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

Tap Tap… is this thing on? Is anyone there?

 

We admit… it’s been awhile. If you’re still hanging around, or if you’re looping back to hear what we have to say, let us start by saying thank you for being here. You’re the main reason we’re writing this post today. Let us explain:

 

We took some serious time this fall and into the holidays to do some She Reads soul searching. We’ve been doing this gig for lo these many years (ten to be exact) and… we were tired. Publishing multiple books, raising our respective children (many of whom are teenagers now– gulp!), taking on the role of event planners for the #Read event, and trying to keep up with She Reads left us overwhelmed.

 

In November we announced we were retiring our book club. And that brought a great deal of relief. But there was something we were missing still. We landed on what it was as we have landed on many things; accidentally and quite unexpectedly:

 

What if we got back to what we once were?

 

And so, we have decided to move forward with She Reads, by going back.

 

Back to those two moms who used to call each other to talk about a book we just read because we had to talk about it with someone.

 

Back to where we aren’t busy with the wrong things (numbers and promotion) and are focusing on the right ones (great stories).

 

Back to buying books with our own money that we want to read instead of getting buried under an avalanche of free books that have arrived at our house that we feel obliged to do something with.

 

Back to reading slowly, to savoring stories.

 

Back to simple and meaningful.

 

Back to connection, which is why we started the site in the first place– to connect with other readers out there who, like us, loved to read and wanted a place where they could talk about and share those great stories.

 

And so, that is what we are doing; that is our new direction for 2018. We are going back.

 

In the coming weeks we will be sharing in more detail what that is going to look like. We hope that you will join us. And if you are not already, please follow us and leave comments over on Instagram, as that is where we both spend a lot of time these days. You can also follow our personal accounts: Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon.

 

As we said, stay tuned– lots more to come! We are happy and at peace with this new direction and we hope that happiness and peace is evident as we go back, and forward. No matter which direction we’re going, we hope you’ll be with us.

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

 

There is something therapeutic–restful, even–about the changing of seasons. And we, at She Reads, are stepping into a major new season. After almost ten years, we will be retiring our book club next month. We’ve shared well over one hundred novels as official selections and we’ve read over ten times that many in the process. (No wonder we have reading fatigue!) This has been great fun and we’re not going anywhere, but we are ready to try something new (more on that in January). For now we are simply going to introduce you to one more amazing novel. And then we are going to rest through the holidays.

Shortly after She Reads was founded I (Ariel) met a writer named Joy Jordan-Lake who would, unbeknownst to me, become a dear friend. At the time I had just gotten the idea for The Wife The Maid And The Mistress and she was working on a novel called A Tangled Mercy. We stayed in contact and, believe it or not, we read each other’s early drafts and offered input. When Joy finished her novel I put her in contact with my agent who loved the book as much as I did. They began working together immediately and it sold shortly thereafter. A Tangled Mercy will be published on November 1st.

Here is what I can say about Joy: she is brave. I respect her immensely. And she is one of the most naturally gifted authors I’ve ever met. It is an honor to call her friend and it is an honor to have her novel, A Tangled Mercy, as our final book club selection. It has everything I love in a story: history, romance, suspense, beauty, impossible odds, bravery, tragedy, hope, and redemption. It is the kind of novel you remember.

We hope you will join us on this last adventure and we hope you love this story too.

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Told in alternating tales at once haunting and redemptive, A Tangled Mercy is a quintessentially American epic rooted in heartbreaking true events examining the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, and our enduring hope for freedom and forgiveness.

After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture—and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt—the subject of her mother’s own research.

Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves.

Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.

You can get your copy of A Tangled Mercy here.

You can add A Tangled Mercy to your Goodreads list here.

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Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

There is nothing quite like seeing the cover of your book for the first time. It’s nothing at all like seeing your child for the first time because with a child you have some idea what you are going to get. There is no looking in the mirror or at your spouse and making an educated guess. With a book cover you are utterly clueless. Your words are turned into an image by a cover designer you have likely never met. It is their job to capture the essence of what you have written, to tell a visual story based on your actual story. The whole thing is a wonderful, baffling experience for me. Wonderful because the anticipation is delicious. Baffling because I could no sooner create a book cover than a stained glass window. The only art I’m capable of making is that which you find on the page. I am a one trick pony. I can’t even write poetry much less sing, dance, or paint.

That said, I am besotted with the cover for my new novel. It is perfect. And I think it perfectly captures the mystery found within its pages. Friends, I give you, officially, the cover for I WAS ANASTASIA:

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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?

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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.

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