Author Archive | marybeth

Why Secrets Are Always Appealing

Today’s Post by Author Gilly Macmillan | @GillyMacmillian

Secrets lie at the heart of my new novel, Odd Child Out. Two families find their normal lives torn apart when a mysterious incident endangers their teenage sons, leaving Noah Sadler unable to talk about what happened and his friend Abdi Mahad refusing to. As Detective Jim Clemo investigates, Abdi’s decision to be tight-lipped about the traumatic events of that night seems to be only the first in a series of powerful secrets my characters are keeping. Clemo must dig deep to get to the truth, and lives may depend on it.

As I wrote the novel, I found it was an intricate task to construct a story in which layers of secrecy are peeled away one by one until the truth about my characters is revealed. It made my own pulse race at times! I also began to reflect on why secrets are so tantalizing for both thriller writers and readers.

I believe it is because we all keep them. We guard them fiercely and occasionally blurt them out when we shouldn’t. The secrets we keep can induce significant feelings in us: guilt, shame, pleasure, self-satisfaction, and those are just a few of the big ones. There are a whole host of emotions that hover around secrets like a persistent cloud of midges, and thriller writers can make very good use of them.

If we keep secrets ourselves, it follows that people close to us are probably keeping secrets, too. Sometimes, we know what their secrets are. We might be co-guardians of that secret, or perhaps we have kept it a secret that we know their secret. Knowing about a secret, our own or somebody else’s, gives us power. And what if our parents or grandparents, friends or partners are keeping secrets from us? A few white lies? Sure! They may have made our lives feel more comfortable or secure from time to time. But what if they are big lies? Ones which can rip the rug out from underneath us? Ones which would change everything? None of us want to contemplate that. We don’t want to because in families and relationships we have no choice but to place our trust in other people, and if one of those people is keeping a secret from you, isn’t that basically the same as lying? Even if it’s lying by omission? Or perhaps that person might claim they were being protective by not telling you something that could hurt you.

The scale of secrets is significant. Some are small: ‘I never liked the curtains you picked out for the living room.’ These we can probably live with even if we feel annoyed. They probably fall under the White Lie category. Other secrets could make you re-evaluate your entire life. Consider these: ‘You have a sibling I never told you about because I had to give them up for adoption.’ ‘I am not your natural parent.’ ‘I am in love with somebody else.’

Then there are secrets which don’t just damage lives, but risk them. That could be because of what you know: ‘I know who murdered Colonel Mustard and I know where and how!’ Or it could be because you might use your knowledge of a secret in a way somebody else might not want you to. Blackmail, anybody? Knowledge is power, after all. How do you trust somebody to keep a secret, anyway? Particularly if more than one person knows about it? As Benjamin Franklin said: “Three may keep a secret. If two of them are dead.”

In a thriller such as Odd Child Out, as in life, secrets carry the potential to create anything from nuanced ripples to a full emotional tsunami. There’s more than one way to look at a secret and that can cause conflict between characters. Tension over whether an important secret may or may not be revealed can carry a thriller plot a long way. Secrets possess the power to influence human behaviour causing tension, plot twists, dramatic changes of direction, red herrings and more. Is it any wonder they are an essential item in the thriller writer’s toolkit?

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Why Worthy

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

One of the questions we asked at our #Read event recently was, “Why this book?” And what we meant by that was, of all the ideas you’ve had and all the directions your writing could go, why did you choose to write this particular book at this particular time? It’s a valid question, and one I think all writers should be able to answer about the book they’re working on. Because I think that, of course I make sure I can answer it myself.

So why this book? Why did I write When We Were Worthy?

I have teenagers. And as the parent of teenagers I understand the duality of this role. On one side you’re their parent, and you want to shield them from life with every fiber of your being. On the other, you remember being a teenager, and therefore you understand where they’re coming from. You remember the emotions, the exhilaration, the anticipation of that stage of life. And so you spend much of your parenting caught between these two realities– of shielding and letting go. You say things you wish you didn’t and you feel things you never knew possible and somehow you navigate it all. And when you fail– because you will– you learn to say I’m sorry.  I have three mothers of teens– Marglyn, Darcy, and Leah’s mom– in this novel, and they’re all just winging it. I thought that was an important message to share. I wanted to show the struggle within this role, and the ultimate satisfaction that comes from just hanging in there and doing the best you can.

I wanted to write about women who feel marginalized, victimized, and are trying to figure out how to move on. They are strong, but they have forgotten it. Both on the larger stage and in my own personal life, I see this far too often. And I wanted to write about fighting to get back on top of your life no matter how knocked down you are. I wanted to depict women who, yes, bad things happen to. But who don’t stay there. I wanted to show them figuring things out, standing up for themselves. The epigraph at the beginning of the novel is “I am not what has happened to me. I am who I choose to become.” (Carl Jung) That pretty much sums it up. I want to inspire women to live that way.

Every writer has a theme they circle back to again and again. For me that theme is secrets– and how damaging they can be. If you ever spend any time with me you find out that I’m sometimes brutally honest. I’m not sure that’s the best way to be but it’s my approach simply because I hate secrets so much. They are toxic, and their poison leeches into everything. As a writer, I like to depict that through stories. And in this story there are plenty of secrets! Not only do I like to talk about how damaging secrets can be, I also know that discovering just what those secrets are will have readers turning pages. Which is what every writer wants when they sit down at the computer each day.

So that’s a brief look at why I was compelled to tell this story at this time. I hope you will read it. I hope you will find it satisfying. And I hope it will inspire you.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Announcing our August Book Club Selection!

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

We are delighted to announce our latest “not to be missed” book club selection is THE SALT HOUSE by Lisa Duffy. We think this is the perfect novel to end summer with. A family drama that delves into loss and grief, while weaving in hope and joy in such a balanced and inspiring way–with a coastal setting at the same time (last little bit of summer!). This is the kind of novel you’ll want to have your book club read, or give a copy to a friend just so you’ll have someone to discuss it with. It’s the sort of book that finds you on the porch swing with a cup of coffee or on the patio with a glass of wine. You savor it.

And at the end? We think you’ll want to hug the novel to you, just so you can hold the Kelly family close for a moment longer… like we may have done ourselves. Enjoy your time with the Kellys. We certainly did!

Throughout the next month (Aug.15-Sept.15) you’re going to be hearing from the author, Lisa Duffy and you’ll also be seeing her gorgeous debut novel shared by our wonderful and amazing social media and blog network members. (Want to see who they are? Click here.)

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In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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What We Were Into: July 2017 Edition

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

Besides trying to 1) stay cool and 2) actually enjoy our children instead of fussing at them every time they ransacked the kitchen (I mean really, they’re like a swarm of locusts) we were obsessed with several things in July.

First and foremost we’ve been way into our event that is coming up September 17th in New Orleans.

#ReadNOLA is daylong reader’s getaway including a moveable feast luncheon, afternoon panels, and a keynote conversation between Christina Baker Kline AND Joshilyn Jackson. The good news? Registration is now officially open! Tickets are $55 and cover all activities (including lunch) from 12:00 – 6:00. Click here to purchase your tickets and to see other confirmed authors.

We were also both into this purse. The friends that buy purses together stay best friends forever. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Marybeth got it in the cognac and Ariel got it in the olive. If (when?? yes??) you see us at #ReadNOLA please compliment us on our taste in purses! And if you are nosy (we prefer calling it curious) like us, you can check out this video, which started it all. What is it about women that we really do want to see what’s in each other’s bags?

We also did do some stuff on our own (because obviously, we live 400 miles apart). Here are a few things we’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks. We’re not being paid to promote any of them. We just thought you might like them too.

Marybeth was into:

The podcast Up and Vanished. This podcast is not only riveting, it is one where, through their investigative efforts, they actually solve a cold case that is 11 years old. Since the novel I’m working on is about a missing person, I counted the hours and hours of bingeing as research, and didn’t feel bad about neglecting my life to listen one single bit. (Not much, anyway.)

I’ve also listened to a few episodes of– and really enjoyed– the podcast Book Tour With John Grisham. He comes across as genuine, self deprecating, and funny– all while being a mega-bestselling author. And he’s had some great guests with him. If you’re a writer, or a reader, which if you’re here we’re betting you are this is worth the listen. Especially if you, like me, ever find yourself in the kitchen cooking a bunch of meals to freeze in preparation for your family vacation. (Work alllll day so you can take time off from cooking. This is my approach to vacation. Surely someone else follows that logic, right?)

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve was the best book I read this month. The other ones I read were… ok. So I won’t mention them here. But this one had me rooting and cheering for the main character until the last sentence. And oh, what a last sentence it was!

The Zookeeper’s Wife was the best movie I watched this month. I loved this heroic story of people who put their lives at risk to save others. And the fact that it’s based on a true story only makes it better and more inspiring! It really got me thinking? Would I be that brave? Would I love others enough to put my life– and the lives of my family– on the line?

My husband and I are also continuing with the third season of Grantchester. If you love British dramas, this show– which I would call a cozy mystery in film form– is so, so good.

Ariel was into:

This mattress topper. My husband and I bought a new memory foam mattress about a year ago. It was really nice and really expensive but it was also really firm. Like sleeping on the sidewalk firm. Bizarre for memory foam to tell the truth. But all the reviews said it softened up over time. So we gave it time. Then more time. And then a bit more. When I finally complained that sleeping in the bathtub would be more comfortable so my husband bought this topper (on a recommendation from a friend–which is always the best kind of recommendation). I can’t even explain how much we love it. We’ve gone to bed an hour early every night since it arrived. We don’t toss and turn. We don’t wake up in the middle of the night. Heck, I don’t even think we roll over anymore. Hello eight-plus hours of sleep every night!

RoC Skincare Products. I am notorious for buying cheap face lotion and then regretting it. Do that often enough and it’s not cheap anymore. So, on a recent pass through the drugstore, I upgraded to RoC night cream on a whim. It was less than $20 and much to my surprise, it worked. So I bought the day cream. Then the eye cream. Then the serum. The products work even better together and I love them. Yes, I know I sound like a commercial. But I’ve never actually used anything on my face that does get rid of fine lines and wrinkles before. I’m just…stunned.

My first Stephen King novel in twenty-two years. I finally bought a hardcover copy of 11/22/63 and now I remember why I spent five years in my teens reading everything of his I could get my hands on. The man is a genius. He’s the master. All hail the King!

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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When We Were Worthy: Cover Reveal!

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

A cover must boil down an entire novel into one image– a picture that says “read me,” that communicates the tone of the story, and gives you an idea of what the story is about in a single glance. To say we’re crazy about the cover for Marybeth’s new novel, WHEN WE WERE WORTHY, would be a huge understatement. We adore this cover!

WHEN WE WERE WORTHY is out 9/12/17 so mark your calendars– or, better yet, preorder your copy today. About the book:

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

 

 

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Author to Author– Marybeth Whalen and Karen White, Part Two

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Karen White | @MarybethWhalen and @KarenWhiteWrite

We’re back today with part two of our “Author To Author” conversation between Karen White and our own Marybeth Whalen. Since both of their novels were inspired by where they live, we thought you’d like to listen in on a conversation about how they turned familiar locations into tales of suspense. If you missed part one, just click here to read!

And if you’re looking for good books to share with your book club, with a reading friend, or just with yourself, look no further than The Night The Lights Went Out and The Things We Wish Were True.

Now, on with the conversation– this time Karen’s asking Marybeth the questions!

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Karen White: In The Things We Wish Were True, you’ve set the story in small town North Carolina. Since you live in a small NC town, I’m wondering if that was your inspiration for the setting?

Marybeth Whalen: Not only was my town (a suburb of Charlotte) the inspiration, my own neighborhood was! If you read the book and then visited where I live, the setting would seem very familiar. All my neighbors know that I used our neighborhood– but I’ve had to assure all of them that I didn’t use any of the people. Any similarities are purely coincidental.

Karen White: There seems to be a fresh crop of “suburbia” settings in contemporary fiction over the last year or so. Why do you think this setting is so appealing to readers and why did you chose to move your setting from the NC coast, where many of your previous books are set, to the suburbs?

Marybeth Whalen: Actually my second novel, She Makes It Look Easy, was also set in a suburb of Charlotte, and back then it was something I wanted to explore further, but alas the publisher wanted more romantic beach books. So I wrote a few more of those and then circled back to this setting that I love, because it’s where I live– physically and emotionally. The suburbs are such rich places to mine for material– mostly because we all work so hard to be happy, yet inevitable life stuff sneaks in and strives to mess that up. Exploring how human beings react to this tension between perfection and reality gives a writer so much to dig into. There’s definitely a dark side to suburbia. I like to expose the darkness, but also, ultimately, to offer hope in the midst of it.

Karen White: Your book is about secrets from the past. Was there a real secret that inspired this book?

Marybeth Whalen: Gosh I wish I could say yes– that would make this interview so much juicier! But no, I made it all up.

Karen White: Since you’re writing a book close to home, were you tempted to use real people? And are there any characters inspired by real people in the book?

Marybeth Whalen: There is one scene in the book that was taken straight from real life, but I added some changes because, fiction. (I won’t tell you which one though.) Many of my situations/characters are created when I look at a real life person/situation and think “Ok, I see this or that. But what if…” And then I just let my mind go.

Karen White: Please share your secret for the juggling you do with your writing and blogging while raising six children. If there’s a recipe for a power drink please post the recipe in the space below.

Marybeth Whalen: There are two power drinks, actually. Coffee and wine. 🙂 And as for my secret, you can’t do it all. So just handle whatever is screaming loudest and let the rest go. It all comes back around eventually.

Thanks Karen– we so appreciated you sharing with us this week!

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Author to Author: Karen White and Marybeth Whalen, Part One

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Karen White | @MarybethWhalen and @KarenWhiteWrite

Today we’re featuring a conversation between our own Marybeth Whalen and bestselling and (beloved) author Karen White in which they discuss Karen’s new novel, THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, Marybeth’s recent novel THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, and what it’s like to draw from your own life and surroundings when writing. Be sure to come back on Wednesday to hear the other half of the conversation!

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Marybeth Whalen: With prior books you’ve dealt with secrets buried in the past. In your new novel you’re delving into secrets buried in suburbia. Though a bit of a shift for you, did you find any similarities in the writing process?

Karen White: I actually planned this book to take place strictly in the present. And then I met one of my main characters, 93-year-old Sugar Prescott, and I felt the pull to discover her past which meant that I needed to bring the reader with me. So, technically, this book does delve into secrets of the past…AND the present. Writing a contemporary mystery was challenging (so much to learn!) but a great experience for stretching my writing muscles. I really loved tying the two stories together and finding what the common elements were. In this case, it was ultimately about friendships, past and present.

Marybeth Whalen: Is Sweet Apple based on a real place? If so, where?

Karen White It is! It’s based on the Atlanta suburb of Milton, Georgia where I have lived for almost 25 years. Our historic downtown area is called “Crabapple” so I thought Sweet Apple was a good substitute.

Marybeth Whalen: What was enjoyable about writing a more contemporary/”closer to home” novel? What was harder?

Karen White Writing a story set where I live and in a contemporary time period sounds easy–but in many ways it made it harder. I needed to make sure that anyone living in a suburban setting could relate to the story and characters–not just Atlantans. And I also had to make sure that any of the characters that may or may not have been inspired by real people were fictionalized enough to make them unrecognizable.

What really was enjoyable was being able to sit out on my back porch and describe what the seasons looked and felt like–the best kind of research!

Marybeth Whalen: How did a near collision inspire this novel?

Karen White I was in the middle of fishing about in my head for my next book, looking everywhere for inspiration to add to what else had already been brewing in my head. Around this time my daughter was doing some work with the local historical society and was eagerly telling me about the rich history of the area going back since before the Cherokees. I’d never really thought my hometown had an interesting past and, as a lover of history, I was fascinated.

Then one day, while going through one of our new and numerous roundabouts, I nearly rear-ended a giant white SUV with a ton of stickers covering the rear window. Within a couple of seconds I knew everything about the family who owned the vehicle–including the driver as her license plate read YERSERV. Yes, tennis is a big thing in the Atlanta ‘burbs.

That’s when it occurred to me that if I ever wanted to write a book set where I live, I had the bookends for the story. All I needed to do was fill in the middle parts. And that’s how THE NIGHT THE LGHTS WENT OUT was born.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Join Us For A Chat With Lake Union Authors!

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

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Marybeth Whalen’s latest novel, The Things We Wish Were True, was published by Lake Union Publishing, a division of Amazon. Lake Union Publishing offers absorbing works of contemporary and historical fiction that make perfect book club picks. From lush sagas to laugh-out-loud fare, Lake Union Publishing has a story for every taste, season, and mood, from bestselling and debut authors alike.

And Tuesday, March 7th, over 30 amazing authors will be hanging out on Twitter under the #LakeUnionAuthor hashtag to chat with readers and other writers, and each one is offering up a giveaway!! (See the bottom of this post to find out how to enter the She Reads giveaway.)

Here’s what a few of the participating authors had to say about why they’re looking forward to this historic event:

I’ll be at the Twitter party late in the day, as I’m currently living in Singapore. I’m curious to hear what everyone is reading and enjoying, and to earwig conversations with my fellow Lake Union Authors. —  Jo Furniss, author of the forthcoming All The Little Children

There’s no better reward for authors than connecting with readers. Our twitter chat is a great chance to have some fun, meet new people, greet old friends and giveaway lots of books! — Patricia Sands, author of the Love in Provence series

“I’m a chatterbox so I can’t wait to join the other LU authors for a gabfest. I’ll be talking about my favorite subjects: food and books!” — Nicola Marsh, author of Saving Sara

Hearing from readers is one of the best parts of writing a novel! You’d think it would go the other way around, but talking to readers I often end up learning something new about my book; something I’d never thought about! (And I’ve thought about it a lot!!!) — Nancy Star, author of Sisters One, Two, Three

I love hearing from readers because it’s so often a story—a connection from real life—that I hear back in return for the story the book told. The writing life can be pretty isolated and lonely at times, and connecting with readers makes it feel like we’re sharing in the love of books and the exchange of the stories that change and challenge and stay with us for life. — Joy Jordan Lake, author of the forthcoming novel A Tangled Mercy

 

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Joining the party on March 7th is easy: log onto Twitter anytime between 4:30 and 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. In the Twitter search window, type #LakeUnionAuthors to see the entire chat. Ask questions, and follow the links to the giveaways being offered. You can also go to the Twitter page of your favorite author (for example, go to @SteenaHolmes for Steena Holmes’s Twitter page) and see her conversation. Many authors will continue chatting after the designated time slot. The times each will appear:

4:30 pm EST:
Nancy Star @NancyStarAuthor
Kay Bratt @KayBratt
Nicola Marsh @NicolaMarsh
Rochelle Weinstein @rochwein
Aimie K Runyan @aimiekrunyan
Camille Pagán @cnoepagan
J A Stone @jastoneauthor
Melissa DePino & Elizabeth Trostler @missydepino and @elizabethlaban
Soraya Nicholas @Soraya_Lane

5:15 pm EST:
Joy Jordan-Lake @joyjordanlake
Mary (M.K.) Tod @MKTodAuthor
Catherine Ryan Hyde @cryanhyde
Maddie Dawson @maddiedawson1

6:00 pm EST:
Steena Holmes @steenaholmes
Virginia Franken @virginiafranken
Barbara Taylor Sissel @barbarasissel
Patricia Sands @patricia_sands
Thelma Adams @thelmadams
Christine Nolfi @christinenolfi

6:45 pm EST:
Barbara Claypole White @bclaypolewhite
Dina Silver @DinaSilver
Elizabeth Blackwell @eblackwellbooks
Lisa Steinke @lizandlisa
Jo Furniss @Jo_Furniss
Heather Burch @HeatherBurch

7:00 pm EST
Kerry Lonsdale @kerrylonsdale
Suzanne Kelman @suzkelman
Marybeth Whalen @marybethwhalen @shereadsbookCLB

7:30 pm EST:
Camille Di Maio @camilledimaio
Grace Greene @Grace_Greene
Megan Chance @MeganSChance
Barbara Josselsohn @barbarajoss
Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter
Marilyn Simon Rothstein @NounsandVerbs1

8:15 pm EST:
Catherine McKenzie @cemckenzie1
Loretta Nyhan @LorettaNyhan
Patricia Perry Donovan @PatPDonovan
Kerry Anne King @kerry_anne_king
D.M. Pulley @DMPulleyAuthor

Leave a comment here to win a copy of both my novel, The Things We Wish Were True, and my She Reads partner, Ariel Lawhon’s novel Flight of Dreams. See you on Tuesday!

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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What We (Were) Into: February 2017 Edition

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

February was a short month– but that doesn’t mean we didn’t pack it full of fun stuff. Milder temps and a month devoted to love mades for multiple chances to celebrate with family and friends.

What Marybeth Was Into

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Bookish events: A gathering of published authors in my area for a happy hour that turned into dinner. Appearing with several author friends at the very library I grew up going to. (A full circle moment for sure.) Lunch with author friends at a local winery. Visiting with a book club that served brownie batter dip with lots of fun things to dip into it!

Reading novels I couldn’t put down. I read THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH, NUTSHELL, and THE MARRIAGE LIE (among other things, but these were the stand-outs)– and flew through all of them.

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Valentine’s Day: flowers from my husband, our traditional “red” meal (spaghetti and cherry soda) with something chocolate for dessert, and the annual daddy/daughter dance.

A girls’ weekend with my cousin, who also served as the legal advisor for my newest novel. It’s possible I asked her way too many questions about her work as an assistant district attorney while we were together. We ate delicious food, sipped wine, talked a blue streak, and watched Oscar nominated movies. And speaking of the Oscars– and my widely-proclaimed love of La La Land– let’s just not talk about what happened, k?

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Planning a new novel. This is my favorite part, when the story is still fresh and new and hasn’t given me any problems yet. I haven’t written myself into any corners, forgotten what I named the main character’s sister’s best friend, or discovered I have more things to research. Instead it’s all possibility and promise.

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Planning in general. I’m loving these Frixion erasable pens and my duck egg blue personal size Filofax. My love for planners is as strong is my love for story. And that’s saying quite a lot.

What Ariel Was Into

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To be completely honest, I didn’t do anything in February except finish my novel. That’s it. No fun. No adventures or trips or get-together’s with friends. I wrote. Edited. Revised. Polished. As you know, I had pneumonia in January so it was easy enough to decide that exercise was non-essential and bad for my health. But I also decided that cleaning the house and doing laundry was optional. Grocery shopping happened on a minimal basis and only when we were down to powdered milk and ramen noodles. My husband brought home pizza a lot. We also ate out more than usual. I didn’t get much sleep. You don’t even want to know about the decline in my personal grooming habits.

But I am happy to report that I sent the finished manuscript for I WAS ANASTASIA to my editor on Friday. It was a really tricky project and required every ounce of skill (and then some) that I possess in the areas of research and writing. It’s another historical mystery with multiple narrators and a unique structure. Now that it’s done (and din’t kill me), I can finally share a bit about the book. Here’s the semi-official description:

Ariel Lawhon has set her sights on one of history’s most beguiling mysteries: Did Anastasia Romanov survive the Russian Revolution, or was Anna Anderson, the woman who notoriously claimed her identity, an impostor?

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who this woman is and what actually happened to Anastasia creates a saga that spans fifty years and three continents. This thrilling page-turner is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

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The view from my office at sunset. Because I spent so much time at my desk last month, this is the sight that greeted me every day around 5:30. I would often stand in the bay window that looks out on our back yard and stare at this sight. And then, once the colors melted into darkness, I got back to work.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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The One Book You Should Read This Winter

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

Technically we’re recommending two books today. So please forgive us the title of this post. But it was inspired by a conversation Ariel and I had recently about reading in general and book recommendations specifically. We wondered what we would say if someone told us they only had time to read one book this winter. What would we tell them to read? It’s an interesting question and it forced us to think about the books that have truly captured our imaginations recently. So we’re answering it here and we hope it inspires you to both read these novels and to share your own recommendation. We’ll be out and about on social media today using the hashtag #onebookwinter and we’d love you to join us!

Marybeth:

I’m a sucker for a good page turner. Give me a murder, a small town, and some folks keeping secrets and I’m hooked. So that’s why my #onebookwinter is EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE by Mindy Mejia. A novel about the investigation and aftermath of the murder of a beautiful teenager in a small town, this book is about far more than who done it.

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**Email readers can view the video here.

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Everything you want me to beFull of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

Ariel:

In the spring of 2016 I found myself in a miserable reading drought. I started book after book only to abandon them a few pages in. Nothing seemed to click. It happens from time to time and it’s always discouraging but I have learned to wait and pay attention and the right book will come at the right time. So when TWO IF BY SEA by Jacquelyn Mitchard showed up on my doorstep I just knew it was the one. I could feel it from the first page. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never read one her novels before. She’s one of those authors that I have missed along the way but I am now besotted with her and will go back and find everything she’s ever written. I actually dreamed about the characters in TWO IF BY SEA when I wasn’t reading. I counted down the hours until I could pick it up again. I loved it. Just utterly loved it. And when I was finished I wrote her to say how much the book meant to me. (This is something I’ve started doing since my near-miss with Pat Conroy). Ten months have passed and I still think about this book on a regular basis. That, I think, is the gift of reading. And it’s why I’m recommending this novel today.

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**Email readers can view the video here.

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart.

TwoIfBySeaJust hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child’s life with only seconds to spare. In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm.

The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life.

If you could only recommend one book this winter what would it be?

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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