective of James Hook, its prisoner. Much of the book concerns who James was before he became the villain of the Neverland, but the main story is about the possibility of breaking the curse that binds him there and earning his release. And I knew pretty early on there would have to be a woman involved.

In real life, this is my Aunt Jeannie, ca. 1943. When I was trying to imagine what sort of woman to send to the Neverland, I kept coming back to this image. Hook comes from early in the 18th Century (James M. Barrie tells us that he sailed with Blackbeard), but in my book, he’s been frozen in time—at age 43—for a couple of centuries. Time has continued to march on in the outside world, however. My heroine, Stella Parrish, has survived World War II, but she’s still reeling from her losses. Disgusted at the mess the grown-ups have made of the world, she longs to take refuge in a place of perfect childhood innocence—although that’s not exactly what she finds in the Neverland, a chaotic world run by little boys.

In addition to the strangeness of a grown woman tumbling into the Neverland at all (Peter Pan has very strict rules against grown-ups, especially “ladies”), imagine how odd a 20th Century woman like this would seem. What on earth would James Hook make of her?

I love Jeannie’s plaid jacket so much, I had to give it to Stella to wear in the Neverland. (Along with the trousers, which Hook finds completely baffling!) As you can see, Jeannie was quite the fashion plate in her day. And while this jacket might be a little out-of-date by 1950, when Stella comes to the Neverland, postwar Britain was a time of austerity and rationing, so Stella probably was not buying a lot of new clothes. Also, in Jeannie’s era, women used bobby pins to set their wet hair in pin curls for that bouncy look, which I also made part of Stella’s signature look.

When James and Stella meet, everything changes in the Neverland. In James Hook, she finds someone far more sympathetic and complex than the storybook villain. And with Stella’s help, he finally has a chance to rewrite his story.

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AliasHook“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.”

Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.

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Picture This: A Visit With Chevy Stevens

Today’s post from New York Times bestselling author, Chevy Stevens@ChevyStevens

Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

When I was in high school, I never knew where I belonged. I wanted to be one of the cool kids and hang out back like my brother and his friends, but I didn’t fit in with that group. Even though I started smoking to impress my brother (what was I thinking?), I wasn’t that “bad.” I was artistic and got good grades, but I didn’t really fit in with the artsy types. I didn’t mind sports, but I wasn’t really a jock either. I was a little bit of everything. We had to go to a different school for grade eleven and twelve, and it was very hard for me. I still remember that awkward feeling of trying to find my place in the world, the hierarchy of the cool kids and the not-so cool kids, how it felt like my parents controlled everything.

Though Toni’s experience (the main character in THAT NIGHT) was much different than mine, that desire to graduate so you could get away from it all was very familiar. It brought back lots of memories of my high school years. These are some photos of the school I graduated from, which is in Duncan, BC. My husband and I both went to this school—we were even in the same home room—but we had different groups of friends and didn’t connect until we were in our mid-thirties when we started chatting on Facebook.

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I also wanted to share these photos because in THAT NIGHT, Toni lives on a boat in a marina in Campbell River, which is on Vancouver Island. She finds solace in the ocean—something she missed greatly when she was in prison. She likes to sit on top of her boat with her dog, Captain, watching the sea gulls, the other boats coming and going, and savor her freedom. She works at a restaurant that overlooks the harbor, which is where she worked as a teenager the summer her life changed forever.

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July Book Club Selection

that night banner

We’ve never chosen a suspense novel as a monthly book club selection before. In hindsight this was a huge oversight. But after reading THAT NIGHT by Chevy Stevens we’ve realized that we need a whole lot more suspense in our lives. THAT NIGHT is Chevy’s fourth novel, and easily her best yet. Tense. Gripping. Insightful. Filled with secrets, hidden motives, and surprises, this is the sort of novel you read in one wild gulp. And then process for a month afterwards.

Thanks to the generous team at St. Martin’s Press we have five copies of THAT NIGHT  up for grabs this month. See the entry form below for details.

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That Night

They said she was a murderer.

They said she killed her sister.

But they lied.

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

Add THAT NIGHT to your Goodreads to-read list.

Read an excerpt.

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Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

Chevy Stevens. Photo Credit Poppy Photography

CHEVY STEVENS grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. While holding an open house one afternoon, she had a terrifying idea that became the inspiration for Still Missing.Chevy eventually sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book. Still Missing went on to become a New York Times bestseller and win the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.  Chevy’s books have been optioned for movies and are published in more than thirty countries.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her husband and daughter in the local mountains.

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The Books of Summer: Week Five

Today’s post by Nicole Mary Kelby | @nmkelby

And so, we come to the end. Not the end of summer (thankfully!) but to the end of our Books of Summer series. Last up is a new-to-us author, Nicole Mary Kelby, whose new novel THE PINK SUIT, is based on the suit made famous by Jackie Kennedy. Our final set of all five novels in this series is up for grabs today (see the entry form below). But there’s still a bit of time left to enter the giveaway from previous last week here.

The Books of Summer Collage

The Pink SuitA novel based on the true story behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s iconic pink suit. 

On November 22, 1963, the First Lady accompanied her husband to Dallas, Texas dressed in a pink Chanel-style suit that was his favorite. Much of her wardrobe, including the pink suit, came from the New York boutique Chez Ninon where a young seamstress, an Irish immigrant named Kate, worked behind the scenes to meticulously craft the memorable outfits.

While the two never met, Kate knew every tuck and pleat needed to create the illusion of the First Lady’s perfection. And when the pink suit becomes infamous, Kate’s already fragile world–divided between the excess and artistry of Chez Ninon and the traditional values of her insular neighborhood–threatens to rip apart.

The Pink Suit is a fascinating look at politics, fashion, and some of the most glamorous women in history, seen through the eyes of a young woman caught in the midst of an American breed of upstairs/downstairs class drama.

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What We’re Into: June 2014

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

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June is the official kickoff to summer break, but Ariel and I are still looking for the “break” part. We’ve been working hard on writing and blogging and managing households that now involve lots of little people home from school who like to eat and eat and did we mention that they like to eat? A lot. As in relentlessly. In the rare moments that one or the other of us is not wandering aimlessly through a grocery store we have found  stumbled onto a few favorite things.

Bleating:

This is what you do when words fail to describe your misery and all there is left to do is bleat. When that THING happens because that PERSON you feel RAGE toward shows up in your life again? Bleat. When you are your worst self and just need to let it out in a safe place with someone who will love you anyway? Bleat. Ariel and I have agreed that bleating should be reserved for only your most trusted friends. Very few friendships can endure bleating. But the ones that can? They’re keepers.

“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out. Just as they are–chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

–Dinah Maria (Mulock) Craik, 1826 – 1887

Because really, no matter how funny and charming and wonderful you really are, bleating makes you sound like this:

Sleeping: 

Did you know that “Missing one or two hours of sleep for one night will not only reduce your energy level, it can decrease your brain power by one third? Lack of sleep does more damage than lack of food.” I’m a big fan of sleeping and this statistic only empowers me. May 2014 be known as THE SUMMER OF THE NAP. And in case you need to be persuaded: five reasons why you should take a nap every day. (Ariel here. I took an hour-long nap today and it was glorious. I woke up happier than I’d been all day.)

Reading: 

(Marybeth) I loved this literary toolbox post by memoirist Addie Zierman. As someone who is supposed to be teaching high schoolers to write memoir this fall, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

(Ariel) I’m a bit out of whack right now. I recently started writing a new novel and ran up against a brick wall with my reading. This happens every time I turn my mind to storytelling. Something shifts in my brain at the beginning stages of a new book and I simply can’t read fiction. I can’t think straight. All those other wonderful, finished, brilliant novels start messing with my mind and I either mimic that author’s voice or I convince myself that I am writing the worst book that has ever been written in the history of ever. This is no bueno. Last time I started a novel I made the terrible mistake of trying to read Hillary Mantel’s brilliant, illuminating WOLF HALL. It sent me down such a miserable spiral of gloom it’s a wonder I ever finished my book at all. BUT I learned that I can read memoir and biography and narrative non-fiction during this stage of the creative process. Thankfully I knew this day was coming so I’ve been stocking up. These are the books I plan on reading until I leap my current mental hurdle (and yes, I know, I’m SO late to the party on a couple of these):

Memoir Collage

Bingeing:

(Marybeth) on books, what else? Ok there may have been some junk food and wine bingeing going on in June, but then again, what is summer for if not that? The books I’ve binged on so far this summer are the new ones by Liane Moriarty, Elin Hildebrand, Emily Giffin, and Jen Weiner. There’s a reason these writers are at the top of their game.

(Ariel) I can not even begin to explain the amount of fruit we have gone through at my house over the last month (see above–children, especially male children, will eat you out of house and home). Watermelon. Peaches. Grapes. Cherries. Strawberries. Cantaloupe. All of my favorite summer fruits are in season right now and I’ve loved every sweet, sticky, dripping moment of it.

Oh! My husband and I are also in the middle of a BOURNE movie marathon. We’ve watched one together every night for the last few nights. They need to hurry up and make number five. We’re running out.

Question: What are YOU into right now?

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The Books Of Summer: Week Four

Today’s post by author Linda Francis Lee | @LindaFrancisLee

Week four in our “Book of Summer” series brings us to Linda Francis Lee and her novel THE GLASS KITCHEN. It’s the perfect summer read. Food. Love. Sisters. Manhattan. What more could you want? As we’ve done each week in this series, we have all five books up for grabs. (See the entry form below) You can also read about the other novels we’ve featured so far and enter the giveaways here, here, and here.

The Books of Summer Collage

Linda Francis Lee

Linda Francis Lee

As a Texan living in New York City, I am always struck by the fact that I grew up in wide open spaces but have come to love such a contained place like Manhattan – an island, a place that can only be reached by bridges or tunnels. Living in New York City, I am worlds away from both my hometown and my family. When I started plotting THE GLASS KITCHEN, I was thinking a lot about the sorts of friendships I was making here – deep, rich bonds with friends who had become like family. We had elegant dinner parties and impromptu dinners thrown together with whatever we had in the refrigerator. Despite being so far away from home, I was reminded of growing up with my own mother’s dinner parties, and the magic good food has when combined with friends and family. What, I wondered, would happen if I had a sister from Texas who moves to Manhattan. I couldn’t wait to start plotting!

The Glass Kitchen is primarily the story of Portia Cuthcart, a youngest sister, as she makes her way in a city world that is so different from the one she came from. But it is also the story of Ariel, the man upstairs’ daughter, sister to Miranda, who at twelve is also trying to find her way, to solve the mystery to why her own little family suddenly finds themselves in Manhattan as well. It is the bond that Portia and Ariel form that helps each of them find their way to unravel secrets of their pasts and forge a path to possibilities for the future.  But sometimes the love of family can get in the way.  Just because one person wants the past unraveled, doesn’t mean everyone else wants that too. I loved exploring the idea that sometimes you have to decide how to move forward when your freedom from secrets means someone else might get hurt?  If you love someone, how much are you willing to risk in order to live fully? The Glass Kitchen is a novel of full of friends and laughter, sisters and cooking, falling in love and risking everything in order to find what it means to be family.

* * *

The Glass KitchenWith the glass kitchen, Linda Francis Lee has served up a novel that is about the courage
it takes to follow your heart and be yourself. A true recipe for life.

Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . . and never cook again. But when she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream.

The Glass Kitchen is a delicious novel, a tempestuous story of a woman washed up on the shores of Manhattan who discovers that a kitchen—like an island—can be a refuge, if only she has the courage to give in to the pull of love, the power of forgiveness, and accept the complications of what it means to be family.

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