Archive | Guest Post

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.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Jennifer Chiaverini

Today’s post by New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Chiaverini | @jchiaverini

We’ve got a copy of Jennifer’s latest novel, THE SPYMISTRESS, up for grabs today. Enter by using the form below.

Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini

Miss Elizabeth Van Lew—a spinster of independent means, a Richmond native, and a proud Virginian—was an unlikely heroine of the Civil War, and yet she was celebrated by Northern generals as “a true Union woman as true as steel ” for risking everything to care for Union prisoners of war and to smuggle crucial Confederate military secrets to the North.

I first discovered the remarkable heroine of my most recent novel, The Spymistress, years ago while researching another Civil War tale. One of my characters, a regimental surgeon in the Union army, was captured at Gettysburg, and when I investigated where he likely would have been taken, all paths led to Richmond’s infamous Libby Prison. Nearly every account I read of that notorious place mentioned Elizabeth Van Lew and the astonishing, audacious risks she took on behalf of the Union captives there. She made such an impression on me that I immediately wrote her into a chapter of that earlier novel, but even as I did, I was convinced that she was so unexpectedly daring, courageous, and clever that she deserved an entire book of her own.

To uncover the truth about Elizabeth Van Lew, I relied upon memoirs and diaries written by Richmond civilians and Union prisoners of war, as well as newspaper reports and official documents from the National Archives. My first and best resource, however, was Elizabeth’s “Occasional Journal, ” an intermittent diary and scrapbook she kept of her wartime experiences. It was really more of a collection of loose papers than a complete, polished memoir, but I was fortunate that any account existed at all, as it was incredibly dangerous for a spy to keep detailed records of her illicit activities. During the war, Elizabeth would hide most of her journal, but she kept certain incriminating pages by her bedside so she could hastily burn them if the house was raided in the night.

After the war, Elizabeth declined an offer to publish a memoir, believing with good reason that doing so would further provoke the anger of her Richmond neighbors, many of whom still resented her for her wartime support of the Union even decades after peace was declared. Instead she hid the manuscript away for many years, revealing its location only upon her deathbed in September 1900. When the box was brought to her from its hiding place, she examined the manuscript and exclaimed, “Why, there is nearly twice as much more. What has become of it? ”

The missing pages, if they truly existed, have never been found, but what remains provides a fascinating if incomplete glimpse into Elizabeth Van Lew’s remarkable wartime adventures—and offered me the inspiration for The Spymistress, a tribute to a Civil War heroine whose name should not be forgotten.

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The SpymistressBorn to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.

Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

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Jojo Moyes on Writing and Worries

Today’s post by international best-selling author, Jojo Moyes |  @JojoMoyes

What’s that? You’ve not read a Jojo Moyes novel yet? We’ve got the cure for that! You are officially invited to read this month’s book club selection, THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND, with us this month.

Jojo MoyesI’m not one of those authors who can write the same sort of book every time, although I have a huge respect for those who can (Jack Reacher novels are my current burly comfort read). For a long time this lack of consistency worked against me; it made my novels difficult to market in the UK, where a lot of book retailing is done through supermarkets, and buyers, apparently, require a product as uniform as a tin of beans.

But eleven books in, I can only ever write the book that is humming away like an engine at the front of my head, and that might be a 1946 love story set around war brides on an aircraft carrier, or a mystery set in a community of modern-day whale watchers in South Australia.

After the global success of Me Before You, I worried for a while that readers would want the same thing again. Worried because the story that was resolutely taking shape in my head was as far removed from that book as it could get, an epic love story, spanning a century, that revolved around art stolen in wartime, and the effect that it had on two couples many decades apart. Different characters, different themes, different tone.

But as The Girl You Left Behind launched, and the first reviews came in, I began to relax, and I realized that there was more of a consistency than I had realized. My books may be set decades, and continents apart, they may be issue-based and small scale, or sprawling and intricately plotted, but what they all contain (hopefully!) is a big, emotional read, a plot that will draw the reader in and haul them along through a new landscape.

What they all contain — and this is, I hope, what keeps the readers with me – is love.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Lori roy

Today’s post by Edgar Award winning author, Lori Roy | @LoriRoyAuthor

We’ve got a copy of Lori’s latest novel, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, up for grabs today. Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

Lori Roy

Lori Roy

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this book is Gwyn. 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 round the last corner of my run, turn down my music, yank one bud from my ears and slow to a walk. A block ahead stands my house. My knees aren’t hurting too bad today, and though it’s only May, summer has already settled into Florida.

My street is lined with well manicured lawns. All of the hedges are trimmed. Every landscape bed is freshly mulched.  All except the lawn at one house.   It’s a rental.   The grass around this three story yellow stucco house is ragged and the Indian hawthorn is browning and sparse.   It is at this rental house where I see the man.   He is slender with closely cropped dark hair and is dragging a garbage can to the curb. As he gets closer, I hear his flip flops slap against the concrete.   In a few steps, we’ll meet at the end of his driveway where he’ll leave the garbage can. He’s new to the neighborhood, and I wonder if he knows tomorrow isn’t pickup day.

As I near the man, I lift a hand and smile.   We’re a friendly neighborhood of joggers and runners, dog walkers and bikers.  It’s our way, our custom, to lift a hand or give a nod.   But the man with the garbage can doesn’t nod or smile or say hello.   Instead he pauses at the end of his driveway and looks me in the eye one beat too long.   In two steps, I am past him.   I say nothing about garbage pickup being on Tuesday.   My smile fades and I resist looking back.  My heart is beating too fast. I take a deep breath.  Was that a warning in his eyes?   Was he angry I had said hello? Was it just my imagination?

This one true moment when I felt fear and yet wasn’t sure why was the inspiration for a scene in my latest novel, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME.   Fourteen year old Arie and her twin sister, Izzy, feel the same fear when approached by their neighbor, Mr. Herze. He is the boss down at the factory. He drives a nice car, goes to church every Sunday, and yet something in the way he clings to Izzy’s hand a moment too long scares the twins and make them thankful the Uncle who cares for them is bigger and stronger than Mr. Herze.   In this one moment, Izzy and Arie and we, the readers, know Mr. Herze is someone to fear.

The day after my encounter with the man and his garbage can, a nearby neighbor walks onto his dock to ready his boat for a fishing trip.   Like my house, this neighbor’s house sits at the head of a canal.   He’s a retired NY police officer and so better prepared than most for what he sees floating near his dock—the fully clothed, dead body of the man I had seen dragging his garbage to the curb, the man who had frightened me in the time it took for me to walk two steps.   A few hours later, police discover the body of the dead man’s wife.   Sometime after I saw him dragging his garbage can to the curb, the man had driven across town, shot his wife and then during the night, walked down our sleeping street, made his way between the houses, stood on the seawall and shot himself.

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Lori Roy’s debut novel, BENT ROAD, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book and named a 2012 notable book by the state of Kansas. BENT ROAD has been optioned for film by Cross Creek, with Mark Mallouk to adapt and Benderspink to produce. Her second novel, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, was recently named a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

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Until She Comes HomeWinner of an Edgar Award for Best First Novel for  Bent Road, Lori Roy returns withUntil She Comes Home, a tale of spellbinding suspense in which a pair of seemingly unrelated murders crumbles the facade of a changing Detroit neighborhood.

In 1958 Detroit, on Alder Avenue, neighbors struggle to care for neighbors amid a city ripe with conflicts that threaten their peaceful street.

Grace, Alder’s only expectant mother, eagerly awaits her first born. Best friend Julia prepares to welcome twin nieces. And Malina sets the tone with her stylish dresses, tasteful home, and ironfisted stewardship of St. Alban’s bake sale.

Life erupts when childlike Elizabeth disappears while in the care of Grace and Julia. All the ladies fear the recent murder of a black woman at the factory on Willingham Avenue where their husbands work may warn of what has become of Elizabeth, and they worry what is yet to become of Julia—the last to see Elizabeth alive.

The men mount an around-the-clock search, leaving their families vulnerable to sinister elements hidden in plain sight. Only Grace knows what happened, but her mother warns her not to tell. “No man wants to know this about his wife. ” Ashamed that her silence puts loved ones in harm’s way, Grace gravitates toward the women of Willingham Avenue, who recognize her suffering as their own. Through their acceptance, Grace conquers her fear and dares to act.

On Alder Avenue, vicious secrets bind friends, neighbors, and spouses. For the wicked among them, the walk home will be long.

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YA Book Review: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Today’s post by our Young Adult book Reviewer, Melissa Carpenter |  @MelissaCarp

Across The Universe I’m not really a huge fan of Science Fiction. I’d camp out in the chick-lit and literary romance aisle of the book store for many, many hours before I’d set foot in the Sci-Fi aisle. A few years ago, though, She Reads’ own Marybeth Whalen told me to check out the first chapter of a new YA title written by an author from NC. As we all know, Marybeth knows books. So when she tells you to read something, you kind of need to do what she says.

And oh my was she right. Across The Universe has the single most memorable first chapter I’ve ever read. Ever.


When I read the first chapter, it was months in advance of the publication date. I had to wait entirely too long to find out what happened next. You, though, have the good fortune of finding Across the Universe when it (and the rest of the trilogy) is already available for purchase. You’re lucky, because if you read this book, you’re going to want to read the rest of them. And the rest of them are all as good as the first, which is rare in a trilogy these days.

Across The Universe is the story of Amy, a seventeen year old who decides to join her parents on a mission to a new planet with the intent of setting up a new habitat for Earth’s people. However, the journey to the new planet is going to take hundreds of years on a spaceship called Godspeed… which means that Amy and her parents have to be cryogenically frozen to make the trip. When Amy’s cryo chamber is unthawed fifty years ahead of schedule, she faces a population aboard the Godspeed with their own ways of doing things, and the frightening realization that her premature wake-up was not accidental, but attempted murder. Together with the ship’s young leader, Elder, Amy has to solve the puzzle of who unthawed her before her parents are targeted next.

Now, I wouldn’t hype up the first chapter so much and not give you a chance to read it yourself, so head over to Beth Revis’s website and get started on Chapter 1! Having read the trilogy, I’m definitely looking forward to her next project.

What titles have you read outside of your usual genre that have been surprisingly good?

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Lee Smith

Today’s post by award-winning author, Lee Smith  | Lee on Facebook

Lee’s latest novel, GUESTS ON EARTH, will be published on October 15th. Our own Kimberly Brock has this to say about the book and the author: “Did you ever pick up a book and from the first sentence, you feel that you’ve met up with an old friend, someone so familiar it’s impossible that a stranger some place in the world has written the words? Better yet, have you ever turned a page and encountered a voice that could very well be your own, the best and the worst of you? For me, this is the genius of author Lee Smith. I swear, half the time I feel like she has somehow peeped into my childhood, growing up in the Georgia foothills, that she’s telling my stories, remembering my relatives and neighbors, sometimes more clearly than I remember them, myself. And so, to have the pleasure of introducing her here is an honor for me as both a reader and a writer. Believe me, no one on earth will tell you something true like she will.”

Lee Smith

Lee Smith

“Everything That Rises Must Converge.”

This quotation from Flannery O’Connor comes to mind whenever I think about writing my new novel “Guests on Earth “……or any novel, really.   For me, each novel comes from deep within my whole life as I have lived it up until that point—-there will always be some idea, some image or emotion or experience that just won’t   go away, that rises to the top rather than receding in memory as the years pass….and then there will come that point when it finds its time.  So it was with “Guests on Earth, ” though the visual image which started it all was perhaps the most dramatic I have ever witnessed.

Let me start by saying that (like so many other girls in other small towns all across boring small town America) I have always been in love with that golden couple, the Fitzgeralds. I was in love with both of them, the brilliant novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his glamorous, flamboyant wife Zelda.   I read   “The Great Gatsby ” over and over again. I also read everything else I could find about them, our first truly American celebrity couple, quivering at Zelda’s declaration: “I want to love first, and live incidentally. ”   Well, me too! I was fascinated By Zelda’s zaniness, her Southern-ness, her frank sexuality and utter disregard of custom and rules as they lived uproariously in hotels and rented rooms  in several countries.

Their gilded life turned dark, then darker, as alcoholism, infidelity and mental illness took their toll.   Though schizophrenia forced Zelda to give up her long-cherished dream of becoming a professional ballerina, she published her poetic novel “Save Me the Waltz ” in 1932, two years after her first hospitalization. She continued to write, dance, choreograph, and paint, becoming an incredible visual artist, through many hospital stays, ending up at Asheville, N.C.’s famous Highland Hospital in 1936.

She died here twelve years later in the tragic and mysterious fire of March 9, 1948, one of nine women patients who burned to death in a locked ward on the top floor of the hospital’s Central Building where they had been placed for their own safety because they had undergone shock treatments earlier that day. Zelda’s body was identified only by her charred ballet slipper.

This is where Zelda’s story and mine converge.    It turned out that both my parents suffered from mental illness, and my father was a patient at Highland in the 1950s.   Decades later, my son Josh spent several helpful years there in the 1980s, in both inpatient and outpatient situations, as he battled schizophrenia. Though I had always loved Zelda, as I have told you, it was during these years—my many visits to see Josh in Asheville—that I became fascinated by her art and her life within that institution, and by the unsolved mystery of her awful death.

I remember the exact moment when I realized that I was going to write this book.

My son and I were walking up Zillicoa Avenue toward the mountaintop hospital during a particularly brilliant winter sunset.   The entire arc of the sky shone red behind the crenellated battlements of castle-like Homewood, one of Highland’s most interesting older buildings. Of course this reminded me of the dreadful fire.

But I had just been reading a collection of the Fitzgeralds’ letters, and some of Scott’s words came back to haunt me, too: “I used to wonder why they kept Princesses in towers, ” the romantic young officer had written to his Alabama beauty Zelda Sayre, repeating the image he was obsessed with, wanting to keep her all for himself.   She had replied, “Scott, I get so damned tired of being told that—you’ve written that verbatim, in your last six letters! ”

So the notion of the imprisoned Southern princess became a part of the dramatic image of the red sunset, the fire.    Okay, I thought at the time–I’m going to write this novel–whenever I can stand it.  

Here it is, finally, ten years after my son’s death, and 65 years after Zelda’s.  In it I propose a solution to the mystery of the fire, with a series of plausible events leading up to the tragedy, and a cast of characters both imagined and real.   Is it true?   Well, strictly speaking, no—–but in another, deeper way, yes.  I have always found that I can tell the truth better in fiction than in nonfiction, and this novel is as true as I can make it, containing everything I know about madness, art, and love.

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Guests On EarthIt’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, a mental institution known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses the cascading events leading up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them.

Author Lee Smith has created, through her artful blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart—a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, tragedy and transformation, are luminously intertwined.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Yangsze Choo

Today’s post by debut novelist Yangsze Choo | @YangszeChoo

Two genres that I have a particular soft spot for are historical fiction and magical realism. And today’s guest author has managed to combine the two in a novel that has become one of this years hottest titles. So we’re thrilled to give away a copy of THE GHOST BRIDE to one lucky winner today. Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

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Yangsze Choo

Yangsze Choo

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this book is Doireann. 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.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother lived in a small town in Malaysia opposite a cinema which showed scary Chinese movies. We children were not allowed to go and watch them, although from the front window we could see people lining up to buy tickets. Instead, we could only gaze at the vivid, hand-painted cinema billboards and ask my grandmother to explain what the illustrations were about. In retrospect, her ghost stories were probably more terrifying and enigmatic than the actual Hong Kong movies that were showing! This was probably my first introduction to the peculiar Chinese practice of arranged marriages with the dead.

Years later, I was digging around in the archives of our local Malaysian newspaper to research another book that I was trying to write (a disastrous novel about an elephant detective), when I came across a sentence in an old newspaper article that offhandedly referred to the decline in Chinese spirit marriages. I was so intrigued by this that I ended up putting aside my first book to write THE GHOST BRIDE instead.

The folk superstition of marriages to ghosts, or between the dead, usually occurred in order to placate spirits or repair familial relations. Matches were sometimes made between two deceased persons, with the families on both sides recognizing it as a tie between them. In fact, it still occurs today. Sometimes two sweethearts might be married after death, or a family member might be told in a dream that a deceased relative wanted to get married. A formal marriage ceremony would then be performed, complete with food, preparations, and the burning of paper offerings such as money, houses, and servants, which were believed to become tangible assets in the afterlife. More rarely, the living were married to the dead. This is the case for Li Lan, the main character in my book.

There’s actually a long Chinese literary tradition of strange tales set in the blurred borderline between spirits and humans, where beautiful women turn out to be shape-shifting foxes, and the afterlife is run like a monstrous parody of Imperial Chinese bureaucracy. Most of the classic Chinese stories about ghosts are actually about young men, usually scholars, to whom all these strange things happen. The archetype would be “Once, there was a poor scholar, who was studying alone at night when there was a knock on the door… ” Of course, he opens it to find a beautiful girl who turns out to be either a ghost, a fox, or a flower spirit. All sorts of trials ensue, usually with the not-so-subtle warning that you shouldn’t be tempted away from your studies by licentious women!

In my case, I wanted to tell a story from the point of view of a girl, and to marry two of my favourite genres – historical fiction and magical realism. It was a fascinating topic to explore, particularly the second half of the book, which takes place in the terrifying, beautiful shadowlands of the Chinese afterlife, filled with ghosts and monsters. In some ways, I was able to put into it all the fantastic stories of my childhood that I couldn’t see in a movie theater but could only imagine through old tales and comic books. It’s a rich and curious mythology that I’d love to introduce to readers!

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The Ghost Bride “One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride… “

Li Lan, a young Chinese woman, lives in 1890s colonial Malaya with her quietly ruined father, who returns one evening with a proposition — the fabulously wealthy Lim family want Li Lan to marry their son. The only problem is, he’s dead.

After a fateful visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets, before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

An Book of the Week, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, and Indie Next List, THE GHOST BRIDE is Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo’s debut novel. Yangsze eats and reads too much and can often be found doing both at her blog (


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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Susan Greg Gilmore

Today’s post by author Susan Gregg Gilmore | @SusanGilmore

We’ve got a copy of THE FUNERAL DRESS up for grabs today. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

Susan Gregg Gilmore

Susan Gregg Gilmore

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this book is Michelle W. 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.

The Funeral Dress is about two women who worked side by side in a shirt factory.   Their story is rooted in the stories of others.

Marea Barker was a lapel maker at Spartan Industries in Dunlap, Tennessee, for nearly 30 years.   Everyday, five days a week, eight hours a day, Marea sewed lapels at the town’s shirt factory.   She did not attach them to a dress or a blouse.   That was a job for someone else to do.

More than a year ago now, Marea and I sat in her living room, amidst her quilting, and talked about her work at the shirt factory.   Marea’s husband was a farmer, and she admitted that working at the factory was a welcome opportunity.   “It got me off this farm. I was tired of cooking for the hired hands,” she said and stared out the window.

Factory2Interestingly, Marea never spoke of boredom or monotony, even when I pressed her about it.   Finally, I hushed.   I realized that for Marea working at the factory was about friendship.   It was about community.

Marea was only one of the seamstresses I interviewed for this book.   I talked to a bottom hemmer and collar maker.   Some spoke of much needed income and raising children on their own.   Some spoke of lunching at the local diner or watching a woman stitch her own finger.   No matter how their stories varied, these women were all part of one Southern town’s economic and cultural history.

Factory1Marea died three months after we spoke.   But this week we will celebrate the release of The Funeral Dress right there in the original shirt factory in the heart of Dunlap.   We will have some fun, for sure, and we will honor the women and men who once worked at Spartan Industries.   But most importantly, the Sequatchie County Friends of the Library will   launch an oral history program so that stories like Marea’s are not lost.

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The Funeral DressEmmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her.   Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert Holler, Leona dies tragically.   Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don’t think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman – or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Dianne Dixon

Today’s post by author Dianne Dixon | @DixonWriterDD

We’ve got two copies of THE BOOK OF SOMEDAY up for grabs today. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

Dianne Dixon

Dianne Dixon

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winners of this book are Paula Caurro and Lisamarie. 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 don’t know her name, and was with her for only a few minutes. But I’ll never forget the remarkable little girl who became the inspiration for Grace, one of the sweetest characters in The Book of Someday.

Our paths crossed on a Friday night, in a sleek New York hotel. I have no idea why she was there, but I was there because my friend Maria was getting married, for the first time, at the age of 50. And Maria was having her dream wedding, which included her entire, wonderful family, everyone from her ninety-two year old grandparents to her youngest cousin, a newborn in tiny “tuxedo ” jammies.

It was when I slipped away from all that love and family at Maria’s party, to go to the ladies room, that I encountered the little girl I’ll never forget. She was standing a few feet away from her mother, and she was gazing down at her shoes, not saying anything. Her mother, who was slender, and very well dressed (in that chic, understated New York kind of way) was staring into the mirror, checking her make-up. I went straight to the sink. I had wedding cake frosting on my sleeve, and was trying to rinse it off. “Did you hear what I said? ” her mother asked. The little girl nodded, but didn’t look up. “I said you were fat. Fat girls are ugly, nobody likes ugly girls. ”

I turned away from the sink, wanting to slap this woman. But before I could open my mouth to express what I thought of her, the little girl looked up and said, “Mommy, it’s not nice to tell people they’re ugly. ” The way it was said stunned me and broke my heart all at the same time. In those nine words I heard unbelievable sadness, and incredible strength, and such sweet love.

All of a sudden, I had nothing to say to the mother, and so much I wanted to say to that little girl. “You’re amazing, ” I told her. “You’re one of the bravest, most beautiful girls ever. That’s the truth. I want you to remember it, always. ” She didn’t say a word. She just gave me a solemn, earnest look that was followed, after a brief hesitation, by a bright smile. As if she’d learned to be guarded, and very cautious, before fully revealing herself.

That’s when her mother grabbed her hand and the two of them walked out my life as abruptly as I’d walked in on theirs.

And as I watched her go, I knew I’d never forget that little girl who’d stayed so strong in the face of enormous pain. I also knew that her spirit would inhabit the character of Grace. Because what I wanted for Grace was exactly the same thing I wanted for that little girl. I wanted both of them to be triumphant.

* * *

The Book of SomedaySomeday, Livvi Gray will break free from her past. Someday, she will escape her recurring nightmare about a stranger in a shimmering silver dress. Someday, she will have a family of her own. Now she’s found Andrew, and someday seems to be right around the corner. But there’s so much Livvi doesn’t know. Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, she will come face-to-face with the stranger from her dream — an encounter that will alter Livvi’s future and crack open everything she knew about her past. Livvi is swiftly moving toward the ultimate turning point in her life — and she’s not the only one. Linked by an unforgettable mystery, photographer Micah and young mother AnnaLee are also being rapidly drawn into a web of secrets about the unexpected ways in which we choose to protect — and betray — the people we love.

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A Note From Liane Moriarty, Author of The Husband’s Secret

Today’s post from this month’s featured author, Liane Moriarty | Find Liane on Facebook

Liane MoriartyAfter my first novel, Three Wishes, was accepted for publication I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that it was all an elaborate practical joke. Even after I received my first bound copies of the book, it didn’t feel real, and when I went into a bookshop and saw it sitting on a shelf it still wasn’t enough (perhaps a family member had planted it there moments earlier?) It didn’t feel real until the day I was sitting on a Sydney ferry, reading a novel, and the girl sitting next to me pulled out a battered paperback from her bag, and I looked over idly to see what she was reading, and it was THREE WISHES! By me! I can still feel the rush of goose-bumps I experienced. Since then, it’s happened again on a handful of occasions.   A woman at a hairdresser. Someone at the airport. Once, I was watching the news and they were reporting on a bus crash. People’s possessions were strewn all over the road. And there was my book. The pages blowing in the wind. (That was creepy. I felt strangely responsible. Although presumably the bus driver hadn’t been reading it while he drove.) Ten years later, I’ve written five novels, and for the first time a book I wrote has made it on to the New York Times bestseller list. I receive emails from readers from all over the world. Yet I am still a little bit stunned that I can sit here at my computer making up a story and that people will actually one day read it. I am therefore honoured and delighted that The Husband’s Secret has been chosen by the lovely people at SheReads as your September Book Club choice. (They must have read it!) I hope you enjoy The Husband’s Secret. Maybe don’t read it on the bus.

We’re giving away a copy of THE HUSBAND’S SECRET, along with two other books by Liane Moriarty. You can enter to win all three books here.

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