Archive | Featured Book Club Selection

Jennie Shortridge, In Her Own Words

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Jennie Shortridge | @JennieShortridg

Jennie Shortridge

Jennie Shortridge

If I could tell my 12-year-old self that it all worked out just fine, that the books I read voraciously and the stories and poems I wrote with such a broken heart would lead to a later-life career of actually having my own novels published? Well, I don’t know if I would, even though it would have eased my young anxious mind. Over the decades I’ve learned that it’s the journey through that is most important, even though the outcome can be so sweet.

My journey, like most journeys, includes hardship (a mom with mental illness, an adult life that began at 17, and tons of early writing rejection) and indelible moments of joy, success, and love. All of it contributes to the stories I write about people who face difficult things and find a way through, not around. Such is the case with my latest novel, Love Water Memory, in which Lucie awakens, knee-deep in the San Francisco Bay, having no knowledge of who she is or where she is, or how she got there. Inspired by true events, this story examines how and why we become who we are, how we identify with the world, who we choose to love, sometimes again and again.

Love Water MemoryThe true events in Love Water Memory started with the story of Jeff and Penny Ingram, who dealt with Jeff’s amnesia in their own relationship. Their story and their love for each other are inspirational. As I was writing my fictional story, I wrote a very difficult scene, one that would take me a couple of weeks to realize came from my own life. Writing it helped me talk about my own issues with anxiety disorder more publicly, and to advocate for destigmatizing mental illness in order to make much-needed advancements in how we treat it, talk about it, and accept it as part of life just as we do physical illness. To read more about my story, read this Psychology Today piece.

What I’m most thankful for as a writer is readers, who, like me, pick up a book ready for adventure and perhaps a different perspective on something we all ponder, whether it’s identity or family or relationships. I love those “aha” moments when reading a novel, when the characters do or feel something achingly true, yet I’d never put my finger on it before. That’s why I love, have always loved, fiction so much: it tells the emotional truth even while spinning a not-quite-true story. And that I get to write it now? Well, my inner 12-year-old is very happy about that.

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Jennie Shortridge has written five acclaimed novels, including Love Water Memory and When She Flew. When she is not writing or volunteering, she stays busy as a co-founder of Seattle7Writers.org, a nonprofit collective of authors whose mission is to promote literacy in their community.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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January Book Club Selection

LoveWaterMemory Collage

We’re back! And we hope the last few weeks have been as restful and restorative for you as they have been for us. We read. We napped. We baked lots of ridiculously fattening goodies with sticky-fingered little people. And as glorious as our time off has been, the entire She Reads team is ready to get back to business. We’re craving structure. We’re eager to introduce you to some amazing novels this year. And with all the coming book-love we have a few surprises as well. We’re redesigning our website from the ground up. A bit of the design is on display today but there’s much more on the way. All of these changes will help us better serve YOU.

So without further ado, let us step into a new year of books…

Our first book club pick of 2014 became known around our (virtual) office as “the book that got away.” We first read LOVE WATER MEMORY by Jennie Shortridge in April of last year. And we loved it. But our selections had already been chosen for the next six months. So we invited Jennie to write a guest post and we set the novel aside with deep regret. That happens sometimes, I’m afraid. So many beautiful novels, so little time. Yet it was one of those novels that we kept thinking about. A traumatized woman. A secret buried within the folds of her unreliable memory. A man desperate to hold onto her, even as she slips away. And above all, the tender hope of second chances and genuine healing. There was nothing neat and tidy about this novel. It was real and gritty and beautiful. We walked with Lucie and Grady through every aching, authentic step of their journey. So we are jumping at the opportunity to choose it as our January book club selection. Newly released in paperback, we are confident that you will find LOVE WATER MEMORY not only as delightful and compelling as we did, but also the perfect book to begin 2014–the year of epic reading.

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* * * Love Water Memory

If you could do it all over again, would you still choose him?

At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future—if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.

Add LOVE WATER MEMORY to your Goodreads to-read list.

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Jennie Shortridge

Jennie Shortridge

Seattle author Jennie Shortridge’s latest novel, LOVE WATER MEMORY, released in April 2013. She has published four other acclaimed novels: WHEN SHE FLEWLOVE AND BIOLOGY AT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSEEATING HEAVEN, and RIDING WITH THE QUEEN. Her nonfiction work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, and her one-and-only published short story, “Simpatico,” launched her novel writing career in 1997. When not writing, teaching writers workshops, or volunteering, Jennie stays busy as a founding member of Seattle7Writers.org, a collective of authors devoted both to raising funds for community literacy projects and to raising awareness of Northwest literature. In her previous lives she has been a plumber, a cook, and a working musician. No, she cannot fix your toilet, but she is hard at work on her next novel. 

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Joshilyn Jackson

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Joshilyn Jackson | @JoshilynJackson

Joshilyn JacksonSOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY features two sets of male/female best friends: Walcott and Shandi, William and Paula. Shandi falls for William in chapter one, when they are caught together in a robbery gone bad and William steps between the gun and Shandi’s little son.

I wanted the romantic focus to stay on William and Shandi, and yet they each had a best friend of the opposite sex. There was too much possibility! Love is powerful, and sex is sneaky. They can sprout between the most unlikely people.

Here’s the short (very expurgated) version of my own love story: I met Scott when I was a 19 and he was 20. We were both theatre majors. He was a long, gangly fellow, very quiet, very introspective. His silence set him apart from the flamboyant gaggle of wild actors I ran with. I gravitated to it.

I learned he was a shameless geek with a thousand comic books kept mint in special plastic sleeves and a secret dream to one day ride the space shuttle. He reminded me of a German shepherd puppy, a little goofy, with skinny legs and feet way too big for his body.

He quickly became my best friend. Back then, if you had asked me if men and women could be just friends, I would have jerked my thumb at Scott and said, “Obviously. ”

Scott and JoshilynBut as the years passed, the German Shepherd puppy grew into his giant feet. Love and Sex twined around us and ate us up, whole, so fast and sly I didn’t notice —until I did. Then I married him and had his charming babies, and I still like him best. The end.

When I wanted to write about male/female best friend sets in SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY, I had to find a way to take possibility out of the equation. Granted, not every man and woman who become friends end up in bed—but as long as they stay out of bed, the possibility remains. Turns out, possibility is harder to remove than sex itself.

I couldn’t make the dynamics work until I took away the speculation; I made both pairs of friends have sex with each other before the novel begins. It was the only thing that worked! I found no way to get my characters around possibility, so I moved them through it. Through it, and into something else.

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SOMEONE ELSE'S LOVE STORYSomeone Else’s Love Story  is beloved and highly acclaimed  New York Times  bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson’s funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be.

Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced parents. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up and falling in love with William Ashe, who willingly steps between the robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his world. But William doesn’t define destiny the way others do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in facts and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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November Book Club Selection

SELS Cropped

This month’s book club selection is absolutely worth the wait. We’ve long been fans of Joshilyn Jackson and have waited eagerly for her newest book to arrive. We got early copies of SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY and fell in love with the characters immediately. A young, single mother. A charming, genius child. A broken, gifted man. The best friend who never turns away. It’s a story about miracles and redemption and finding the truth when the truth seems impossible. It is classic Joshilyn Jackson and it’s her best novel yet. We adored this book.

But here’s the deal. You can’t actually buy a copy for eight more days. It doesn’t officially publish until November 19th. Don’t fret, however, we have five copies of SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY up for grabs this week. (See the entry form below for details) And Joshilyn will be with be with us the entire month sharing exclusive content including pictures of her writing space, the inspiration behind the novel, and the short story prequel to the novel (among other things). In the mean time you can pre-order a copy of the novel at your local independent bookstore or the links provided here so that you have the book in your hot little hands the moment it’s available.

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SOMEONE ELSE'S LOVE STORY SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY  is beloved and highly acclaimed  New York Times  bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson’s funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be.

Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced parents. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up and falling in love with William Ashe, who willingly steps between the robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his world. But William doesn’t define destiny the way others do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in facts and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.

Add SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY on Goodreads.

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Can’t wait until the 19th to get a taste of SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY? Well, friends, you’re in luck.  MY OWN MIRACULOUS  will tide you over. Pick up a copy when you pre-order SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY and get a running start at the novel. My Own Miraculous

From  New York Times  bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson comes an e-original short story that gives a fierce and funny character from  SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY  a standalone adventure all her own.

Shandi Pierce got pregnant when she was only seventeen years old. She fell for her son—deeply, instantly, completely—but as she sat at the table feeding him, her own mother was sliding eggs and bacon onto her plate, feeding her. Now, four years later, Shandi is still more parented than parent.

She lives with her mom, her dad pays her bills, and her best friend, Walcott, acts as her white knight. But Natty is no ordinary kid, and when his savant behavior catches the attention of an obsessive stranger, only Shandi sees the true menace.

To protect her son, Shandi must grow up—fast—and find an answer to the question, how can a girl remake herself into a mother?

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Joshilyn JacksonJoshilyn Jackson is the New York Times Bestselling author of GODS IN ALABAMA, BETWEEN, GEORGIA, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, BACKSEAT SAINTS, and A GROWN  UP KIND OF PRETTY.  SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY is her most recent novel.  Her short novella, MY OWN MIRACULOUS, is the prequel to SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY, and is available as an e book and an audio download.

She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband and their two kids. She loves Bourbon and Hot Yoga (not together) and she has more dogs than you. Unless you have three.  Joshilyn is  also an award winning audiobook narrator.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Jojo Moyes On That Elusive Work-Life Ballance

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Jojo Moyes | @JojoMoyes

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes

There are few words as likely to elicit a snort of laughter in our house than 'work-life balance’. I have great intentions, to be sure;   there is almost no week that goes by that I don’t promise myself this will be the week I will take long walks in the middle of the day, that I will cook slow meals, take more exercise, that I will just sit with the children without muttering the words: “I just need to put this wash on. ” I’m not sure my husband even tries.

We get up at 6am and start work as soon as we wake; it’s not that we are natural earlybirds (you only have to see my face as he shoves the first cup of coffee into my hand to know that), but with three children, a farm full of animals, and a schedule so complicated that it sometimes requires diagrams to even understand it, you can be sure that if you do not work in the clear moments, the rest of the day will get eaten up by vets’ appointments or school meetings or household disasters or just the tide of domestic ephemera that seems to encroach every day.

We work when we can because we have both been freelance (my husband now works for a newspaper) and once you have lived from erratic paycheck to paycheck you never feel quite confident that the work will continue. I have spent enough years as an only moderately successful author not to take the last two years’ success for granted, so much of it has been spent on the road (four trips to the US alone), trying to consolidate this extraordinary burst of popularity. My husband and I have nicknamed it 'the year of stamina’. My children simply raise their eyes and ask me, sarcastically, who I am again?

But here’s the secret we don’t dare tell them. We do it because we’re trying to give them security, yes. But we also do it because we love it. Oh sure those of us who complain about work-life balance moan about how tired we are, and how we want to create more time for ourselves. But I suspect many of us wouldn’t know what to do with it. Because it is a privilege to do a job that you love, to spend your working life lost in the thing you’ve always wanted to do. It is a privilege to be able to make a living from it.

And so while yes, I am doing my best to spend more time hanging out with my children and working on my upper arms, there is still nothing I like more than heading up the stairs to my office knowing that I am about to do an uninterrupted 12 hour writing shift.

Balanced, probably not. But if you are lucky enough to do the thing you love then perhaps there is no need for balance. It’s as bizarre as saying that you should love your partner or children 'in moderation’.

Don’t forget that we’re giving away all three of Jojo’s novels this month. See this post for entry details.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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September Book Club Selection

The Husband's Secret Cropped

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this giveaway is Sara Thorp. Thanks to all who entered! And don’t forget to check back soon. We have lots of great giveaways lined up for the rest of this year.

I will read anything Liane Moriarty writes. Novel. Essay. Grocery list. Anything. There are maybe five authors that I can truly say that about, and Liane has earned her spot on the list with a remarkable consistency of storytelling and human insight. I can not think of any other author who taps into the female psyche the way she does. And when I pick up one of her novels I have this aerie sensation that someone has been reading my email. She has an inherent grasp on the doubts, fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and desires most common to my gender. And when you combine that with a gift for constantly surprising her readers, the result is magic every single time. So when we heard that she had a new novel coming out this fall we reserved a spot at the top of our to-read pile. And when the book came in, we were not disappointed. THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is Liane Moriarty at her best. (Though we also adored her first two novels)

Liane Moriarty Novels

There are few things more fun than reading a book you love only to discover that the author has a backlist. There’s no waiting a year or more for her next book to come out. You can go directly to the bookstore and indulge in her storytelling for a little while longer. Liane’s first two novels, WHAT ALICE FORGOT and THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY earned her a wide and loyal audience. They are just as spellbinding as THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. And we’re giving all three novels away to one lucky winner! Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered.

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The Husband's SecretAbout this month’s book club selection:

At the heart of THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is a letter that’s not meant to be read.

“My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…”

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret–something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all–she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But a letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia–or each other–but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is possible to really know our spouses–and, ultimately, ourselves.

Read the first chapter here.

Add this book to your Goodreads list.

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Liane MoriartyLiane Moriarty is the author of WHAT ALICE FORGOT, THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY, and THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

Find Liane Moriarty on Facebook.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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August Book Club Selection

The Perfume Collector Cropped

Choosing selections for She Reads is more art than science. There are a million factors involved, many that we can’t actually control. But it all begins when a book arrives on our doorstep. The problem with this month’s selection, Kathleen Tessaro’s THE PERFUME COLLECTOR, was that no sooner had it arrived, it was stolen. By my sister. Never let it be said that books aren’t judged by their covers. Because they are. My sister absconded with the book because it’s gorgeous. (I do love red)  The fact that it contains a dazzling story just makes it magic.

By the time THE PERFUME COLLECTOR finally made it’s way back to me I was dying to experience it for myself. And I was not disappointed. It’s everything we want a She Reads selection to be: smart, thought-provocting, emotional, compelling. Brilliantly written. Filled with secrets and memories and hope.

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The Perfume CollectorA secret history of scent, memory and desire   … from the Sunday Times bestselling author of  Elegance  and  The Debutante.

London,1955: Grace Monroe is a very fortunate young woman. In spite of a sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles, where alliances are formed and reputations made. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come naturally to her – and perhaps never will.

 Then one evening, a letter arrives from a law firm in Paris. Grace has received an unanticipated inheritance. Only her benefactor, Frenchwoman Eva d’Orsey, is a complete stranger to her. Grace dismisses it as a mistake. However, when later that same night, she suddenly suspects her husband of infidelity, her world is thrown into chaos.

Fleeing London for Paris, Grace searches for information about the mysterious Eva d’Orsey. What she uncovers is the remarkable history of an unconventional woman who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Only Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect. And soon Grace must chose between the life she thinks she ought to live or becoming the person she truly is.

Told in three distinctive perfumes, the story weaves through the decades, from 1920′s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris and London; revealing the complex, obsessive love between muse and artist and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

Add THE PERFUME COLLECTOR to your Goodreads to-read list.

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Kathleen TessaroBorn in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kathleen Tessaro attended the University of Pittsburgh before entering the drama program of Carnegie Mellon University. In the middle of her sophomore year, she went to study in London for three months and stayed for the next twenty-three years. She began writing at the suggestion of a friend and was an early member of the Wimpole Street Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel,  Elegance, became a bestseller in hardback and paperback. All of Kathleen’s novels including  Innocence,  The Flirt,  The Debutante, and most recently,  The Perfume Collector  have been translated into many languages and sold all over the world. She returned to Pittsburgh in 2009, where she now lives with her husband and son.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Susanna Kearsley

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Susanna Kearsley | @SusannaKearsley

Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley

The truth is, we’re shaped by our families. Whether we love them or try to escape them, and whether they help and support us or stand in our way, they are there. In real life, people don’t operate in a vacuum—even those who have lost all their family still live with the memories. A father who’s absent can have just as great an effect as one you see each day, and our cousins and relatives living in places far distant can still have a hold on our hearts and our loyalties.

I learned early on in my writing to give all my fictional characters families, and when I’m writing of actual people from history I work hard to fill out the blanks of their own family trees as well, putting to good use the skills I’ve learned both from museum work and from a lifetime spent helping my parents trace our family history. Amateur genealogy can, at the best of times, become an enjoyable obsession, and when I apply it to real-life historical characters I find it not only helps me create a more fully-formed version of them in the novel, but also gives me added insight into their decisions and choices, shining new light on the motivation for their actions.

Trying to understand why a person went out of his way, and at risk of his life, to help someone who seems to be a total stranger becomes much less puzzling when I fill in the strands of their families and find they’re actually cousins.

And even with a minor character like Mr. Trescott, the St. Petersburg tavern owner in The Firebird, my research gave me knowledge of his family and his drive to give his sons a better life, which helped me better understand some of his actions.

Look around you. How does your family affect the things you do each day? Whether you avoid them, love them, hate them, or remember them, the truth remains: they’re there. And that’s as true for characters in every novel, too, whether they’re fictional or drawn from life. The family shapes us all.

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The FirebirdWith a simple touch, she can see an object’s past. Al who have wanted it. All who have owned it. All who have stolen it.

Nicola Marter was born with a gift so rare and dangerous, she keeps it buried deep. But when she encounters a desperate woman trying to sell a modest wooden carving she claims belonged to Russia’s Empress Catherine, Nicola knows the truth.

There is one with greater powers than Nicola’s, but he’s a man she can neither love nor lose. Together, they’ll pursue answers and perhaps untold rewards. In once-glittering St. Petersburg, the tale of The Firebird unfolds, irrevocably changing all who’ve pursued its secrets.

Beloved by readers as varied and adventurous as her novels, you will never forget spending time in  Susanna Kearsley’s world.

You can read an excerpt of THE FIREBIRD here.

Add THE FIREBIRD to your Goodreads Want-To-Read list.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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A Room Of Her Own: The Writing Space of Susanna Kearsley

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Susanna Kearsley  | @SusannaKearsley

If you look at the actual blueprint for our house, there’s a room marked “Dining Room “, set quite conveniently between the kitchen and the formal living room, with glass French doors and lots of light. Except it never got the chance to be a dining room. As soon as we moved in, I filled one wall with my Ikea Billy bookcases and claimed it as my writing room.

Here’s what it looked like, then:

Kearsley 1

It’s changed a bit, in the twelve years that we’ve been living here. The bookshelves, for one thing, are noticeably fuller—most of the shelves are stacked two deep, with books behind books, and I keep buying more.

Kearsley 2

My mother-in-law, a skilled seamstress, made me beautiful curtains for the window, and my parents gave me the comfortable wing chair I’d always loved best from their house. The desk in the photo got passed on to a friend, and was replaced by the antique oak table my dad always used as his desk in our various houses, when I was growing up. And we painted the walls a soft yellow that glows warmly gold when I’m writing at night.

It’s really a lovely room, and it’s a great place to write, but the truth is that most days it’s also Incredibly Messy. I try to keep up with the clutter, but when I’m at work on a book, it just Happens.

I couldn’t help but smile recently when someone tweeted the link to a Victorian-era book of etiquette by Eliza Leslie titled “Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book “, which in a chapter on how to behave when meeting an “authoress ” warns: “If, when admitted into her study, you should find her writing-table in what appears to you like great confusion “, it’s best not to comment on the mess. “In all probability, she knows precisely where to put her hand upon every paper on the table: having in reality arranged them exactly to suit her convenience. Though their arrangement may be quite unintelligible to the uninitiated, there is no doubt method (her own method, at least) in their apparent disorder. It is not likely she may have time to put her writing table in nice-looking order every day. ”

Those words are just as true today, I think, as they were then. So in the interest of authenticity, instead of cleaning up the evidence and giving you the Better Homes and Gardens version of my writing room, I thought I’d show you what it actually looks like this morning, complete with a few days’ accumulation of coffee cups (I have a weakness for Starbucks Skinny Cinnamon Dolce lattes). It looks a bit chaotic, but I do indeed know where each paper is, and what it’s there for, as the good Miss Leslie says, and it’s decidedly my space, the room of my own where my stories take shape.

Kearsley 3

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Setting The Record Straight

Today’s post this month’s featured author, Susanna Kearsley | @Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley

The parts of history I love best are usually the bits that most historians don’t mention. Nothing fuels my own imagination more than finding some stray reference in a document that stops me in my tracks and makes me say: “I didn’t know that. ”

Many of my novels started growing from those moment of discovery. The Winter Sea, for instance, was a story that began to form the first time that I learned about a Jacobite invasion plot that came so close to working that I couldn’t understand why I had never heard of it before, or why it almost never made the history books.

And characters I came to know through researching The Winter Sea—the real-life men and women of that time—led me in turn to new discoveries, other incidents and people who don’t often get to have their stories told, and so I told them in The Firebird.

It can be very satisfying to take someone who has long been overlooked and try to set the record straight. I confess I can grow very fond of long-dead people through their letters and their journals and the glimpses of themselves they’ve left behind. I love when I can give them back their voices, and restore them to their proper place in history.

And I admit I feel a certain fondness for the Jacobites, who followed King James VII and his son, whom they and several foreign rulers recognized as Britain’s true king, James VIII, denied his rightful crown by what they viewed as a dishonest and illegal act of Parliament. These men and women risked so much and lost so much to stand for what they felt was right and just; and while the history books have often tried to paint them as a sad pathetic group of dreamers, Highlanders who came down from the hills to fight a battle they were doomed to lose, the letters and the documents I read from all sides told a very different story, showing me a movement that was not confined to Scotland but was spread across the whole of Europe, driven by a motivated group of men and women who were often just a step away from gaining what they wanted, and whose efforts kept the British government on edge and deeply occupied in keeping track of where they were and what they might be up to.

The FirebirdIn fact, one of the things that becomes most apparent when reading the correspondence flying back and forth between the British spies and spymasters is just how serious a threat a Jacobite invasion was, in their eyes. Later historians might do their best to convince us the Jacobites were weak and hopeless, but those who were working against them in 1725, when the events of The Firebird take place, weren’t inclined to dismiss them so easily.

Neither was I, when I started my research. I tried to rely on their actions and actual words, not the words of historians, to bring the Jacobites living in Flanders and Russia to life once again on the page, and to hopefully give you, as readers, a view of their world that might make you stop now and then and say, “I didn’t know that. “

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

read more