“But When” The Moment that Changes Everything

Today’s post by Lynda Cohen Loigman | @LyndaCLoigman

Pay attention and you’ll notice something. It’s a phrase, often used in book descriptions or back cover copy: “But When.” It sounds simple enough but it changes everything. “But when an old friend comes to visit…” Or, “But when her son goes missing…” That single phrase is the beginning of everything going wrong for a character (and, let’s face it, when things really interesting for the reader). When we began to pay attention to this phrase we thought it was time to begin a new series. So we have invited Lynda Cohen Loigman to share a bit about her new novel, THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE in this latest installment of “But When.” Enjoy!


Lynda Cohen Loigman credit Randy Matusow

Lynda Cohen Loigman, photo credit: Randy Matusow

In many ways, almost everything that happens after Part One of THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE falls into the But When category. In Part One, we meet Helen, the warm-hearted mother of four unruly boys who longs for a daughter to complete her family. She and her husband, Abe, live on the top floor of a two-family house, while Abe’s brother, Mort, and his wife, Rose, live on the bottom. In the past several years, Mort has grown colder and more critical of Rose. Though they have three healthy daughters, Mort will only be satisfied with a son to carry on his family name.

The women give birth on the same night, in middle of a blizzard when both husbands are out of town. Helen has the girl she’s always wanted, and Rose finally gives Mort the son he desires. At this point, we assume that Mort will be content. We hope that Rose and Mort will experience a new, more loving phase of their marriage. We expect Helen and Rose to grow even closer. But when everyone gets what he or she wants, nothing develops as expected.

The first clue that having a son might not be as fulfilling for Mort as we had imagined comes at the opening of Part Two:

After the initial excitement of having a son passed, Mort was ambivalent. He decided that all babies were really the same, and that the only thing separating newborn boys from newborn girls was future potential.

Even when Teddy is older, Mort recognizes his son’s limitations. When Mort studies mathematics with Teddy and Natalie, for example, he knows it is Natalie who truly shines. She never lets Teddy figure out she knows more than he does, Mort thinks. Rose finds Mort’s interest in and easy manner with his niece infuriating, which is only one of the many reasons for the deterioration of their marriage.

Rose’s growing resentment and her estrangement from Mort is another unexpected consequence of that winter night. When the story begins, she is meek and put-upon. But as she grows more assertive and indifference and bitterness take over, the power between her and Mort begins to shift.

 The truth was, Mort had noticed a difference in Rose since Teddy was born. He felt a change in her attitude that shifted something between them, a sense that she no longer cared as much about his approval. Since Rose had given him a son, Mort no longer felt justified in voicing any kind of criticism. What’s more, he was sure that Rose had detected this new weakness in his position.

Exploring Rose’s transformation was fascinating, but for me, the most powerful But when thread, and the one that is most pivotal to the story, is the disintegration of Helen and Rose’s friendship. After Helen has Natalie and Rose has Teddy, the sisterhood they have built through years of raising children, sharing confidences and exchanging recipes, slowly falls apart. The unraveling of their relationship – accusations of neglect, holidays spent apart and unconcealed disgust–is heartbreaking. When the tension between them finally comes to a head during Mimi’s wedding, Helen can barely maintain her composure. You were like my sister, she cries. I never thought it would turn out so wrong. I never thought you’d end up hating me.

By this point we understand–the rift is irreparable, the damage is permanent. The choices Helen and Rose made on that winter night were meant to secure everyone’s happiness. But when secrets are kept from families and loved ones, there will always be consequences.


The Two Family HouseBrooklyn, 1947: In the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage: dutiful, quiet Rose, who wants nothing more than to please her difficult husband; and warm, generous Helen, the exhausted mother of four rambunctious boys who seem to need her less and less each day. Raising their families side by side, supporting one another, Rose and Helen share an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic winter night.

When the storm passes, life seems to return to normal; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and the once deep friendship between the two women begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost, but not quite, wins. Moving and evocative, Lynda Cohen Loigman’s debut novel THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE is a heart-wrenching, gripping multigenerational story, woven around the deepest of secrets.

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What We’ve Been Reading Lately

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

Today we’re linking up with our lovely friend, Anne Bogel, for her What I’ve Been Reading Lately series. You can check out what’s on Anne’s bookshelf (and many other bookshelves as well) by clicking that link.

On Deck For Marybeth Whalen


I don’t read Joshilyn Jackson’s books– I experience them via the audio versions that she herself narrates– with all the sass, emotion and inflection she had in mind when she wrote them. This newest offering is no exception and I have to say listening to this one has made my errand running and carpool line time all the more pleasant. Please do yourself a favor and get this book on Audible!

The Opposite of EveryoneSummary:

A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from the nationally bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama—an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives.

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to re-invent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birth name Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. Separated, each holding secrets of her own, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that Karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mysterious note: “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.

The Opposite of Everyone is a story about story itself, how the tales we tell connect us, break us, and define us, and how the endings and beginnings we choose can destroy us . . . and make us whole. Laced with sharp humor and poignant insight, it is beloved New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson at her very best.

MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout

I listened to this on my phone over a recent airplane trip that involved multiple flights and several layovers. I found the narrator’s voice to be soothing– so soothing that at one point I fell fast asleep and had to go back (and back– and back!) before I found where I’d left off. This is not a fast-paced thriller by any stretch. It’s an introspective, deep look into a mother/daughter relationship, the hold the past has on us, and what it means to break free from your family of origin– or at least make a valiant attempt to do so. The writing and characterization makes the book compelling. The audio version is only a little over 4 hours long– so it’s quick to get through, which I appreciated on my trip.

SummaMy Name is Lucy Bartonry:

A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.


Photo on 3-15-16 at 12.07 PM #2

On Deck For Ariel Lawhon


I am, apparently, one of the only people on planet earth who has not read MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND. This is something I plan to rectify soon since beginning her new novel, THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR. I had the great privilege of meeting Helen in San Francisco last month and she is every bit as warm and charming and lovely as you would expect. I am happy to declare myself her newest fan!

The Summer Before the WarSummary:

The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love on the eve of World War I that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set.
East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

One again I find myself in the minority. I have been meaning to read Lyndsay Faye’s Timothy Wilde series for years. But my good intentions keep getting interrupted by deadlines and distractions. So when JANE STEELE appeared on my doorstep like magic one day I moved it to the top of my reading pile. It is perfectly written and heaps of fun to read. A fabulous satire of Jane Eyre, but filled with it’s own quirks and magic. I’m almost halfway through and enjoying every page!

Jane SteeleSummary:

A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.”
“Reader, I murdered him.”

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement.  Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.

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Book, Meet Book

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Today we continue our new “Book, Meet Book” series and introduce two novels to each other– and to you guys– because we think they have some things in common and would make a good match. Will you add one– or both– to your “Want To Read” list? Let us know!


When I'm GoneWhen I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

Dear Luke,
First let me say—I love you…I didn’t want to leave you…

Luke Richardson has returned home after burying Natalie, his beloved wife of sixteen years, ready to face the hard job of raising their three children alone. But there’s something he’s not prepared for—a blue envelope with his name scrawled across the front in Natalie’s handwriting, waiting for him on the floor of their suburban Michigan home.

The letter inside, written on the first day of Natalie’s cancer treatment a year ago, turns out to be the first of many. Luke is convinced they’re genuine, but who is delivering them? As his obsession with the letters grows, Luke uncovers long-buried secrets that make him question everything he knew about his wife and their family. But the revelations also point the way toward a future where love goes on—in written words, in memories, and in the promises it’s never too late to keep.


casualtiesCasualties by Elizabeth Marro

A heartbreaking and insightful debut novel about the wars we fight overseas, at home, and within our own hearts.
Some come back whole. Some come back broken. Some just never come back…
As an executive for one of the most successful military defense contractors in the country, Ruth Nolan should have been thrilled when her troubled son, Robbie, chose to join the marines. But she wasn’t. She was terrified.

So, when he returns home to San Diego after his second tour in Iraq, apparently unscathed, it feels like a chance to start over and make things right—until a scandal at work tears her away from their reunion. By the next morning, Robbie is gone. A note arrives for Ruth in the mail a few days later saying, “I’m sorry for everything. It’s not your fault. I love you.”

Without a backward glance, Ruth packs up Robbie’s ashes and drives east, heading away from her guilt and regret. But the closer she gets to the coast she was born on, the more evident it becomes that she won’t outrun her demons—eventually, she’ll have to face them and confront the painful truth about her past, her choices, the war, and her son.

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On Writing About The Hindenburg

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon

Hindenburg disaster

Like many people, I have long been familiar with the iconic photos of the Hindenburg’s destruction. The zeppelin, with its nose in the air, spewing flames, is one of the most recognizable photos in history. I find it impossible not to stare at that tragic image and wonder what caused such horrific, immediate destruction. I’m not alone in this of course. Scientists, historians, and armchair detectives have been asking that question to no avail for almost eighty years. And that, in the end, is what led me to write FLIGHT OF DREAMS. I am hopelessly drawn to unsolved mysteries.

I often blame this personality quirk on a childhood spent reading Agatha Christie novels, but in truth it goes much deeper than that. I have a deep need to make sense of the unknown. I want to understand tragedy. I want to find answers when none are readily available. Where many would see only a photo of a burning airship I see a mystery that must be solved. And, as fate, would have it, I have chosen a career that allows me to do so—if only in a fictional way.

But novels are not about moments, they are about people, and the greatest challenge with this novel was getting to know the real men and women on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. I was determined that I would not change their fate—even when it broke my heart. I knew that if they lived in real life they would live in the novel. And I knew that if they died in real life I would have to render that on paper as well. Easier said than done as it turns out because I came to love them all in end and saying goodbye to some was much harder than I could have anticipated. The fact that I had the actual newsreel footage on hand—their deaths so famously caught on film—only made it more real to me. Perhaps that’s what made it so powerful as well. They are not figments of my imagination, but men and women immortalized forever on grainy black and white film. My job has simply been to sharpen the focus and bring them into color so the world can see them more clearly.

FLIGHT OF DREAMS is the result of my short-term love affair with a singular moment in history. It is my idea of what could have happened on board the Hindenburg that evening in early May 1937. It is my attempt at making sense of a senseless tragedy. And while no one will ever know what caused the spark that brought down the Hindenburg I hope that you will humor me by reading my theory. And I hope you enjoy the ride. I’ll be waiting for you on the ground with a box of tissue and hot cup of tea.


**Email readers can see the famous newsreel footage here.

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March Book Club Selection

Today’s post by Ariel Lawhon | @ArielLawhon


My second novel, FLIGHT OF DREAMS, was just published. And I have to admit that I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to putting those words in print (…my novel was just published…) Because here’s the truth: writing novels is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. The fact that I am here, doing it, falls in the realm of miraculous for me. And even though I’ve done this before I still find that I’m a bit shy drawing attention to myself. Maybe because it’s all very overwhelming? Or perhaps because there is no intelligent way to explain how I feel (exclamation marks and emojis just don’t seem to get the job done)? What I do know is that I hope you read FLIGHT OF DREAMS. I know that you have great taste in books. I know you’re smart and discerning and you love novels that keep you up past your bedtime. I’ve done my very best to write you a story that is worth reading, and then sharing with your friends. Because that’s what we do here: we share the stories we love. I just happen to have written this particular one. So it is with great excitement that I invite you to join this wonderful, bright, book-loving community in reading FLIGHT OF DREAMS this month. We’re going to have the best time discussing history and tragedy and hope. We’ll get to know the real men and women who traveled on board the Hindenburg. And I’ll be here, the entire time, telling you what I’ve learned along the way. So please do grab your copy–they’re available wherever books are sold–and join us back here. Because I’m really looking forward to book club this month!


At every page a guilty secret bobs up; at every page Lawhon keeps us guessing. Who will bring down the Hindenburg? And how?”
— New York Times Book Review


Flight of Dreams

From a dazzling new voice in historical fiction, FLIGHT OF DREAMS is an utterly suspenseful, heart-wrenching novel that vividly brings the fateful voyage of the Hindenburg to life.

On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.

Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.

Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

Read an excerpt of FLIGHT OF DREAMS here.

Add FLIGHT OF DREAMS to your Goodreads Want-to-Read list here.


Ariel Lawhon has real vision and the writing chops to back it up. She weaves the voices and lives of the Hindenburg’s doomed–and surviving–passengers together in intricate fashion, linking them at startling intersections that bind them into a single, riveting tale. It’s a fascinating blend of love and murder, big dreams and betrayal, history and pure imagination–I could not put it down.”
— Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge



For her second outing, Lawhon once again reimagines a front-page news event, filling in the entertaining backstory with passion, secrets, and nail-biting suspense, this time taking on the disastrous crash of the Hindenburg in 1937…Lawhon threads many stories together, connecting passengers and crew and bringing behind-the-scenes depth and humanity to a great 20th-century tragedy—even though we all know theHindenburg’s fate.”
Publishers Weekly

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Susan Meissner on The Color of Resilience

Today’s post by Susan Meissner | @SusanMeissner

We are delighted to welcome our good friend and brilliant author, Susan Meissner, back to the blog today. Her latest novel, STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD, centers around two women who become friends during the filming of Gone with the Wind. Susan is giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader today. Just leave a comment on this post telling us about your favorite moment from Gone with the Wind and you’ll be entered to win!


When I set out to write a dual-time period novel with the 1939 movie set of Gone with the Wind as the historical setting, I knew I wanted a relic from that iconic film to show up seventy-five years later to bridge the two storylines. I decided fairly early on that a costume piece would have the best chance of surviving seven decades outside of a museum. I had no sooner started thinking about which wardrobe piece to use when I knew it was going to be Scarlett O’Hara’s infamous curtain-dress hat.

curtaindresshatIf you’ve seen the movie even just once you probably remember the green velvet antebellum gown Mammy makes for Scarlett out of curtains when the taxes are due on Tara – Scarlett’s beloved home – and it’s post-war and there is no money to be found. Scarlett wears the drapes-turned-dress and the matching hat to Atlanta in an attempt to charm the three hundred dollars she needs out of the only person she knows that has any money – Rhett Butler. It didn’t work, by the way, but that dress and its hat are legendary. (You might want to check out Carol Burnett’s parody on YouTube!)

Why did I decide to pluck that particular costume item and place it in a current day vintage clothing store? The more I studied the GWTW wardrobe designed by costuming wizard Walter Plunkett, the more I saw how the colors of Scarlett’s costumes spoke to her character journey. I found it fascinating that every time Scarlett wore green in the film she made a desperate choice based largely out of fear or the need to be in control. When she wore red – whether it was the outlandish sequined affair she wore to Ashley’s birthday party or the muted red calico frock she wore as she walked across a train yard filled with wounded and dying Confederates as far as the eye can see – I saw her passion, loyalty, and fortitude. When she wore blue, I saw her need to fit in, to be like everyone else. And white of course, always spoke of her naiveté despite her conniving ways. I knew I could tap into that for my own story. The fact that scarlet is also a color is no doubt why I named one of my characters Violet.

reddressCase in point: To me, Scarlett’s curtain-dress hat is emblematic of what dire circumstances can lead someone to do when what she loves most is in danger of being ripped out of her hands. When we’re afraid of losing what we treasure most, we sometimes choose to do things that we would never do in an ordinary situation. I don’t think it’s any accident that hat is part rich velvet and gold braid and part barnyard rooster feathers. It’s an amalgam of Scarlett’s strength and her weakness. She will do what no one else will do because of how afraid she is of losing everything.

My newest book, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is about two studio secretaries who become best friends while working on this 1939 movie set. They are both on a desperate search for happiness, and their desires sometimes collide despite the affection they have for each other. This story is framed with a contemporary thread about a young woman who owns a vintage clothing re-sale shop in Hollywood, who is stunned one afternoon when the iconic curtain-dress hat that Vivien Leigh wore as Scarlett O’Hara shows up in her boutique.

Interestingly enough, when I was doing the research for this book, I contacted the author of the fabulous The Making of Gone with the Wind, Steve Wilson. He is the curator for the collection of Gone with the Wind items at the University of Texas at Austin, which is where the famed curtain dress and its hat reside. I told him I was planning to have the curtain-dress hat show up in a vintage clothing store in the current day even though I knew the hat was safe and sound at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. What he told me next still makes me smile. He said there was in fact a second hat made – a back-up – and no one knows what became of it.

If you haven’t watched Gone with the Wind in a while, I encourage to view it again with an eye to watching what Walter Plunkett did with the costumes. I find that I now pay close attention to the color palette a costume designer uses when clothing a literary character for the big screen. Perhaps you’ve been noticing this, too. Is there a movie in which you’ve observed the color choices for the wardrobe were quietly showing you layers of character? I would love to hear from you.


SOSB_NEW_Final.inddIn this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

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Five Novels That Will Give You Chills This Winter

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @Marybeth Whalen

The plethora of newly released titles that promise to take you on a fast-paced thrill ride this winter prove to us two things– that we love to curl up in front of a fire and read a page-turner in the cooler months, and that thrillers are more popular than ever. If thrillers thrill you (sorry, we couldn’t resist!) then we’ve got a list that should keep you reading even after the weather turns warm.


The ExTHE EX by Alafair Burke

In this breakout standalone novel of suspense in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train, a woman agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been framed for murder—but begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated.

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.

Widower Jack Harris has resisted the dating scene ever since the shooting of his wife Molly by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman in last night’s party dress, barefoot, enjoying a champagne picnic alone, reading his favorite novel. Everything about her reminds him of what he used to have with Molly. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a message on a popular website after he mentions the encounter. Days later, that same beautiful stranger responds and invites Jack to meet her in person at the waterfront. That’s when Jack’s world falls apart.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, to absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?


He Will Be mY RuinHE WILL BE MY RUIN by K.A. Tucker

A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin.

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.


The Good GoodbyeTHE GOOD GOODBYE by Carla Buckley

For fans of Jodi Picoult comes an enthralling domestic thriller about the lies we tell, and let ourselves believe, in the name of love.

The first thing you should know is that everyone lies. The second thing is that it matters.

How well do we know our children? Natalie Falcone would say she knows her daughter, Arden, very well. Despite the challenges of running a restaurant and raising six-year-old twin boys, she’s not too worried as she sends her daughter off to college—until she gets the call that Arden’s been in a terrible fire, along with her best friend and cousin, Rory. Both girls are critically injured and another student has died. The police suspect arson.

Arden and Rory have always been close, but they have secrets they’ve never shared, secrets that reel all the way back to their childhoods, and which led them to that tragic night. Who set the fire, and why? As the police dig deep into both the present and the past, Natalie realizes that in order to protect her daughter, she’ll first have to find out who Arden really is, even if it means risking everything—and everyone—she loves most.


what She LeftWHAT SHE LEFT by TR Richmond

In this brilliantly modern novel of love, obsession, and revenge, a professor pieces together the life and mysterious death of a former student—and unearths a shocking revelation about her final days.

On a snowy February morning, the body of twenty-five-year-old journalist Alice Salmon washes up on a riverbank south of London. The sudden, shocking death of this beloved local girl becomes a media sensation, and those who knew her struggle to understand what happened to lively, smart, and savvy Alice Salmon. Was it suicide? A tragic accident? Or…murder?

Professor Jeremy Cooke, known around campus as Old Cookie, is an anthropologist nearing the end of his unremarkable academic career. Alice is his former student, and the object of his unhealthy obsession. After her death, he embarks on a final project—a book documenting Alice’s life through the digital and paper trails that survive her: her diaries, letters, Facebook posts, Tweets, and text messages. He collects news articles by and about her; he transcribes old voicemails; he interviews her friends, family, and boyfriends.

Bit by bit, the real Alice—a complicated and vulnerable young woman—springs fully formed from the pages of Cookie’s book…along with a labyrinth of misunderstandings, lies, and secrets that cast suspicion on everyone in her circle—including Jeremy himself.


Hidden BodiesHIDDEN BODIES by Caroline Kepnes

In the compulsively readable follow-up to her widely acclaimed debut novel, You, Caroline Kepnes weaves a tale that Booklist calls “the love child of Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman.”
Hidden Bodies marks the return of a voice that Stephen King described as original and hypnotic, and through the divisive and charmingly sociopathic character of Joe Goldberg, Kepnes satirizes and dissects our culture, blending suspense with scathing wit.

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: truelove. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

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All About The Oscars: 8 Book Pairings for 8 Best Picture Nominations

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen


What’s your pick for best picture? We will know soon enough which movie wins– but in the meantime we thought we’d share a list of books that correspond with the nominated films. If the movie was based on a book, we indicated that. And then we further suggested a novel that has a similar theme, time period, or premise as these films with the thought that, if you enjoyed the movie, maybe you’d enjoy these other books as well. Also,  it’s a banner year for the written word, given that six of this year’s eight nominee’s are based on books.


The Big ShortBest Picture Nominee THE BIG SHORT: Based on the book THE BIG SHORT, INSIDE THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE by Michael Lewis

The real story of the crash began in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn’t shine and the SEC doesn’t dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower–and middle–class Americans who can’t pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren’t talking.

Michael Lewis creates a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 bestseller Liar’s Poker. Out of a handful of unlikely–really unlikely–heroes, Lewis fashions a story as compelling and unusual as any of his earlier bestsellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our time.

Too Big To FailPaired With: TOO BIG TO FAIL: the inside story of how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial institution, and themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

A real-life thriller about the most tumultuous period in America’s financial history by an acclaimed New York Times Reporter

Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington,Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy.

“We’ve got to get some foam down on the runway!” a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve of New York, would tell Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, about the catastrophic crash the world’s financial system would experience.

Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing never disclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were “too big to fail,” it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.


Bridge of SpiesBest Picture Nominee: BRIDGE OF SPIES

From IMDB:

During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.






Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyPaired with: TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY by John LeCarre (also an Oscar nominated feature film)

Featuring George Smiley, this New York Times bestseller is the first installment in John le Carré’s acclaimed Karla Trilogy. From the author of A Delicate Truth and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

The man he knew as “Control” is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn’t quite ready for retirement—especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla—his Moscow Centre nemesis—and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

The Oscar-nominated feature film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and features Gary Oldman as Smiley, Academy Award winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), and Tom Hardy (Inception).


BrooklynBest Picture Nominee: BROOKLYN, based on the book BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin

Hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Colm Tóibín’s sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

By far Tóibín’s most instantly engaging and emotionally resonant novel, Brooklyn will make readers fall in love with his gorgeous writing and spellbinding characters.

A Tree Grows In BrooklynPaired With: A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith

The American classic about a young girl’s coming of age at the turn of the century. “A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life…If you missA Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience…It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships. The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919…Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city’s poor. Primarily this is Francie’s book. She is a superb feat of characterization, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child. And Francie’s growing up and beginnings of wisdom are the substance of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” —New York Times


Mad MaxBest Picture Nominee: MAD MAX FURY ROAD

From IMDB:

A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in postapocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max.






Station ElevenPaired with: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel 

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production ofKing Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it._________________________________________________________________________

the martianBest Picture Nominee: THE MARTIAN, Based on the book THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Into Thin AirPaired with: INTO THIN AIR by John Krakauer

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.


the revenantBest Picture Nominee: THE REVENANT, based on the book THE REVENANT: A NOVEL OF REVENGE by Michael Punke

A thrilling tale of betrayal and revenge set against the nineteenth-century American frontier, the astonishing story of real-life trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass

The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Hugh Glass is among the company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. Two company men are dispatched to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies. When the men abandon him instead, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out, crawling at first, across hundreds of miles of uncharted American frontier. Based on a true story, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.

Lonesome DovePaired With: LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry

Bestselling winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize, Lonesome Dove is an American classic. A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West — legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers — in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.

Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana — and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream — the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.
Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas Rangers, partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger together without ever quite understanding (or wanting to understand) each other’s deepest emotions. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weaknesses, and not many of his own. He is obsessed with the dream of creating his own empire, and with the need to conceal a secret sorrow of his own. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough, redoubtable fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else.


roomBest Picture Nominee: ROOM, based on the novel ROOM by Emma Donohue

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

abovePaired With: ABOVE by Isla Morley 

In the bestselling vein of Room and The Lovely Bones, a stunning and harrowing novel about a Kansas teenager who is abducted and locked away in an abandoned missile silo by a survivalist who believes he is saving her from the impending destruction of the world.

I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

Above is a riveting tale of resilience in which “stunning” (Daily Beast) new literary voice Isla Morley compels us to imagine what we would do if everything we had ever known was taken away. Like the bestselling authors of Room and The Lovely Bones before her, Morley explores the unthinkable with haunting detail and tenderly depicts our boundless capacity for hope.


SpotlightBest Picture Nominee: SPOTLIGHT

From IMDB:

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.






faithPaired with: FAITH by Jennifer Haigh

One woman’s search for the truth after scandal rocks her family, and the explosive family secrets she uncovers, in this complex, moving novel from award-winning author Jennifer Haigh. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the repercussions of one family’s history of silence, when a priest’s sex scandal forces his family’s untold past to surface. Art, Sheila, and Mike are siblings in a large extended Irish-American family from the Boston suburbs. Though their father is a non-believer, their mother is lace curtain Irish-Catholic, having raised her children to keep family secrets just that – secret – in a home where most subjects are taboo. Sheila is concerned when Art, beloved priest leading a major Catholic parish outside Boston, seems to fall off the grid just days before Easter. Then the news breaks that he has been accused of sexual misconduct. The media coverage shatters the community and pits Art’s family members against one another, leaving Sheila determined to uncover the truth and -she hopes – clear his name. Determined to help prove Art’s innocence, Sheila finds herself locking horns with her younger brother, Mike, who cannot shake the feeling that Art might be guilty. By turns disturbed by what Art might have done and furious at the seemingly unfair accusations, the truth remains elusive for readers in this artfully crafted family drama.

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Today’s post by Kate Hilton and Sadeqa Johnson | @KateMHilton and @SadeqaSays

Many apologies for the delay in posting the second part of this interview with Kate Hilton and Sadeqa Johnson. I’ve been sick (thanks to The Wild Rumpus, who has also been sick) and living on a coffee/fever medicine cocktail the last few days. That said, I’m delighted to bring you these two lovely, brilliant women again today. Enjoy!

Author to Author 30

Kate: “Any mother who says that she has never felt like her whole life was being sucked out through her nostrils is a damn liar.” I loved this quote. Why do you think so many women lie about their negative experiences of motherhood?

Sadeqa: When my three children were barely school age, I really struggled with the full time job of caring for them, making sure each one had what they needed. I remember sitting on the playground listening to two mothers glorify their child’s every move and thinking to myself is this it? While I loved my children fiercely, there were moments when I felt like I couldn’t take another step, I was worn out, overworked and sleep deprived. I believe that women tuck some of the dark sides of motherhood into the crevices of their purse because we are supposed to be able to do it all. Our culture has changed drastically and it’s not enough to wear one hat. Women have to wear several hats all at the same time without missing a beat or dropping a ball. I think we lie so that we don’t appear weak, unworthy or ungrateful.

Kate: Having experienced severe trauma as a child, many of Felicia’s adult choices are about building and protecting the ‘safe’ family that she has always wanted. But I think that many women, even with uneventful childhoods, feel compelled to choose safety over passion, whether professional or personal. What does Felicia’s story tell us about the false promise of ‘safe’ choices?

Sadeqa: I think Felicia operates her household from the perspective of fear. She can’t shake the idea that the vines of her past will pull her back and erase all that she has worked to achieve and land her back in poverty. There’s nothing wrong with playing it safe, sometimes, but the beauty of life unfolds when you step out on faith and operate with spontaneity. My motto is that everything is perfect right now and always.

Kate: I was very drawn to Martin, Felicia’s first love, who appears to be the worst kind of villain, but is revealed as a much more complicated character as the novel progresses. How do you think we mythologize our first loves and what does that mean for our future relationships?

Sadeqa: Our very first time loving another human being romantically is magical because it’s our first encounter with being vulnerable and trusting another with the heart. One can never replace that first experience and it grows more surreal as time passes on. The fairytale comes from being young, impressionable and innocent. As time goes on people either close up after that first love experience or continue to love with an open heart unabashedly. I’m an open-heart lover and tend to go all in.

Kate: Martin says, “I believe in life we are always exactly where we’re supposed to be.” Do you think Felicia comes to believe that as well?

Sadeqa: By the end of the novel, Felicia is a changed woman. I think she does start to understand her place in the world as a mother, wife, actress and friend. She realizes that she cannot change her past. In fact, it’s because of her history with her family and the lessons that she has learned from her trip home that equips her for her future.

Kate: Preston, Felicia’s husband, is perhaps even more wedded to the idea of family perfection than Felicia is. In many ways, he embodies the pressure that women feel to conform to a particular model of marriage and motherhood. Do you think that Felicia can find a new way to exist within her marriage? Does she even want to?

Sadeqa: She totally wants to make her marriage work. By the end of her journey she’s ready to live. For Preston, her secrets were shocking because he thought he knew his wife to the core. It also scraped the scabs off his childhood and brought some of his personal struggles to life. When two people marry they bring all of their baggage with them and it takes time to sort through it. Preston’s biggest challenge is to forgive, not just Felicia but also himself.

Kate: What are you working on now?

Sadeqa: I’m working on my third novel, And Then There Was Me. It’s about a woman who is a surrogate, struggles with bulimia and suffers from the ultimate betrayal in her marriage. I love writing about flawed characters who have to fight to regain that piece of themselves that has been lost along the way. And Then There Was Me will be out Spring 2017.


Second House From the corner“A captivating tale to savor about a woman whose buried past threatens her picture perfect family life. Felicia is a wonderfully flawed, compelling main character, one who has stayed with me long after I finished the book. A winning novel from a writer to watch.” -Benilde Little, bestselling author

Felicia Lyons, a ­­­­­­­ stressed out stay-at-home mom, struggles to sprint ahead of the demands of motherhood while her husband spends long days at the office. Felicia taps, utters mantra, and breathes her way through most situations, but on some days, like when the children won’t stop screaming her name or arguing over toy trucks and pretzel sticks, she wonders what it would be like to get in her car and drive away.

Then one evening the telephone rings, and in a split second the harried mother’s innocent fantasy becomes a hellish reality. The call pulls her back into a life she’d rather forget. Felicia hasn’t been completely honest about her upbringing, and her deception forces her return to the Philadelphia of her childhood, where she must confront the family demons and long buried secrets she thought she had left behind.

From a phenomenal fresh voice in fiction, comes the compelling story of what happens when the dream falls apart. Sadeqa Johnson’s Second House from the Corner is an unforgettable tale of love, loss, rediscovery, and the growing pains of marriage.

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Author to Author Interview: Kate Hilton and Sadeqa Johnson

Today’s post by Kate Hilton and Sadeqa Johnson | @KateMHilton and @SadeqaSays

Please welcome Kate Hilton and Sadeqa Johnson to the blog today. Their new novels, THE HOLE IN THE MIDDLE, and SECOND HOUSE FROM THE CORNER both center on women who wonder if the life they’ve made for themselves is the life really want. So of course we had to introduce them and get them chatting about their novels. We’ll have part two of this interview on Thursday but until then, grab a warm cup of tea and enjoy!


Author to Author 30

Sadeqa: In The Hole in the Middle, Sophie is a woman who wants to do it all. She has a hard time delegating and in particular asking her husband for help particularly with the kids. She also has a hard time saying no. Do you think this is common among most women/mothers? Has this been a personal struggle for you?

Kate: I do think that many women have difficulty asking for help and saying no. I have the sense that women used to be better at leaning on the people in their communities – especially the other women – for support. This generation of mothers seems determined to go it alone, and to do it all perfectly. And it doesn’t appear that we’ve achieved equal division of household labor between spouses either. Overall, the load on women seems to be increasing. And yes, I’ve struggled with all of these issues at various times in my adult life. But I’m better at asking for help now, and at acknowledging my own limitations.

Sadeqa: You were very brave to write the story between two different time periods. Writing in both the past and present can be tricky to pull off but I think you’ve done an incredible job bringing all the plot points to life. How difficult was it for you to keep up with both sides of the story? Did you run into any problems?

Kate: Thank you! I love books that move through different time periods, and I’m a big proponent of the idea that we should write the books we want to read. In terms of writing, I love working with two storylines in two time periods. Because I don’t write in a linear way (more on that later), jumping around in time doesn’t interrupt my flow. It keeps me from getting bored.

Sadeqa: Lillian Parker is an amazing character. She’s very much Sophie’s fairy godmother that waves her magic wand and makes things happen. She is a key player in the way Sophie’s life unfolds throughout the story. Where did the inspiration to write her evolve? Is she based on anyone you know? Does Sophie ever resent Lil’s influence?

Kate: You know, this is probably the question I am asked most often. Obviously, every woman wishes that she had a Lillian in her life. And so do I! Sadly, she isn’t based on a real person. She was the first character that took shape in my imagination and the book evolved around her. And writing The Hole in the Middle made my dreams of becoming an author come true…so in that sense, Lillian is the closest thing I have to a fairy godmother. There is a scene near the end of the book in which Sophie reflects on the complexity of her relationship with Lillian (and I don’t want to risk a spoiler here), but I don’t believe that Sophie resents Lillian. I think she understands that Lillian is motivated by love.

Sadeqa: The story unfolds around a rough patch in Sophie and Jesse’s marriage. The arguments and tough moments were spot on. At any point as the writer did you think they might separate?

Kate: The fate of Sophie and Jesse’s marriage is one of the central points of tension in the book. Will one or both of them have an affair? Will their relationship survive? Should it? As a writer, I considered all of the possible outcomes seriously. Readers will have to decide if I got it right in the end.

Sadeqa: Will seems like the ghost that Sophie could never put to bed. How was Jesse secretly dealing with this? Did his relationship with Anya have anything to do with Sophie and Will?

Kate: One of the ideas I thought about while writing The Hole in the Middle is how we tend to summon ghosts of the past when we are struggling to cope with our life in the present. Would Will Shannon be a threat to Sophie’s relationship with Jesse if their marriage were perfectly happy? Probably not, and the same is true of Jesse’s fascination with Anya. I see extra-marital attraction as a symptom of underlying trouble in the marriage and not as its source. But again, readers may disagree.

Sadeqa: Sophie’s ROAR calculation is brilliant. How did you come up with such a system? Have you since been applying it to your real life situations?

Kate: Again, thanks! I love the ROAR calculation. It came to me in a flash one day when I was working and I burst out laughing at my desk. To me, it encapsulates Sophie’s mistaken view that she can control everything. And no, I don’t use it in my own life – it’s way too complicated for me!

Sadeqa: I’m always fascinated by author’s daily writing routine. Would you mind sharing your process? Do you outline or dive into the story headfirst? Do you write in your home or go out to a café or library to get the work done?

Kate: I’m an outliner. I don’t start writing the book until I know exactly what will happen in every chapter. But I don’t write the book in linear order – I move around inside the outline depending on my mood in a given week. I treat writing as a job with regular hours (usually mornings), and I always work at home.

Sadeqa: What are you working on next and when should we have it in our hands?

Kate: I’ve just finished my second novel, Just Like Family. It should appear sometime in the spring or summer of 2017. And I’m starting the outline for Novel #3. Stay tuned!


the hole in the middleThe heartfelt and hilarious, international bestselling debut about having it all without losing your mind.

Sophie Whelan is the kind of woman who prides herself on doing it all. In a single day, she can host a vegan-friendly and lactose-free dinner for ten, thwart a PTA president intent on forcing her to volunteer, and outwit her hostile ‘assistant’ in order to get her work done on time.

With her fortieth birthday looming, and her carefully coordinated existence beginning to come apart at the seams, Sophie begins feeling like she needs more from her life—and especially from her husband, Jesse.

The last thing Sophie needs is a new complication in her life. But when an opportunity from her past suddenly reappears, Sophie is forced to confront the choices she’s made and decide if her chaotic life is really a dream come true—or the biggest mistake she’s ever made…

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