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

Marybeth Whalen

 

For me April was a month of travel— a week at lovely Sunset Beach NC with our kids for spring break and a quick four days in Cabo San Lucas for my husband’s company. So I can start off by saying I was into the ocean this month. How could you not be with views like this?

Aside from travel, I was also into reading. I did more reading in April than I’ve done in past months. I enjoyed the novels HOW WILL I KNOW YOU by Jessica Treadway,  BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman and THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson.

In April I was into Easter, of course. We had a relaxing and fun Easter Sunday as a family at church and at a local restaurant for lunch after. I didn’t have to cook which was the first year ever– and is something I plan to repeat! I also got a photo of all 6 of my kids in one place. Now that they’re older that is quite rare and very special.

Time with author friends— twice this month I got to hang out with fellow local authors, which is both fun and inspiring. Pictured are Kim Wright (author of Last Ride To Graceland), Erika Marks (author of The Last Treasure) and Sarah Creech (author of the forthcoming Whole Way Home).

I was into planners, which is nothing new. But this month I tried the B6 size of traveler’s notebook and I think it’s going to end up being my favorite size to plan in. It’s 5X7– just small enough to be portable, just large enough to be able to write in comfortably. I currently have five inserts in my traveler’s notebook: monthly, weekly, daily, lists, and on the go notes.

(Don’t know what traveler’s notebooks are? That’s ok. I didn’t either. I suggest going on You Tube and putting “traveler’s notebook” in the search bar. Warning: There’s a lot there to watch. My apologies for the lost days of your life.)

I’m also still using my bullet journal. I call it my “notes on life” book– the place where I take notes on things I find online, podcasts I listen to, quotes I come across, thoughts on writing projects– whatever’s on my mind that I don’t want to forget. Together, these two implements are helping me stay (somewhat) on top of things.

I was also into the cover of my new novel, which I can finally show you guys! We will be revealing the cover in the next day or so– so please come back if you’re curious!

Ariel Lawhon

Field Trips. I went with my nine-year-old to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing! I’ll be honest, I have, historically, been a total failure in the area of chaperoning field trips. They’re so exhausting and I’m always in the middle of a big project. But I made myself carve out time for this one and I’m so glad I did. My son was elated that I went with his class. And honestly, I loved every moment. We saw every conceivable type of fish in some of the most stunning exhibits you can imagine. We were ambushed by a sting ray. We saw Wild Africa in IMAX. We played with butterflies. Also, I am now completely obsessed with jellyfish. (as you can see from my instagram account)

Edits. What can I say, writing a novel wouldn’t be so hard if it wasn’t so daily. You have to show up, at your desk every day. And then the next day. And the next. Until it’s done. Only it’s not done because then you have edits. Then line edits. Then copy edits. Then first pass pages. And sometimes, second pass pages as well. This is what we sign up for when we decide to be novelists. And this particular novel–I WAS ANASTASIA–is forcing me to work harder than I’ve ever worked on anything in my life (I’ll share more about that in the near future). And this is a good thing. I have grown as a writer because of every long, hard day invested in this book.

Baseball. Have I mentioned that all four of my boys play baseball? Well, they do. Which means that twice a year we go into full baseball mode around here. Like, watch 80+ games in two months kind of baseball mode. On a practical level that means we eat a lot of sandwiches and crock pot meals and concession stand hot dogs. I’m not gonna lie, it’s bedlam. But my gosh, I love it. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on a warm spring night (and all day Saturday) than the bleachers cheering on my guys. That said, I won’t lie: “rainout” is my new favorite word.

Reading for pleasure (instead of for work). Now that I’m no longer in research mode for my Romanov novel, I’m enjoying reading for fun again. Earlier this year I read the first two books in Sarah J. Maas’ A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES series and enjoyed them immensely. I’m saving book three, which released this week, as my reward for finishing edits on my own novel in a couple weeks. My to-be-read piles are toppling over but that’s okay because a reading life is a happy life.

My Bullet Journal. I’m not what you’d call the organized type. But man, I really love my bullet journal. Marybeth harassed me for almost a year and I finally gave in and started one last summer. Life-changing sounds very cliche. But I don’t know how else to describe the way this has affected my day-to-day life. Between deadlines and baseball and end of year activities, my bullet journal has made sure that I don’t let anything fall through the cracks. Amen and amen.

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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!

April Collage

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!

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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!

April Collage

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.

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

Spring Books

The weather is growing warm again. The sun is beginning to make regular appearances. Flowers are budding. And we are back with two fabulous book club selections. Yes, it’s been a while but we like to think these two books are worth the wait. One of them is by an all-time favorite author and the other a debut. Both are beautifully written. Captivating. Memorable. Both explore the dynamics of love and family. Both will leave you with your heart in your throat. You will go for a voyage on the famed Queen Mary and then you will search for a missing husband. You will, we believe, be unable to look away as these stories unfold before you.

So, without further ado, we give you our spring book club selections:

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Bridge Across the OceanA BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN by Susan Meissner

Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.
 
February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

**Read an excerpt of A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN here.

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Almost Missed YouALMOST MISSED YOU by Jessica Strawser

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always.

They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

**Read an excerpt of ALMOST MISSED YOU here.

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Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

It’s no secret that any thriller worth its salt is built on lies and we’ve found three upcoming novels by three of our favorite authors that master the art of deceit. Make sure you add these three books to your reading list.

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lie to meLIE TO ME by J.T. Ellison

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

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one perfect lieONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin’s baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

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Every last lieEVERY LAST LIE by Mary Kubica

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

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