A Room of Her Own: The Writing Space of Jane Shemilt

Today’s post by Jane Shemilt, author of THE DAUGHTER | @JaneShemilt

We’ve shared a number of amazing author offices over the last few years but I’m pretty sure that Jane Shemilt takes the cake with this one. It looks like every writer’s daydream. What do you think:

Writing Room

This is what Jane has to say about her writing space:

There is also a shot of my writing room; we recently had this room painted and it is a lovely space to write in; you will see if you look hard that my daughter’s spaniel is curled up on one of the chairs, he always keep me company!

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The Truth About That Tricky Balancing Act

Today’s post by Jane Shemilt, one of our featured spring authors | @JaneShemilt

Jane Shemilt“Balance” conjures up a picture of a tightrope walker, precariously wobbling on a high wire, leaning to one side then the other, wondering how much she can hold in each hand without tipping. A little like every woman going out to work and running a family.

As a doctor I used to leave home early, stepping into another world and a different identity; one with responsibility and respect as well as fantastic receptionists making me cups of coffee to see me though. I’d cross back in the evening; at home, my bags went in the corner without a second glance and I focused on kids, homework, husband, supper. Family stuff. Life had order and balance.

It’s all changed now. I am in awe of the many mothers and writers who manage this brilliantly but I don’t think I could have written when the children were very young; when I write, all that exterior order and balance seems to disappear. I look up sometimes and its 3 pm, I’m still in pajamas and the dog is whining for a walk. I love that sense of total immersion, of being so involved I forget all about coffee and often lunch. Sometimes I work most of the night, when the house is quiet, and the dog is snoring in the chair. My five children are older now; most have left home. The remaining son orders the groceries online, my daughter cooks. My husband reads my work. They keep me sane. Life seems to have gone full circle; if it wasn’t for my family, I’d be sleep deprived and hypoglycaemic; I’d probably have fallen off that tight rope by now.

I look back on my doctor life with gratitude for the privilege and for the stories; also for the inspiration. I started a diploma in creative writing while still working as a general practitioner; after a while I began to think about starting a novel. The theme came to me in the surgery as I sat opposite a woman who had lost a child. She’d kept going as people do and it was precisely that, the ability to soldier on with all the stuff of everyday life in the face of grief that was inspirational. I began to see that this is what all my patients did with all the losses that life brings, from trivial to huge. I had the core of my novel, The Daughter.

The plot took a little longer and emerged once I’d started on a Masters course in creative writing at Bath Spa University. I began to play with a basic fear that I felt would be shared by readers: the horror of a missing child.

Then the challenge lay in threading the plot through the story, so readers would want to turn the pages and yet be able to go deep down into the mind and the life of the protagonist.

Once again, it was all down to balance.

* * *

The DaughterIn the tradition of Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, this compelling and clever psychological thriller spins the harrowing tale of a mother’s obsessive search for her missing daughter.

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

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A Room Of Her Own: The Writing Space of Marisa de los Santos

Today’s post by Marisa de los Santos | @marisadlsantos

Confession: this is one of our favorite series. There’s just something fascinating about getting a behind the scenes glimpse into where a novel was created. And today we’ve been given a special look into the writing space of Marisa de los Santos, author of one of our spring selections, THE PRECIOUS ONE. Also, I’m pretty sure if there was a contest for adorable office pets she would win.

Marisa's office


Marisa's office with dogs

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The Book That Changed Everything

Today’s post by yours truly | @ArielLawhon

I originally wrote this essay for my friends at Parnassus Books  but I got to thinking about this novel tonight and thought I would share it with you as well. Are you an Outlander fan? Do share in the comments!

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My battered and beloved copy of OUTLANDER

An odd thing happens to me in the months before I begin writing a novel. At some point after finishing one novel and beginning the next, I stumble across a book that changes my theories on how fiction should be written. I always feel the same way after finishing one of these novels: shaken, delighted, in awe. These books become landmarks in my own journey as a writer, and their authors my unknowing mentors.

And while I read upwards of 30 titles between projects, there is always one that rises up and becomes the new standard for my own writing. One book in particular, having found me in that very moldable state prior to beginning a new work, did something quite different. It changed me.

I came to Diana Gabaldon’s groundbreaking novel, Outlander, quite late. It was first published in 1991 but I didn’t find my beloved, now tattered copy until 2012. I’d had opportunities, of course, but sometimes I refuse to read a book simply because it is popular. I’m rather ashamed to say that’s what I did with Outlander. The more my friends recommended it, the more I dug in my heels. I chalk it up to the counter-cultural roots of my childhood. To be honest, I don’t like being told what to do.

That said, Gabaldon caught me at a weak moment and I consumed all 600+ pages ofOutlander in three days and then went on to read the next two books in a matter of weeks. I slowed down only when I realized that I was reading the books faster than she was writing them. At the moment, I am parked quite happily in the middle of book six and have no plans to finish until after I meet my current deadline. I will take my time with the rest of the series, savoring each word, and, though it sounds a bit dramatic, dreading the day it comes to an end.

As a fiction-lover, I learned from Diana Gabaldon what it means to trust an author. She takes her readers to the broken, exhausted, exhilarating point of every emotion. Whether writing a knife fight, a journey, a homecoming, a betrayal, a wedding, or at times even torture, she builds her scenes until the page quivers with tension. Where a lesser writer would have mercy on the reader and cut the scene short, she takes it to the most brutal, unexpected, delightful, and profound conclusion. If her characters suffer — which they do, frequently — she ensures that the reader suffers along with them. Her characters and her readers weep alongside one another. They celebrate together. They are redeemed together. Her devoted, almost rabid following is proof that we invest ourselves entirely in her work. When I pick up an Outlander novel I know that I will be rattled and grateful at the end. But I also know it will cost me more than my time and the price of a hardcover. Diana Gabaldon will take a piece of my heart in exchange for the privilege of living in her fictional world. I make this transaction willingly every time. That, my friends, is trust.

I believe that takes immense courage and emotional fortitude for a writer. Outlander and all its sequels are case studies in how to write with finesse, how to create a world that is compelling and addictive and deeply missed when the book is finished. I have learned so much from them.As a writer, I learned from Diana Gabaldon the importance of patience and restraint. She rushes nothing. Twenty-four years she’s been writing this series, slowly building and expanding the world of Outlander. Every scene, every character, every piece of dialogue serves a purpose — not just to the book in which it resides, but to the overall saga as well. She may introduce a seemingly random character or plot thread at the beginning of one book only to tuck it away so that it emerges three books later as the pivotal twist. Sometimes those twists are a knife to the heart for her readers. And I am fascinated by the fact that Gabaldon does not believe her characters are precious. They are not protected or coddled or indulged. They are treated like real humans and are exposed to all the dangers and joys of a human life.

So it no exaggeration to say that Diana Gabaldon changed the way I read books and she changed the way I write them. I will always adore and respect her for this.

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Transporting Characters To A Simpler Time

Today’s post by Cynthia Swanson, author of THE BOOKSELLER | @CynSwanAuthor

Cynthia Swanson

Cynthia Swanson

I’m often asked why I set The Bookseller in the years 1962-63. The truth is, I didn’t at first.

Initially, The Bookseller – which tells the story of Kitty Miller, a single woman in her late 30s who owns a bookstore with her best friend and begins to dream of an alternative life in which she’s the married mother of three – was set in the present day. I was about a third of the way through a first draft when I realized the story would work better with a historical setting.

Why? Well, I started the novel with the idea of writing about a character who isn’t quite sure which life is really hers. When I considered the question, I knew that – for Kitty to discover her truth in a way that satisfied both the character and my readers – everything would have to unfold in its own good time. Events could not occur at a rapid-fire pace. Information could not come to Kitty at lightning speed, the way it does now.

Without giving too much away, Kitty’s life changes on a dime (an expression you don’t hear much these days – what, after all, does a dime get you in 2015?). There’s a particular moment that changes everything for her. The clues about what happened in that moment come to Kitty slowly, over time and by her use of meticulous, drawn-out research.

How would the situation evolve differently back then, as opposed to the present day? In that time period, there were no cell phones – no quick calling anyone from anywhere. There was no texting, no demands of “WHERE R U?” if someone failed to show up as expected. In 1962, if a mysterious man appeared in one’s life – even one’s dream life – there was no Googling his name to find out every personal and professional detail. There were no embarrassing or tell-tale photos of him on Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of technology. My cell phone is my constant companion. Social media plays an enormous role in my life, connecting me with both readers and loved ones. I don’t have an e-reader, because when it comes to books I’m old-school – I like turning pages. But I certainly see the benefit of being able to carry scores of books loaded onto one small, lightweight device.

It’s not that I personally yearn for a bygone era. But for The Bookseller, the simpler lifestyle of the early 1960s was the way to go. It’s intentional that the story is set not just in the early 1960s, but before John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The era just before that event was the last age of true innocence and optimism in the United States. Before the president was killed, many felt that their country – and they themselves – were invincible.

So how is that relevant today? How can a 21st century reader relate to the Kitty of 1962?

Because Kitty’s story, it turns out, is a universal one. I won’t give any spoilers, but suffice to say Kitty finds out she can’t have it all. In life, you get what you get.

And all of us can relate to that. Because in one way or another, we’ve all been there.

THE BOOKSELLER is one of our featured Books of Spring. If you’ve not picked up a copy yet, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to do so now. You won’t regret it.

* * *

The BooksellerA provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams.

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

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Author to Author: Historical Fiction Edition, Part Two

Today’s post by Erika Robuck and Sarah McCoy | @ErikaRobuck and @SarahMMcCoy

Today we wrap up our interview with Erika Robuck and Sarah McCoy. (If you missed part one in this series you can read it here. And you’ll want to because these ladies are funny and thoughtful and charming). As a history buff myself I loved Sarah’s insights on structure, research, and the connections between past as present. And if you’ve not done it already, make sure to add both of these novels to your spring reading list. You won’t be disappointed.

Historical Fiction Collage 2

Erika Robuck: Like your previous novel THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN is a novel set in two time periods, a structure to which I am partial as a reader. What drew you to this format, and what are the challenges of weaving past and present story lines?

Sarah McCoy: Writing dual narratives (historical-contemporary hybrid) seems to be my organic way of processing whatever fictional worlds I’m working in. History seen through this kind of Alice in Wonderland looking-glass filter of the present. I wrote that way for THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER and now again in THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN. I’m fascinated by how the people of the past can reach across generations and impact the present; how mysteries of the present have their solutions in the past; how issues we face and decisions we make today are strikingly similar to ones our forbearers made—with good and bad outcomes. I’m riveted by this interplay.

I think it’s important we don’t compartmentalize the past as an “interesting story.” I want my readers to see that the history is a key, a manual, a lesson guidebook for us to learn and implement change in our present lives. That all being said, juggling two time periods does not make for easy writing.

For The Baker’s Daughter, I wrote chapters back and forth as I pleased. In the end, I had to tear the entire book apart and line up the plots to ensure the seams fit.

For THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN, I tried to be more methodical by first outlining each character’s narrative trajectory, start-to-finish. Using this “map” (pardon my pun) as a guide, I wrote chapters, allowing the story to transform as the characters commanded. It was a more organized process from THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, but it proved more daunting in my inclusion of historical facts. At one point, I handed over an 800+ page manuscript to my (bless her heart) agent who lovingly read and helped me shave off some areas before giving it to my publisher. My editor was brilliant but ruthless. She told me to half the book. Cut it down from 800 to under 400 pages. I did it over the course of six months. It was a page bloodbath. A challenge, yes. But every drop of blood, sweat, and tears I shed went directly into this book, and I pray it brings the story to vivid life for readers.

Erika: Your novels are historically rich and fascinating. How do you approach research?

Sarah: Your question made me realize that I don’t have a process! Dear heavens, my “historical fiction” bloomers have been exposed. Obviously, I need to hang out with excellent his-fic authors like you more—teach me the Force, oh Ro-bi-Wan.

The inspiration for each of my novels has come to me differently. My Muse likes to throw her bolts in various forms, I suppose. I’ve never had a story come to me in the same way. THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN began with a sentence being spoken… “A dog is not a child,” the woman, Eden Anderson, kept saying. And it was the way she said it: confident, angry, and yet, deeply wounded by the very words she spoke. I couldn’t shush her no matter what I did. Months of hearing this over and over in my head nearly drove me insane. In an effort to cure my insomnia from the haunting, I wrote the sentence and its corresponding scene in the journal. I realized then that the sentence was echoing through and out the front door of an old house—the house in New Charlestown calling me to solve its Underground Railroad secret. A mystery set between Eden in present-day West Virginia and Sarah Brown 150 years ago.

Before then, I was only vaguely familiar with the Abolitionist Movement by virtue of being a history nerd. The Underground Railroad was a fascinating component, but it wasn’t until Eden and Sarah’s home called to me that I became completely absorbed in it. There was no rhyme, reason or organization. No preplanned map. Just an inspiration arrow of direction, which I followed with the fear and faith of any explorer. The story research took me from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Concord, Massachusetts, to Red Bluff, California. I trailed Sarah’s footprints, piecing together her legacy. I wrote about that extensive research process in the “Author’s Note” in the back of the novel.

It was a beautiful process albeit long and often terribly frustrating. I wanted to know so very much, and there was so very little left of her. However, I believe the effort it took to arrive at the final book was worth every labored hour. Life is a journey not a destination, isn’t that what Emerson penned? Wisdom, indeed.

Erika: What do you want your readers to discover or take away from THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN?

Sarah: Oh, so very much! But I’ll limit my answer to one of the overarching themes: nurturing and defining a family. As a global community, I believe we’ve allowed a worrisome stereotype to become the high mark of good family model. We’ve constructed a rigid mold for what a happy family looks like and anything different is somehow… less.

It weighed heavily on me, and I began to ask questions: Can you be a devoted parent without physical procreation? Does a loving, fulfilling family have to consist of children? Does being a parent only apply to humans or can you parent/nurturer animals or a righteous cause? Who wrote the prototypical happily-ever-after and might each of us have the power to rewrite it?

I noticed that a majority of my friends (men and women, couples to singles) were uncomfortable—even disgruntled—by my questions in group settings. Yet in private, they admitted that they internally battled these very constraints. Again, it perplexed me. Why weren’t we able to have an open conversation? Why were people afraid to challenge the norm? And what happened to those who didn’t attain the set parent-child-family vision—was their family and legacy not as good as those who did?

Being an author, I sought answers through my characters. I learned from Sarah Brown and Eden Anderson. I changed through my journey with them, and I pray readers pick up THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN willing to ponder the questions and possibly discover keys to their own hearts.

* * *

The Mapmaker's ChildrenAbout the book:

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

* * *

Sarah McCoySARAH McCOY is the New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Ricoand The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas. Connect with Sarah on Twitter at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com.

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How A Book Comes To Be: Cynthia Swanson on The Bookseller

Today’s post by Cynthia Swanson, one of our spring authors | @CynSwanAuthor

Cynthia Swanson

Cynthia Swanson

It was a typical Tuesday morning. I was at the gym. My youngest child was steps away from me, in the childcare area around the corner from the cardio room. My older kids were at school. As I marched on the StairMaster, I thought about how most of the people at the gym at this time of day were – like me – mothers of young kids.

It was, I realized, a rather rapid shift in my identity.

Not long before, I had been a single woman with a successful freelance writing career. I lived with my cat and dog in a historic bungalow in a trendy area of Denver. I had plenty of free time to indulge in my passion for writing fiction. I published short stories and worked on a novel.

There at the gym – for just a split second – I wasn’t sure who I really was. How had I gone from being a woman who lived like that – creatively and freely – to being someone I barely recognized? I was now a married mother of three. Instead of that cute bungalow, I lived in a ranch house in a family-friendly neighborhood. I squeezed in paid writing projects whenever I got them. I volunteered, took care of kids, and ran a household. Like most parents of young kids, my husband and I fell into bed exhausted every night.

Writing fiction was a thing of my past. My old novel was tucked away in a drawer (which, in retrospect, was for the best). Creative writing was something I told people I used to do, and hoped to do again…someday. But not now. Along with aimless drives in the mountains and last-minute movie dates with friends, writing fiction had gone out the window.

But maybe all I needed was an inspirational idea.

I considered the question: how can life change so quickly? How can a woman be converted into someone who – some days – she feels she barely knows?

It was, I thought, the seed of a novel.

It was the seed from which The Bookseller was born.

* * *

The BooksellerAbout the book:

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams.

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

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Author to Author: Historical Fiction Edition

Today’s post by Erika Robuck and Sarah McCoy | @ErikaRobuck and @SarahMMcCoy

We’re thrilled to be visiting with Erika Robuck and Sarah McCoy today. These women are easily two of the most talented and prolific authors in publishing and they have both written my (Ariel) favorite type of book: historical fiction based on real people. Their novels THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE and THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN both release today. Erika and Sarah have kindly agreed to interview one another for our ongoing “author to author” series. We hope that you’ll take a moment to settle in while Sarah McCoy chats with Erika Robuck about THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE. We’ll be back on Thursday with the second half of this interview. And in the meantime we hope that you’ll pick up a copy of each book. We couldn’t recommend them more highly.

Historical Fiction Collage 2

SARAH MCCOY: In your previous novels, you’ve written from the perspective of fictional characters associated with historical figures. THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE is the first novel wherein you wrote as the narrative voice of the real Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. What challenges did this present and was it difficult to balance fact and fiction? 

ERIKA ROBUCK: I had planned on writing this novel in a similar vein to my others, but during the research, reading Sophia Peabody’s seven hundred page maiden journal, I felt her assert herself as the narrator. Because THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE is told in the first person point of view, it took reading all of Sophia’s journals and correspondence to attempt to harness her voice. It was difficult to capture her effusive, optimistic nature in the face of her life’s many challenges, but I hope I did her justice.

Even with a family as well known as the Hawthornes, there are many holes between points on the timeline. It is one of my greatest joys as a writer using the true history to imagine and animate those places that have been left in the shadows.

SARAH: In writing THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN, I fell into the dastardly historical fiction trap of wanting to include a colossal amount of information related to my novel’s era, the Civil War. I ended up having to chop over 400 pages during revision. Your books skillfully include so much history with each captivating story. How do you decide which facts to include and which to exclude?

ERIKA: 400 pages on the chopping floor! Sarah, perhaps you can publish those as a nonfiction supplement to your novel.

I, too, had difficulty ferreting out exactly what to keep and what to extract. Because I very much wanted to separate this book from anything purely biographical, I structured it as a series of geographically based novellas, each exploring the evolution of one woman who hoped to achieve the proverbial art-life balance. It was tempting to meander down the fascinating side paths of the Hawthornes’ existence—especially because they were close to so many well-known historical figures. But keeping razor-sharp focus, I was able to slice away anything in their rich lives that did not contribute directly to my chosen themes.

SARAH: What do you want your readers to discover or take away from THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE? 

ERIKA: I want my readers to see that the struggle to live balanced, full lives is timeless, that what artists give up to lead lives of domesticity often feeds their creative fires in ways they could not anticipate, and that there are light-bearers among us—who don’t always know it—but who enrich the world through their unique contributions, no matter how large or small they may seem.

* * *

The House of HawthorneAbout the book:

From Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl, comes a brilliant new novel about a literary couple. The unlikely marriage between Nathaniel Hawthorne, the celebrated novelist, and Sophia Peabody, the invalid artist, was a true union of passion and intellect.…

Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature…

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Book Club Recipe: The Bookseller

Today’s post by Ingrid of Edible Tapestry | @EdibleTapestry


“Swedish pancakes on Saturdays and waffles on Sundays.” is what Lars Andersson cooks for his family on the weekends, according to his son, Michael, in Cynthia Swanson’s The Bookseller.

Blue-eyed Lars was born in Sweden. So as soon as I read what he made for his family every Saturday morning I was taken back to my childhood, when my sister and I would beg my mother to make the German pancakes from her homeland. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that her “pancakes” were French crepes. I did a little research to see if Lars’ Swedish crepes were similar. When I learned that they were, I knew that cheese and fruit filled crepes were perfect to go with Cynthia Swanson’s debut novel.

Pre-made crepes that can be found in some grocery store freezer cases can be used to save time, though I have included my crepe recipe here. The filling is a cinch to whip up, and any berries, other fruit, or preserves can be substituted for the strawberries, as could mini chocolate chips or chocolate curls. These Swedish pancakes are easy to assemble ahead of time, and are great chilled, which makes them simple to prepare for those who may want to serve them at book club meetings.

Strawberries & Cream Swedish Pancakes


Confectioner’s sugar

Strawberries for garnish

Pancake Batter:


2 c. all-purpose flour

4 eggs

2 c. milk

Pinch of salt

4 T melted butter

Butter for cooking

Strawberry Cheese Filling:

24 oz. carton of cottage cheese

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. sugar

1 c. sliced strawberries


Sift together the flour and salt. Whisk in eggs and a little milk until a smooth paste forms.

Whisk in the butter, beating well to incorporate it so it won’t solidify.

Vigorously whisk in the remaining milk to make sure all flour has been blended in and batter is lump free.


Heat a crepe pan or small saute pan over medium heat. Melt a little butter in the bottom of the pan.

Ladle in about an ounce of batter, turning pan to allow it to coat the bottom.

Cook for approximately 30 seconds. Lift one edge of the pancake with the corner of a spatula. Flip the pancake over.

Cook for an additional 30 seconds. Shake to loosen the pancake as it cooks.


Slide the pancake off the pan and onto a plate.


Repeat until all of the batter is used, adding butter between every few pancakes to the pan if it gets too dry and pancakes begin to stick.

Strawberry Cheese Filling:

Hull and slice the strawberries.


Place the cottage cheese, vanilla, and sugar in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.



Spoon a line of the cheese mixture down one edge of each pancake and top with strawberries.


Roll up. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Garnish with strawberries.


Yield: 24 Swedish pancakes

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Our Favorite Indie Bookstores

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

It’s Independent Bookstore Day! Which means today’s the day to get thee to a local indie and show them some love. And by love we mean buy lots and lots of books. In honor of this special day, we decided to share some of our favorite indie bookstores, both near and far.

Marybeth’s favorites:

Park Road Books is my local indie. It’s run by a top notch, caring staff of book lovers who are only too willing to talk about and share books with readers. I’ve been to my fair share of live events and been able to connect with some of my favorite writers there through readings and gatherings– something I can’t get anywhere else!

Pelican Books is my home away from home indie– located at Sunset Beach NC it’s always part of my vacation plans and the first place I go to to get my beach reads for the season. Thanks to the book mavens of Pelican Books, I found Jodi Picoult, Patti Callahan Henry, and Karen White. I have such fond memories of browsing their wonderful selection of books, usually while my family sat waiting to get to the beach! But every true reader knows that book love can’t be rushed.

Ariel’s favorites:

Parnassus Books

Parnassus Books is my local indie in Nashville. I know, I’m spoiled. But I can’t apologize because I simply adore this bookstore. They graciously hosted the book release party for my novel and they’ve invited me to participate in a dozen events since then. I love their staff. I love their owners. And–this is no small thing–I love the entire menagerie of shop dogs that are lounging around on any given day. I don’t say this about many things, but this store lives up to all the hype. I’ll be there tonight as a matter of fact.

Fox Tale Book Shoppe

FoxTale Book Shoppe was the first store that ever hosted me for an event and they set the standard for being gracious, charming, and absolutely wonderful. The Foxes are among my favorite booksellers anywhere and I don’t believe you’ll find a more passionate group of book lovers anywhere. Every time I walk in the door it feels a bit like coming home. You can’t ask for more than that.

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