Tag Archives | Tell Me Something True

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Laura Spinella

Today’s post by author Laura Spinella, author of PERFECT TIMING | @spinellauthor

Laura Spinella

Laura Spinella

Something true, huh? I guess embarrassingly true qualifies? Okay, fine, in the name of creative inspiration: I’m not much for pop culture or topics that trend. If you were to twerk then tweet about it, I probably couldn’t relate to either form of communication.  I don’t watch much television, and if you ask me to name any of Billboard’s hot 100 artists, I might get four, maybe five right.   I’m much sharper with show tunes. However, never let it be said that I’m not susceptible to a pretty face, velvet timbre voice, and a good story—even if I have to make it up.

The Goo Goo Dolls have been around since the late 80s. Back then, when I was of a certain age, and so were they, I saw a photograph of lead singer, John Rzeznik. It stuck to my mind like gum on a shoe. I remember thinking he was so pretty he made your teeth ache. At the time, I invested in some rock star daydreaming, imagining what kind of girl a guy like that would want. I mean really want.  A girl the rock star would want more… Well, more than he wanted to be a rock star.  In defense of my imagination, it refused to cast the clichés, rejecting rail-thin models and dime-a-dozen movie star prototypes. I wondered if the thing that made the girl irresistible to him, and vice versa, could transcend the mock-up that minds will automatically manufacture. I became curious about their boy/girl back story. I mean, there had to be one, right?   There had to be a deep history and something that connected the two in way that survived other relationships and a downward plunge on the charts. It also had to be a bond strong enough, intriguing enough, to trump a rock star life.

My imagination—because it generally gets its way—took things one step further (no disrespect to Mr. Rzeznik here, I have no earthly idea if he’s a jerk or not) thinking how much cooler it would be if said rock star, my rock star, didn’t fit the pop culture mold. What if what made him real went completely against type? For the next twenty plus years, rock stars went their way and I went mine. Although, admittedly, I did toss that saucy thought around, mulling over the possibilities every so often until the characters, their story, and the timing were absolutely perfect.

* * *

Perfect TimingThere’s rock, there’s a hard place, then there’s Aidan & Isabel.  

What’s a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow, Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in an unlikely bond with the musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime, the two flee to Las Vegas where Isabel’s future comes tumbling down.

Seven years later, the past is buried, including any relationship with Aidan. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing in on commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting everyone’s future on the line. What should be a simple solution leads to a stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock star she knows.

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Kristina McMorris

Today’s post by author Kristina McMorris | @KrisMcMorris

Kristina McMorris

Kristina McMorris

Night terrors. Any parent who has experienced them firsthand would likely agree the term is an apt description. My oldest son, now ten years old, used to suffer from these episodes when he was a toddler. His panicked shrieks frequently summoned me or my husband to his bedroom, where he would be sitting upright in bed, eyes wide with fear, unable to wake, viewing something nobody else in the room could see. And yet, come morning, he would have no recollection of the event.

Over time—thankfully—he outgrew the severe and vivid nightmares, just as his pediatrician had predicted. The son of a friend, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate. For a reason his parents and doctors are unable to pinpoint, the boy’s night terrors have only worsened, often lasting several hours at a time and requiring his parents to restrain him to prevent self-inflicted injuries.

Perhaps it was my knowledge of their dilemma, in addition to firsthand experience, that heightened my interest in a particular news story two years ago. The report featured a toddler boy who had also suffered from violent, recurrent night terrors, though invariably his alluded to a plane crash—and not just any plane: a Corsair from World War II. Apparently, his knowledge of obscure, verifiable details ultimately convinced his skeptical parents that he’d once been a WWII pilot who perished in battle.

Do I, myself, believe this to be the case? I couldn’t tell you. What I do know is that when my eldest son was a toddler he would sometimes speak of a grandmother who didn’t exist. Sure, maybe we simply misheard him. Or maybe it was just the creative ramblings of a youngster… but what if it was something more?

Taking it a step further, the literary portion of my mind began to wonder: Could a child’s nightmares be linked to the past, perhaps even reveal secrets other people wanted to keep buried?

It was this train of thought that formed half the premise of my latest novel, The Pieces We Keep. And a declassified account of Nazi saboteurs inspired the rest.

Although I had done a great deal of WWII research for my past novels, only through a friend did I learn of a group of German spies who were dropped off by U-Boat on the East Coast of America in 1942. Intrigued, I sought out more details on the topic and what I found was an astounding account involving espionage, tragedy, and romance; deceptive dealings by J. Edgar Hoover; and even a secret military tribunal assembled by FDR. In essence, it was the makings of a Hollywood film and a story I couldn’t resist.

Needless to say, I hope readers feel the same about The Pieces We Keep.

* * *

TPWK_CoverIn this richly emotional novel, Kristina McMorris evokes the depth of a mother’s bond with her child, and the power of personal histories to echo through generations…

Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying–but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound–and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Intricate and beautifully written,  The Pieces We Keep  illuminates those moments when life asks us to reach beyond what we know and embrace what was once unthinkable. Deftly weaving together past and present, herein lies a story that is at once poignant and thought-provoking, and as unpredictable as the human heart.

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Joshilyn Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

read more

Author Profile – Allison Winn Scotch

Today’s post by  Allison Winn Scotch | @aswinn

We’re delighted to visit with New York Times Bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch today. Her new novel, THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, is making waves and getting rave reviews. We were able to sit down with Allison and get pick her brain about this novel in particular and the writing life in general. We’ve also got a copy of THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES up for grabs to one lucky winner. See entry form below for details.

* * *

Allison Winn ScotchGrowing up with the last name “Winn” was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because prior to any monumental event — a T-ball game, my SATs, a talent show -my dad would look at me and say, “What’s your last name?” And I’d have to reply, “Winn.” (Get it? Win.)  It was a curse for those same reasons. 🙂 There are only so many times your dad can say that to you before you roll your eyes with annoyance and wish that your last name weren’t an actual verb that stood for excellence. (Though I married a guy whose name is an alcoholic beverage, so I guess it’s better than shouting back “scotch!,” which surely would have put me in therapy for years.) Still though, my dad’s message stuck with me, long after I left the house and headed 3000 miles away for college. The message was this: be your best. Not THE best. YOUR best. And I think that this childhood mantra has probably influenced my writing and my characters as much as anything else in my life.

Be your best. It’s pretty simple right?

And yet. And yet, it’s not that simple. As busy women, we so often feel compromised; we aren’t as patient with our children; we eye the clock at work, wondering when we should rush out; we keep track of friends only on Facebook; we wish we did yoga more; we wish we ate organic food more; we wish we slept more, had sex more, relaxed more. I mean, I could write a list that went on forever. What is our best anyway?

I often try to answer that question through my characters, particularly in THEORY OF OPPOSITES, but in my other books too. I start with women who aren’t living their best lives (not to sound like Oprah or anything) and who have to find their own way to actually find their own happiness. And while none of these characters are me – in fact, in THEORY, I’m more like my protagonist’s best friend than my protagonist — it’s eye-opening to take the journey with them. To open up their lives and see how small changes, maybe not compromising on a unfulfilling relationship or maybe asking more of herself than she’d asked before, can change their worlds entirely. I push them to risk more, to be braver, to stand on a high wire and look down and see how beautiful it can be. And when I do that for them, I also do it for me. I discover that maybe I could be more courageous or more patient or more open to change. It’s a pretty amazing process actually: that I start with fictional two-dimensional characters in my imagination, and I end up with fully-formed  people  who have somehow taught me how to be a little bit closer to my best.

Here’s the truth: you don’t have to  be named Winn to understand your potential. You just need a little honesty, a little clear-headedness, and maybe, if you have a few hours in your day, a good book. And if you can’t find those few hours, don’t worry. There’s always tomorrow.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* * *

The Theory of OppositesMarybeth: Allison, you were a journalist for a number of years before turning your hand to fiction. It what ways did that prepare you for writing novels? In what ways did it make it harder?

Allison: I can’t think of many ways that it made it harder, but there are many things that made it easier. For one, I understood the discipline that it takes to  write. It’s not a hobby, it’s a job. I learned about deadlines and revisions and exacting standards of editors. I apply all of these things to my fiction work too. Writing is work, whether it’s for a magazine or for a novel. Trust me, there are plenty of times when I’d rather not write or I want to quit before a revision is done, but I learned in my magazine days that it’s not done until it’s  done.  Also, that you have to show up every day and write. For my magazine work, this was because I had editors and contracts. Now, it’s because it’s habit.

Ariel: THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES is the first novel of yours that I’ve read, (I know, I am ashamed) but like all your other books it has a contemporary setting. Why are you drawn to writing about the here and now?

Allison: Ha ha, don’t be ashamed! There are so many great writers and great books out there; we can’t read everything. That’s the truth. I think, to answer your question, that I really enjoy examining what my peers and contemporaries are going through in their own lives. Women who are struggling to find a balance; marriages that need to be reinvigorated; parents who love their kids desperately but don’t always love the parenting aspect of it. Those types of things. I read books to hopefully find something within the pages that resonates with me, and maybe leaves a bit of an imprint, a tweak in my mentality or emotional landscape. I guess by exploring these every day things that we all come up against, I hope to do the same for my readers. There’s a lot about life that can be tough. I like my characters to go through those same struggles that readers do.

Marybeth: You’ve got young children. How has motherhood changed or informed your writing? Are there any challenges that are inherent to this season of life?

Allison: Motherhood has informed my writing in so many ways. Not least is that I often explore the complications of parenting and parenthood in my novels. I think any mother will tell you that it’s the most wonderful thing in the world, but it is also exhausting and fragile and confusing and sometimes breaks your heart. And that’s all okay. And it’s also okay to wonder, as my characters do, how parenthood will change you or if you even want to or need to be changed. My kids are sort of the base note, resonating all the time, in my life. But I also try not to make them my  entire  life. So I enjoy exploring this theme in my books. As far as challenges? Sure, absolutely. I think most working moms can agree that we often leave parts of ourselves behind — when I’m with the kids, I am sometimes thinking about work; when I’m writing, I’m sometimes distracted by what I need to do for them. It’s not as if writers — or working moms, for that matter — can ensconce themselves in a bubble and just pick one thing to be in that moment. I felt this pretty acutely with my last book before Theory — I just felt pulled in too many directions and was exhausted by it. I took a break from writing, spent real quality time with my kids, moved with the family across the country, and sort of gave myself the nurturing I needed. I’m truly, truly fortunate to have the type of job where I can do this — step back, assess, decide how much of myself I want to give to work, etc — but yes, being all things to all people is a challenge. I’ve come to realize that I can’t be all things to all people, and that’s just fine. I give my best. That’s it.

Ariel: You tackle some difficult relationship issues in THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES. Willa and her over-bearing father. Will and her unreliable husband. Why do you think these themes resonate so deeply with women? How is it empowering to address them in story form?

Allison: It’s funny — I have a great relationship with my dad (and my mom, for that matter), and I feel sort of bad that my past few heroines have struggled with paternal figures. It has nothing to do with him. 🙂 But that said, I think a lot of us feel like we are products of our childhoods…we are a generation that spends time in therapy, trying to break the shackles of our early years or trying to, I don’t know, figure out who we are as adults. So maybe that’s why those story lines resonate. As far as the marital/relationship storyline, well, I think in this Facebook age, everyone stares at pictures of their friends or friends of friends or people they barely know and measures their relationship by that yardstick. “Oh, Jon and Kathy look SOOOOO happy in St. Tropez! What am I doing wrong?” And a) I think this kind of comparison is really destructive and ridiculous, b) I think it’s important to realize that no one’s life is shiny and perfect, and c) relationships are complicated, and that’s totally okay. Anyone who has been married for a while — or been in the dating world for a while — or just…wants to find some sort of partner in her life — knows that there are wonderful highs and lows to relationships. That’s how they go. Full stop. And I think women like reading about these highs and lows and knowing that their own partnerships are normal, and that no matter what happens with those relationships, the women themselves, the readers, are  going to be okay.  How empowering is it to pass along that message? So empowering. (I mean, without giving myself too much credit.) But I think, again, in today’s Facebook era, that is more important than ever to be honest about the fact that life and relationships are sticky and messy and sometimes glorious and sometimes much less glorious. That’s how it goes. It’s always nice to hear or read that someone else gets it too.

* * *

Allison Winn Scotch Novels

New to Allison’s novels? Make sure you check out the rest of her backlist. I know I will.

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Jojo Moyes

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

Don’t forget that today is the last day to enter this months giveaway. See this post for details on how to win all three of Jojo Moyes’ novels.

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes

I grew up surrounded by art. My parents were artists (they met at art school) and my father later ran a business storing and transporting art, so my earliest memories were spent wandering his warehouse, gazing at the priceless paintings and sculptures through the stretchers and cases. While art was treated reverently, it was also unremarkable, and as a child, having sat under his desk copying the Jackson Pollocks, or Francis Bacons, I would ask why my art wasn’t as valuable as the paintings in the high security area.

It is a question that still preoccupies me. What separates two works that look the same, that just happen to be by two different people?

In my book The Girl You Left Behind, a once-worthless painting becomes the subject of a multi-million pound lawsuit after the artist who paints it becomes fashionable. In the 1900s the painting has huge emotional significance to its subject, as it represents a time when her husband painted her and she was joyously happy.

Unfortunately, it has significance too to the German Kommandant who takes over her hotel, and sees remnants of his life before the war — as well as a woman he finds increasingly compelling.

And decades later, for Liv Halston, its owner, it speaks to her of her late husband and the happiness they shared. Each of these people suffers, and fights to claim this painting as their own.

Sometimes I look at the items in my home that have value to me: a carved figure, a picture by my daughter. What would have value in future years? More importantly, what would I do to keep them? There is no value, except the value that we place on them. To me, the lock of my child’s hair, or their first painting is as important as a Jackson Pollock. I just hope nobody ever offers me the chance to swap.

* * *

The Girl You Left BehindFrom the  New York Times—bestselling author of  Me Before You, a spellbinding love story of two women separated by a century but united in their determination to fight for what they love most

Jojo Moyes’s bestseller,  Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and has struck a chord with readers everywhere. “Hopelessly and hopefully romantic ” (Chicago Tribune), Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker that asks, “Whatever happened to the girl you left behind? ”

France, 1916:   Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

Like Sarah Blake’s  The Postmistress  and Tatiana de Rosnay’s  Sarah’s Key,  The Girl You Left Behind  is a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with Moyes’s signature ability to capture our hearts with every turn of the page.

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Lisa Patton

Today’s post by author Lisa Patton | @LisaPattonBooks

We’ve got all three of Lisa’s novels up for grabs today. See the form below for entry details.

Lisa Patton

Lisa Patton

The number one piece of advice I was given when I started this literary journey was, as trite as it sounds, “write what you know, ” even down to the location of the story. So instead of setting my novels in Nashville, the place I currently rest my head (soft pillows only please), I set them in Memphis, the place I was born and spent most of my life. Plus, if truth were told, Memphis needs the PR!

I just published the third book, SOUTHERN AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, in my Dixie series, and not only are each of the books stand-alones, I’m also happy to admit there is an element of truth in all three. First off, I really was a Vermont innkeeper! “Was ” being the key word, as three sub-zero winters sent me speeding back down South without so much as a peek over my shoulder. That crazy misadventure left room for numerous thinly veiled accounts that I could add to my debut, WHISTLIN’ DIXIE IN A NOR’EASTER. In particular, my little senior citizen Yorkie, who accompanied me on the move up North, HATED the snow (as did I), not to mention the twenty-five-degree-below-zero temps, so I gave her one of the starring roles in the book. Her name was Holly but she became Princess Grace Kelly, or Gracie for short. Let’s just say tee teeing outside for her was not an option.

Next, in YANKEE DOODLE DIXIE, I really was the promotion director of a top radio station in Memphis and I could bring so many fun, true-to-life radio pranks to my story. Like when Johnny Dial, the morning deejay, tells his listeners a panda escaped from the Memphis Zoo and his partner dresses in a panda suit appearing in various locales around Memphis. That really happened. And people honestly fell for it.

And now in SOUTHERN AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, my protagonist, Leelee Satterfield, lives with her second mother Kissie, an eighty-three-year-old African American steel magnolia, who peppers her with advice, whether she asks for it or not. I really had a Kissie in my life that never hesitated to correct me when I veered off the straight and narrow. Without her I never would have learned how to cook, clean or properly wash and fold my laundry. Times were different in the South when I was growing up. Many a white mother held her newborn in her arms for the first time and after coming home from the hospital handed that baby straight over to her black mother. Writing about Kissie was the best part of the SOUTHERN AS A SECOND LANGUAGE odyssey. She died in 2002 but I felt like she was right next to me. I miss her so much, I ache. Creating the character of Kissie brought the real Kissie back to life.

Lisa Patton Books

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* * *

Southern As A Second LanguageNot only do Southerners talk slowly, but sometimes the whole language is hard to understand. No one realizes that more than Memphis belle Leelee Satterfield. Since she debuted inWhistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, Leelee has entertained tens of thousands of readers. Watching her tackle life and love in Vermont was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to antics, charades, mischief, and romance. Now that she’s back in Memphis, and starting a new relationship with Peter, the Yankee chef from her New England inn, you’d think she’d sit back and enjoy her newly crafted life back home in Dixie. But that just wouldn’t be as much fun.

Opening up a new restaurant with Peter isn’t as easy as she had anticipated, especially when it comes to the differences between the North and the South. When Leelee’s ex-husband, Baker, returns unexpectedly, everything else goes haywire. Throw her three crazy best friends into the mix; Riley, her meddlesome next-door neighbor who sells Pampered Chef for a living; and Kissie, Leelee’s beloved second mother who claims Riley sits on her “last raw nerve, ” and you have the perfect recipe for a sassy, Southern delicacy.

Lisa Patton’s  Southern as a Second Language  is an endearing and chuckle-inducing tale that keeps us guessing up to the very last page how it all works out in the end. Whether among maple trees in Vermont or magnolia-filled Memphis, Leelee’s charm, heart, and laughter will delight readers in any climate.

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Jennifer Chiaverini

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

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

Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* * *

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

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

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

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Lori roy

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

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

Lori Roy

Lori Roy

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

I round the last corner of my run, turn down my music, yank one bud from my ears and slow to a walk. A block ahead stands my house. My knees aren’t hurting too bad today, and though it’s only May, summer has already settled into Florida.

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Lee Smith

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

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

Lee Smith

Lee Smith

“Everything That Rises Must Converge.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

read more

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Yangsze Choo

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

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

* * *

Yangsze Choo

Yangsze Choo

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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


read more

Site by Author Media