Writing In The Blind

Today’s post by Matthew Dicks | @MatthewDicks

Matthew Dicks is the author of THE PERFECT COMEBACK OF CAROLINE JACOBS, one of our fall book club selections. Every author approaches the blank page in a different way and we asked Matthew to share a bit of his writing process–specifically for this novel–with us today.

Matthew Dicks

Matthew Dicks

Here’s how crazy my writing process can be:

I open the next chapter of my manuscript in a hotel room. Mother and daughter have just stepped foot inside.

Why are we here? I ask myself.

I honestly don’t know.

Mother and daughter begin speaking. Daughter is not happy with the hotel room. It reeks of cigarette smoke.

Really? I think. Cigarette smoke? That’s annoying. I don’t blame her.

But I’m still not sure why we’re here. It can’t just be for this back-and-forth mother-daughter bickering. Right? None of this is interesting.

Mother goes into bathroom to wash up. Then she hears something.

I hear it now, too.

It’s her daughter, still in the other room. She’s on the phone. She’s up to no good, I think. She sounds different. Sneaky. Mother agrees. What is her daughter doing? Let’s go find out.

I honestly have no idea what she’s doing at this point.

Mother exits the bathroom. Then I hear it, just as she does. I catch enough of the daughter’s conversation to realize what she is doing. And it’s perfect. It’s dramatic. It will increase the tension between mother and daughter. It’s a moment that will wind its way into the mother’s heart, causing her to feel both guilt and admiration at the same time.


It even pushes the plot forward. Hints at what’s to come. This is good. This is why we are here. This is why I started the chapter in this hotel room.

To think I had no idea about any of this when I sat down to write.

This is the internal dialogue that took place in my head as I wrote the first 500 words of the chapter. This is the kind of internal dialogue that takes place almost every time I write. I have absolutely no idea what is about to happen most of the time. For me, writing is almost like reading. I discover the story through the act of creation. During the act of creation.

For a long time, I tried and failed to write novels because I didn’t know that writing in the blind was a thing. I had yet to hear authors compare the writing process to driving down a darkened highway late at night, only able to see the sliver of the road ahead illuminated by the headlights.

I used to think I needed a plan in order to write.

Then one day I started writing without a plan. Accidentally. That was the moment I discovered how I was meant to write. That first, accidental attempt to write without a plan resulted in my first novel, Something Missing.

Four novels later, I’m still writing in the blind. I still have no idea what is about to happen most of the time.

It’s crazy. It’s how I work. How many writers work.

There are many days when I feel more like a chronicler of some alternate reality rather than a novelist in charge of my fictional world.


The Perfect Comeback of Carlone JacobsCaroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less.

Caroline’s outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback . . . some twenty-five years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

THE PERFECT COMEBACK OF CAROLINE JACOBS is an enchanting novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives. It’s the story of a woman looking to fix her life through an act of bravery, and of a mother and daughter learning to understand one another. Deceptively simple and highly engaging, this latest novel by Matthew Dicks is perfect for those of us who were last to be picked at sports, and for everyone who is thrilled not to be in high school any more.

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Happy Reading: Six Novels That Will Make You Feel Better About Life

Today’s post by our very own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Sometimes the bad stuff can get to us– wars, poverty, tragedies, and politics weigh on our minds, showing up in our Facebook feed, scrolling across our tv screens and becoming the topic of conversation around the water cooler. So what do we do when we want to turn off the bad news?

We open a book.

Today we’ve got the perfect stories to turn to when you just want to feel good about the state of humanity–

The Someday JarTHE SOMEDAY JAR by Allison Morgan

Real-estate broker Lanie Howard figures she has the perfect man, the perfect job, and the perfect life. Then she stumbles across her old Someday Jar, the forgotten glass relic where she stashed all the childhood wishes—no matter how crazy—that her father encouraged her to write down on the backs of Chinese restaurant fortunes. She used to be fun once! What happened to her?

Although Lanie is wary of uncorking her past, when an attractive stranger saves her from a life-or-death encounter with a lemon peel at the bottom of a martini glass, she realizes that life is way too short for regrets. Now, jar in hand, Lanie decides to throw caution to the wind, and carry out everything she had once hoped to do, even if it means leaving her perfectly “perfect” life behind…


A Measure of HappinessA MEASURE OF HAPPINESS by Lorrie Thomson

Katherine Lamontagne isn’t Celeste Barnes’s mother, but ever since Celeste graduated high school and her parents abandoned Hidden Harbor, Maine, she’s acted the part. At twenty-two, Celeste worked at Katherine’s bakery, and hoped to buy the business once Katherine took early retirement. But when Katherine reconsidered that decision, Celeste fled to culinary school in New York—only to return two months later, a shadow of the girl who’d stormed out the door.

Katherine knows the signs of secret heartbreak. Years ago, she gave up her baby son for adoption—a regret she’s never shared with either her ex-husband or Celeste. She longs for Celeste to confide in her now. But it will be a stranger in town—an engaging young wanderer named Zach Fitzgerald—who spurs them toward healing. As both women are drawn into Zach’s questioning heart, they also rediscover their own appetites for truth and for love—and gain the courage to face the past without being imprisoned by it.

Uplifting, emotionally rich, and deeply satisfying, A Measure of Happiness illuminates the nature of friendship, motherhood, hope—and the gifts of second chances.


Rainy Day SistersRAINY DAY SISTERS by Kate Hewitt

When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favor to Juliet.

Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference.


The Little Paris BookshopTHE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP by Nina George

Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.


Cold FeetCOLD FEET by Amy Fitzhenry

Everyone’s expecting her to walk down the aisle.
But something is telling her to run.

Emma Moon’s mother thinks it’s acceptable to miss her only daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner for a work obligation. Her father left when she was six months old. Emma hasn’t exactly been raised to be a happily-ever-after kind of girl.

So when her anxieties get out of hand, Emma and her best friend, Liv, decide to take a road trip to San Francisco, find her long-lost father, and put her family issues to rest.

But her quest for the truth stirs up events and emotions she didn’t expect. The urge to run away may just be a part of Emma’s genetic makeup, because she’s growing more and more tempted to do just that…


The Paris KeyTHE PARIS KEY by Juliet Blackwell

As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

Paris never really left Genevieve, and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle’s shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand.

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Author to Author Interview: The Paris Edition, Part Two

Today’s post by Dana Gynther and Meg Waite Clayton | @MegWClayton

We’re delighted to return with part two of our Paris interview series. If you missed part one, you can read it here. Today Dana Gynther discusses her new novel, THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH, with Meg Waite Clayton. And if this doesn’t make you want to visit the city of lights, nothing will!

Paris Collage

Meg: In your previous book, CROSSING ON THE PARIS, three women collide on an ocean liner leaving France in the 1920s. You return to 1920s France in your new novel—what draws you to this time and place in history? Did your work on CROSSING ON THE PARIS help inform THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH?

Dana: I love Paris. I studied French in college and, like Lee Miller (the woman in the photograph), I moved to France in my early twenties and lived there for a couple of years. I also had several aspiring artist friends in Paris—sadly though, unlike her group of friends and acquaintances, none of mine have become world famous.

While doing research for the two novels, I found these were completely different times. When talking about history, music or fashion, we tend to lump decades together, figuring that everything in a ten-year period was more or less the same. The 1920s, however, saw drastic change, much like the 1960s. CROSSING ON THE PARIS took place in 1921 when Europe was still reeling from World War I. People were trying to heal, to rebuild their lives and cities under a gray cloud of mourning. By the time Lee Miller arrived to Paris in 1929, it was already known for its art scene, bohemian parties, all-night cafés and night clubs. Poor Lee—the Crash would cause another big shift about six months after her arrival.

Meg: You delve intimately into the relationship between Lee Miller and Man Ray. I’ve read a lot written by and about Miller, too, and know that her life was … well, let’s just say there are plenty of fascinating stories to draw from her life. What brought you to focus on this relationship?

Dana: After reading the two key biographies of Lee Miller, Carolyn Burke’s definitive LEE MILLER: ON BOTH SIDES OF THE CAMERA and her son Antony Penrose’s THE LIVES OF LEE MILLER, I decided to write a novel juxtaposing two dramatically different times in her life. The first part was about her three-year stay in Paris, when she worked as model for French Vogue, as Man Ray’s assistant photographer, and even as an actress in Jean Cocteau’s first film. A rather frivolous lifestyle of champagne and dancing, the latest fashions and lovers, art openings and surrealist poetry. The second part of the novel was about her time as a World War II correspondent, when she was putting herself in danger to get the closest shot, wearing the same grimy fatigues and combat boots day after day, enjoying being a comrade-at-arms with fellow soldiers (a period you know about as well as I do!). I did all the research and wrote the first draft of the novel and… my editor decided we should cut the second part and really hone in on the first. I was initially disappointed but, in the end, I think it was a good decision. Her three-year relationship with Man Ray has almost “A Star is Born” quality about it—her rise through his mentorship, the intensity of their romance, its aftermath.

And it also makes our books, Meg, such great companion pieces!

Meg: How did you go about deciding the details of these actual people? What sources did you turn to, and how much creative license did you take in telling these people’s stories?

Dana: I tried to stay true to the people and their stories and not veer too much into my own fantasy. Almost all of the events in the novel are based on fact (or at least ‘legend’), from the essential bios mentioned above as well as tons of other sources, including, of course, Man Ray’s side of the story, as told in his wonderful autobiography SELF-PORTRAIT and Neil Baldwin’s MAN RAY: AMERICAN ARTIST. I also found the photos themselves (the work of both Lee and Man) very helpful. Needless to say, the thoughts and dialogues are my invention—as well as a few party scenes. But a surprising amount of the material is true—and in that way that truth can be so surprising.

Meg: Has your perspective on Miller changed over the course of writing the book, and if so how?

Dana: When I first started reading about Lee Miller, I thought of her as a rather unsympathetic character. A stunningly beautiful opportunist, the witty charmer at a party that all the men flock around, one who had no qualms about sleeping with any man (why should she care if he were attached? She only wanted him for an hour or two!), a person who Luck seemed to favor. Not exactly your PARIS WIFE Hadley Richardson, with her average looks and brains, who seemed little more than Ernest Hemingway’s hapless victim. But the more I read and thought about her, the more human she became. Not only because of the dark moments in her youth, but her weaknesses, failings, overstretched ambitions and then, the ageing… These were the things that made me fall for Lee Miller.


The Woman in the PhotographSet in the romantic glow of 1920s Paris, a captivating novel of New York socialite and model Lee Miller, whose glamorous looks and joie de vivre caught the eye of Man Ray, one of the twentieth century’s defining photographers.

1929, Montparnasse. Model and woman about town Lee Miller moves to Paris determined to make herself known amidst the giddy circle of celebrated artists, authors, and photographers currently holding court in the city. She seeks out the charming, charismatic artist Man Ray to become his assistant but soon becomes much more than that: his model, his lover, his muse.

Coming into her own more fully every day, Lee models, begins working on her own projects, and even stars in a film, provoking the jealousy of the older and possessive Man Ray. Drinking and carousing is the order of the day, but while hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, she also falls in love with the art of photography and finds that her own vision can no longer come second to her mentor’s.

The Woman in the Photograph is the richly drawn, tempestuous novel about a talented and fearless young woman caught up in one of the most fascinating times of the twentieth century.

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Turning the Victorian Novel On Its Ear

Today’s post by Deanna Raybourn | @DeannaRaybourn

I had the immense pleasure of meeting Deanna Raybourn at Triangle Reads last month and I must say she is every bit as delightful in person as she is on the page. Her latest novel, A CURIOUS BEGINNING, is one of our Fall book club selections and if you’ve not yet read her work, it’s a fabulous place to start!

Deanna RaybournArranging flowers, practicing the piano, and covering up the furniture legs with doilies—these are the things we think our Victorian sisters were doing. And bless them, some were! But there were others, the women who listened to the quiet, insistent call of the unknown. These women packed up their parasols and their petticoats and set off in search of adventure.

They aren’t as well known as their male counterparts. Far more people would recognize the line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” than would know the names Mary Kingsley or Isabella Bird. But they should. These women were intrepid and courageous, traversing hostile terrain and enduring hardship and privation as great as anything their male explorers experienced, and they were doing it in corsets and crinolines.

My favorite of these daring women was Margaret Fountaine. A lepidopterist by trade—butterfly hunting was one of the few genteel occupations open to ladies—Margaret netted specimens on six continents over the span of a fifty-year career. She kept journals of her travels, detailing the challenges and the triumphs, as well as the many hearts she broke along the way. Not only was Margaret a keen collector of winged insects, she was a keen collector of men as well, gathering admirers as easily as she acquired Lepidoptera. Her unique way of living a truly grand life—much larger than that of her hearth-bound sisters–makes her endearingly memorable as well as an unparalleled inspiration for Veronica Speedwell, the heroine of A CURIOUS BEGINNING, the first book in my new Victorian series.

Veronica is very much her own woman, daring, forthright, and unapologetic about pursuing her passions, both professional and personal. She is, like all of her colleagues in exploration, a modern woman for her time, firmly rooted in Victorian England while looking ahead with delighted anticipation to the dawn of the twentieth century. I made her a lepidopterist in affectionate homage to Margaret, and I think they might have been very great friends—so long as they weren’t chasing after the same Morpho blue!


A Curious BeginningIn her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

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Author to Author Interview: The Paris Edition

Today’s post by Dana Gynther and Meg Waite Clayton | @MegWClayton

Ah, Paris! This city always has been–and always will be–magical in print. So we asked two novelists to  interview one another another about their new, Paris-centered novels. Up first Dana Gynther interviews Meg Waite Clayton about her novel, THE RACE FOR PARIS (and congratulations to Meg, by the way, as this book just became a national bestseller!) And don’t forget to check back on Thursday for the second half of this interview and learn about Dana’s novel, THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH.

Paris Collage

Dana: I was two-thirds through Dickens’ Bleak House when your book arrived in the mail. Contrary to custom, I left my current reading to gather dust on my bedside table and picked up your gorgeous novel. I was surprised to find that, for these two books, you and Dickens used the same, singular style: an omniscient narrator interspersed with a first-person one (a decision that caused quite a stir in 1852). Why did you decide to tell the story this way? Have you read many books that use this device? (which, btw, I will be stealing in the future).

Meg: The narrative point of view I use in The Race for Paris is the same I’ve used in several of my previous novels, including The Wednesday Sisters. I think of as 1st person retrospective.

In this case, Jane is telling the story of the years she spent as a journalist in France during WWII from the perspective of 50 years later, as she is returning to Paris for an exhibit of her dear friend Liv Harper’s photographs from the war.

Jane and Liv were in France, living and working 24/7 with British military photographer Fletcher Roebuck in very intense and intimate circumstances—covering the war together and hoping to be the first to report the liberation of Paris, which would make both history and their careers.

While Jane isn’t there at every moment of every scene of the novel, she knows the stories she tells the way we know the stories of our family and our closest friends. She was there, nearby if not in scene. She’s shared long, late-night conversations with Liv and Fletcher about the moments she wasn’t there—some at the time, and some in the intervening years.

It’s actually a pretty common narrative technique, with probably the best known example being The Great Gatsby. But the way I came to it was through my family. I grew up making weekend treks from Chicago to Iowa, where my dad grew up, and being regaled with stories of their youth by my Uncle Jim.

Dana: One of irresistible things about this novel is that it deals with a trio (two, in fact, but let’s concentrate on the central one): the three traveling companions, Fletcher, Liv and Jane. Did you have a favorite among them? Why?

Meg: I think you have to be able to identify with anyone to deliver them well, so I hope I identify with all of them. Fletcher, for example—my British military photographer—he’s this really lovely guy who has the habit of falling for the wrong person again and again. Who can’t identify with that?

But I’d say if I had to choose a favorite it would probably be my photojournalist, Liv Harper. And I should say that she was Harper long before Harper was my publisher, and I just realized about two days ago that the two were the same!

Liv comes to France intent on covering the liberation of Paris. She is ambitious in a way that Fletcher and Jane are not. She’s not uncomplicated, no one is. And she’s far from perfect. Perfect in a character is boring. But I think it’s a hard thing for women to embrace ambition. It ends up leaving us considered “bossy” or “unfeminine,” “undesirable.” But she does embrace it, much as she struggles with doing so and tries to balance her ambition and her family obligations, and that’s a struggle I’m quite familiar with.

But I also love Jane—my journalist with her lovely foldable Corona typewriter who narrates the novel. She’s single and in some danger of becoming an old maid, and I certainly remember those years! She’s a Nashville gal from the wrong side of the tracks, who sort of backs into being a war journalist—she’s a secretary at the Nashville Banner when the war breaks out, and she’s smart, and so when the boys go off to war and the editor needs more writers, he turns to her. She doesn’t imagine herself as a writer until someone helps her do so, which is very much how I came to writing.

Jane actually started as a bit player who disappeared after the early chapters, and was a small homage to my Aunt Annette, who was in Normandy with the Red Cross. When I asked my aunt why she chose to go to war, she said, in a southern accent I can’t replicate, that she was twenty-something, “and the boys were all over there and I was going to be an old maid before they came home if I wasn’t already, so I thought I’d better get on over to Europe and find me a beau!” As befitting any character inspired by my Aunt Annette, she eventually took over the telling of the story, and that’s when it all starting falling into place finally.

Dana: Although these characters are your own invention, we have quotes from real correspondents as well as many cameos (like Andy Rooney and Ernie Pyle). How much of the action here is real? Did you have any historical scenes that you wanted to include but were finally edited out?

Meg: There is so much real material from the war that is so interesting that much of the novel draws from the experiences of a whole collection of journalists (male and female), and others as well. The opening scene—the bit in the operating room, which was actually one of the last scenes I wrote—was inspired by a short passage in Margaret Bourke-White’s autobiography. The scene where Liv and Jane meet up with Fletcher was inspired by a Collier’s piece by Cornelius Ryan titled “The Major of St. Lô.” Ernie Pyle’s reporting from the St. Lô—Perriers Road was indispensible to the short-bombing scene.

What I wanted to do was compress a number of experiences of real journalists into one story. This was especially true of the women journalists. So Liv’s and Jane’s struggles are very much inspired by real women who covered WWII.

While the male correspondents went wherever they wanted, and returned to nice warm press rooms in chateaus and 5-star hotels, the women correspondents who managed to get accredited to France were largely confined to hospitals. They worked at tables they set up in fields when the weather wasn’t terrible, which it mostly was. While men were able to negotiate changes to copy with on site censors at the press camps and send work by wire, women journalists’ work went by pouch—much slower, so not as timely. Their work was censored in England, leaving them no ability to make changes to accommodate the censors. Whatever was left after the censors did their dirty deeds—often not quite the truth and sometimes pure gibberish… well, off it went to their editors anyway, with their names on it.

For many women, the only option if they wanted to cover the war in a meaningful way, was to go AWOL—absent without leave—leaving them without resources, often in danger, and with the added challenge of having to evade military police send to take them into custody. Several who did so, including Lee Miller, Catherine Coyne, and Dot Avery, were taken into custody and held at Rennes, and so missed covering the liberation of Paris.

When you just look at what these women did during the war, they seem daring and risk-taking and sort of superhuman. But if you peek behind the curtain… Well, let’s just say that as a child attending fortnightly dance classes, Martha Gellhorn hid with a friend in the coatroom rather than have to stand unselected by the boys.

One of the things I wanted to do in The Race for Paris was explore how very human and like the rest of us these women really are. I’m not saying they didn’t do extraordinary things—they did. But a lot of women in a lot of circumstances in WWII did, too, and I like to think that even if I might not have, many of my readers would.

Dana: For me, choosing the names of the characters is crucial as they can provide insight into personality and identity (which is a real downside when writing about real people. I would have never made up the name ‘Man Ray’!). Your fictional characters’ names are spot-on: the British aristocrat working as a military photographer: Fletcher Roebuck; the rich New Englander recently married to a newspaper magnate but working as photojournalist: Olivia Harper, better known as Liv (pronounced ‘live’—a war zone imperative); the southern working-class girl, making it as journalist: Jane Tyler. The one name choice that seemed more mysterious to me was Renny. What made you choose that name?

Meg: Renny is short for Renata. I chose it because it’s a bit unusual, and I needed that name in particular to be memorable. It’s Latin, and while not exactly French, is French-sounding, which I liked. But most importantly, it means “reborn,” and the role Renny plays in the novel is very much about looking to the future, and the hopefulness that comes with that.

Dana: In the Acknowledgements you mention the fact that this book was a slow train coming, that it took “more than a decade.” Why was that?

Meg: That is a very good question. There are a number of reason, there are always a number of reasons, aren’t there?

I started this one literally before the turn of the century, so by one measure it was 15 years in the making. But I struggled with it, and set it aside to write and publish three other novels over the course of that time.

Part of the struggle was that I wanted to do right by the real women journalists, so I just obsessed over every detail. And part of that was that I loved the research, so it was always a joy and never a chore.

Part of it was that I struggled to get Liv right. She was quite off-putting in early drafts, and I wanted readers to fall in love with her as surely as I did.

A big turning point for me—a turning point that came well into that 15 years—was changing the narrative point of view. I had been alternating third person close, with Liv and Fletcher, for years. When I had the idea to let Jane tell this story, it really did fall into place. I think that’s in part because Liv is a big character. If you tried to tell The Great Gatsby from Gatsby’s perspective, well, it just wouldn’t work, would it? And that’s what I was trying to do in those earlier drafts.

And then, to be honest, by the time it all began to line up, I was publishing with a Random House imprint—a team I adored and still do, but who saw me as a writer of contemporary fiction, and really wanted me to pursue a contemporary novel we all thought would be a good next step for me. But my amazing agent, Marly Rusoff, was incredibly enthusiastic about the Paris manuscript, and felt that it ought to be my next novel. But she also thought—insisted—that it needed to be in just the right hands. She introduced me to Claire Wachtel at HarperCollins, who was just the perfect editor for this book. (Perfect editor, period!) I feel like before I started working with Claire I was standing on one side of a door, writing well but not necessarily growing as a writer as much as I wanted to. Well, Claire effectively put a hatchet in my hands and told me to ignore the doorknob and break that door to bits and step right on through. I’ve grown tremendously as a writer in the process of working on this book with her, and now have a whole long path of writing growth ahead of me. And that is an amazing place to be, an amazing gift she has given me.

And of course part of the struggle was letting go of The Race for Paris, because I so enjoyed writing this book. Now that it’s done, I don’t get to return to it whenever I want. I have so loved writing this novel, and I’m absolutely delighted to be sharing it with readers.


The Race for ParisThe New York Times bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters returns with a moving and powerfully dynamic World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman, who together race the Allies to Occupied Paris for the scoop of their lives.

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have endured enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over.

Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn—and with cameos by other famous faces of the time—The Race for Parisis an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read.

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Fall’s Hottest Books For Young Readers

Today’s post by our very own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen


Maybe it’s because we have kids or maybe it’s because we enjoy a great YA or kids’ book as much as the kids, but we couldn’t keep our hands off these titles when we saw them during our recent trip to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show. See if you’re not drawn to the premises of these compelling new books too! Get them for your kids– or yourself!

What We SAwWhat We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who’ve ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

The party at John Doone’s last Saturday night is a bit of a blur. Kate Weston can piece together most of the details: Stacey Stallard handing her shots, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early. . . . But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same questions: Who witnessed what happened to Stacey? And what responsibility do they have to speak up about what they saw?


The Shallow GravesThese Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

From Jennifer Donnelly, the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of A Northern Lightand Revolution, comes a mystery about dark secrets, dirty truths, and the lengths to which people will go for love and revenge. For fans of Elizabeth George and Libba Bray, These Shallow Graves is the story of how much a young woman is willing to risk and lose in order to find the truth.

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort shot himself while cleaning his pistol. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was a partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo hears about her father’s death, the more something feels wrong. Suicide is the only logical explanation, and of course people have started talking, but Jo’s father would never have resorted to that. And then she meets Eddie—a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. But now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and this time the truth is the dirtiest part of all.


Until We Meet AgainUntil We Meet Again by Renee Collins

Country clubs and garden parties. The last thing Cassandra wants is to spend the summer before her senior year marooned in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. Cass craves drama and adventure, which is hard when she just feels stuck.

But when a dreamy stranger shows up on her family’s private beach, claiming that it is his property-and that the year is 1925-Cass is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making. As she searches for answers in the present, Cass discovers a truth that thrusts Lawrence’s life into jeopardy. It won’t matter which century he is from if he won’t live to see tomorrow.

Desperate to save the boy who’s come to mean everything to her, Cassandra must find a way to change history…or risk losing Lawrence forever.


Serafina and the Black CloakSeraphina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

“Never go into the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s vast and oppulent home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to prowl through the darkened corridors at night, to sneak and hide, using the mansion’s hidden doors and secret passageways.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows the clues to follow. A terrifying man in a black cloak stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear, where she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must not only face her darkest enemy, but delve into the strange mystery of her own identity.


The MarvelsThe Marvels by Brian Selznick

From the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck comes a breathtaking new voyage.

In this magnificent reimagining of the form he originated, two stand-alone stories-the first in nearly 400 pages of continuous pictures, the second in prose-create a beguiling narrative puzzle.

The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage.

Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Albert Nightingale’s strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.

A gripping adventure and an intriguing invitation to decipher how the two narratives connect, The Marvelsis a loving tribute to the power of story from an artist at the vanguard of creative innovation.

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Five Novels Guaranteed to Give You Chills This Fall

Today’s post by our own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Now that it’s fall you’ll probably find me reading a good thriller. Murder? Check. Mystery? Check. Page turning suspense? Check. I want to be riveted, enthralled, sucked into a gripping story. If that sounds about like you, today we offer some new titles you’ll want to add to your to-be-read list right away!

Second LifeSECOND LIFE by SJ Watson

How well can you really know another person? How far would you go to find the truth about someone you love?

When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. But Julia’s quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. Becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she’s losing herself . . . losing control . . . perhaps losing everything. Her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life.

A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead—and the dark places in which they can find themselves—Second Life is a masterwork of suspense from the acclaimed S. J. Watson.


Somebody I Used to KNowSOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW by David Bell

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She is the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.

The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.


The Book of YouTHE BOOK OF YOU by Claire Kendal

His name is Rafe, and he is everywhere Clarissa turns. At the university where she works. Her favorite sewing shop. The train station. Outside her apartment. His messages choke her voice mail; his gifts litter her mailbox. Since that one regrettable night, his obsession with her has grown, becoming more terrifying with each passing day. And as Rafe has made clear, he will never let her go.

Clarissa’s only escape from this harrowing nightmare is inside a courtroom—where she is a juror on a trial involving a victim whose experiences eerily parallel her own. There she finds some peace and even makes new friends, including an attractive widower named Robert, whose caring attentions make her feel desired and safe. But as a disturbingly violent crime unfolds in the courtroom, Clarissa realizes that to survive she must expose Rafe herself. Conceiving a plan, she begins collecting the evidence of Rafe’s madness to use against him—a record of terror that will force her to relive every excruciating moment she desperately wants to forget. Proof that will reveal the twisted, macabre fairy tale that Rafe has spun around them . . . with an ending more horrifying than her darkest fears.

Masterfully constructed, filled with exquisite tension and a pervasive sense of menace, The Book of You explores the lines between love and compulsion, fantasy and reality, and offers a heart-stopping portrait of a woman determined to survive. Claire Kendal’s extraordinary debut will haunt readers long after it reaches its terrifying, breathtaking conclusion.


DisclaimerDISCLAIMER by Renee Knight

A brilliantly conceived, deeply unsettling psychological thriller— already an international sensation—about a woman haunted by secrets, the consuming desire for revenge, and the terrible price we pay when we try to hide the truth.

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day . . . even if the shocking truth might destroy her.


The Bones of YouTHE BONES OF YOU by Debbie Howells

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.

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On Sympathy and Regret, Nina de Gramont discusses The Last September

Today’s post by Nina de Gramont, author of THE LAST SEPTEMBER | @NinaDeGramont

Nina de GramontTwo of my least favorite phrases are “I have no sympathy” and “I don’t believe in regrets.” The first tends to refer to someone who’s brought agony on herself through unwise action. The second? It’s usually a way to absolve oneself of doing precisely the same thing.

As if any of us always behave wisely! As if we have never suffered the particular pain of knowing our suffering is exactly and unavoidably our own fault, and then regretted it wildly.

Oh, the stupid things I’ve done. I could write about them for years. I could produce a thousand pages and still leave some out. Once, having discovered a boyfriend wrote a letter I considered a betrayal, I called him up and started screaming the moment he answered. It took me several minutes to realize it was not my boyfriend on the other end of the line, but his father. Many years later that embarrassment still stings, never mind that it was entirely my fault. And do I regret it? You bet I do. Along with a million other impulsive actions, some far milder, and some far worse.

Thankfully none of my regrets led to so disastrous a place as Brett finds herself in my novel, The Last September. In the throes of grief and shock after finding her husband murdered, Brett is certain she must have done something – had some hand in the pivotal event – that led to Charlie’s death. She lingers over every misstep, including loving him in the first place – and at the same time can’t help savoring the very emotions that led her to this unthinkable place. In so many ways their imperfect life – and his violent death – turn out to be Brett’s own fault. Which doesn’t diminish the exquisiteness of her memories, or the anguish she feels at losing Charlie.


The Last SeptemberSet against the desolate autumn beauty of Cape Cod, The Last September is a riveting emotional puzzle that takes readers inside the psyche of a woman facing the meaning of love and loyalty.

Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie’s marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie’s unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over.

But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation.

So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?

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Triangle Reads: A Photo Journal

Today’s post by yours truly | @ArielLawhon

Well, friends, it was amazing, and humbling, and a little unnerving all at once. But we did the thing we’ve been wanting to do for years. We hosted our first live event last weekend in conjunction with the Southern Bookseller’s Alliance and there is truly no better way to spend a long weekend than with a group of fellow book lovers. There were authors and booksellers and publishing professionals and readers. All in all, we couldn’t have asked for more. Since many of you have written to say that you wish you could have been there we thought we’d give you the next best thing, a walking tour of our weekend.

** A quick note to our email readers: please forgive us if some of these photos end up being sideways in your inbox. They have all been rotated and sized correctly in our system but there seems to be something wonky happening with our RSS feed. However, if everything looks normal then Yay! Ignore this and enjoy!

Flying into Raleigh. I had a 6:35 a.m. flight from Nashville. So if you do the math you too can be in pain at the thought of how early I had to wake up. Pretty view, though.

Flying into Raleigh. I had a 6:35 a.m. flight from Nashville. So if you do the math you too can be in pain at the thought of how early I had to wake up. Pretty view, though.


It's a good thing I'm used to wearing multiple hats or my duties over the weekend may have given me an identity crisis.

It’s a good thing I’m used to wearing multiple hats or my duties over the weekend may have given me an identity crisis.


On Saturday afternoon Marybeth, Anne Bogel, and Joshilyn Jackson paid a visit to Quail Ridge Rooks. There are few things that make me happier than a table full of books.

On Saturday afternoon Marybeth, Anne Bogel, and Joshilyn Jackson paid a visit to Quail Ridge Rooks. There are few things that make me happier than a table full of books.


Right around the corner from Quail Ridge was this amazing little wine bar that Marybeth and I have now visited twice. And each time it was one of the highlights of our trip. This time I sample the blackberry cider and fell in love.

Right around the corner from Quail Ridge was this amazing little wine bar that Marybeth and I have now visited twice. And each time it was one of the highlights of our trip. This time I sample the blackberry cider and fell in love. We loved the place so much we bought tee shirts. And wine. We also bought wine.


Marybeth and our lovely new friend, Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy).

Marybeth and our lovely new friend, Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy).


It was a long day. Marybeth had to put her feet up at the end.

It was a long day. Marybeth had to put her feet up at the end.


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Triangle Reads began with a Moveable Feast luncheon in conjunction with SIBA. Here, author Kim Wright discusses her new novel, THE CANTERBURY SISTERS.


Joshilyn Jackson discussing her upcoming novel, THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE. Have we mentioned yet that we adore Joshilyn? Because we do.

Joshilyn Jackson discussing her upcoming novel, THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE. Have we mentioned yet that we adore Joshilyn? Because we do.


Robert Beatty discussing his runaway bestseller, SERAPHINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK

Robert Beatty discussing his runaway bestseller, SERAPHINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK


The amazing and talented Lisa Wingate kindly moderated a panel for us. If you've not read her work yet, do yourself a favor and pick up one of her novels.

The amazing and talented Lisa Wingate kindly moderated a panel for us. If you’ve not read her work yet, do yourself a favor and pick up one of her novels.


Therese Anne Fowler kindly moderated our History-Mystery panel featuring Deanna Raybourn, Margaret Maron, and Diane Michael Cantor

Therese Anne Fowler kindly moderated our History-Mystery panel featuring Deanna Raybourn, Margaret Maron, and Diane Michael Cantor



Anne Bogel interviewing Elin Hilderbrand during our headline event.


Elin Hilderbrand signs a copy of THE RUMOR for Therese Anne Fowler

Elin Hilderbrand signs a copy of THE RUMOR for Therese Anne Fowler


The first part of Marybeth's book haul. Don't they all look amazing?

The first part of Marybeth’s book haul. Don’t they all look amazing?


The second part of Marybeth's book haul. I'd show mine but I still haven't taken a picture of them. Because that requires unpacking. And I'm just not there yet.

The second part of Marybeth’s book haul. I’d show mine but I still haven’t taken a picture of them. Because that requires unpacking. And I’m just not there yet.


And that's a wrap. A picture from my seat on the way home to Nashville.

And that’s a wrap. A picture from my seat on the way home to Nashville.

Question for you: who wants to join us in Savannah next year?

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Radio Silence

We’ve been silent this week and for good reason: we are, quite simply, exhausted. One week ago today Marybeth and I arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Alliance yearly trade show. It is no exaggeration to say that this is our favorite event of the year. There is nothing like spending a weekend with hundreds of booksellers and authors and publishing professionals. And this year we had the immense pleasure of organizing Triangle Reads, our first ever live readers event, held in partnership with SIBA. It was, in a word, AMAZING. And there is so much we want to tell you about it. But first, friends, we must sleep. And do laundry. And find a semblance of normality at home and work. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programing on Monday. But until then, we’ll give this one small glimpse into Triangle Reads: Elin Hilderbrand being interviewed by our new friend, Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy).


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