Interview Alert: The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales (Book) & Sofia Coppola (Film)

The Bling Ring The-Bling-Ring-Official-Movie-Trailer2

I was searching around for a movie to add to my rental queue this weekend, and stumbled across Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, about a group of Hollywood youths spending time their time robbing the houses of celebrities. In a moment of synchronicity this morning, Caroline Leavitt (author of Is This Tomorrow) posted a fascinating piece where she interviews Nancy Jo Sales about the article that turned into the movie, which Sales then turned into the book, The Bling Ring. Let me know if you have read/watched the book/movie/ article. I mean to get to them all eventually, especially after reading this conversation.

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Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert, Jenni Desmond (Illustrator) – Little Book Review

Backstage Cat by Harriet Zieffert

Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert, Jenni Desmond (Illustrator) (March 12, 2013, Blue Apple Books) Simon the cat goes to work with his person, who is the star of a Broadway show. Havoc ensues when he escapes to roam the theater and have a few escapades of his own! I am always on the look out for cute books for showers, birthday presents or to fill a Christmas stocking, and this fits the bill. It’s a simple introduction to the workings of the theater using a runaway cat as the guide. The writing is simple and fun and can be expanded to answer the questions of older kids or simplified even further for the younger set. I’m not sure even who could resist these adorable illustrations! I certainly couldn’t. Recommended.

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Out of Twenty: Linda Poitevin, Author of Gwynneth Ever After, Answers Ten Questions

Linda PoitevinIn this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. I read Gwynneth Ever After and was delighted with Linda Poitevin’s engaging portrayal a young mother with reservations about dating and introducing new men to her children.. Here is what Linda had to say about reading, writing, and avoiding “Satan”!

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

Thank you so much for inviting me here today, Nicole! I love meeting new bloggers (*waves*), and I think the 20-questions theme you have going here is a brilliant idea.

Let’s see…about me. I’m Canadian, married, mom to three girls (all grown up now), and living near Ottawa, Canada’s capital. I’ve been a writer all my life in the sense that I’ve always created stories. My best friend in high school and I used to write romances about our idols, lol! I started to actively pursue the idea of publication when my daughters were little, but finding time to put (and keep) my butt in the chair was challenging sometimes, so it took a while for me to actually finish a book.

I started out writing category-type happy-ever-after romances (I’ve just self-published one that was originally released through a small press), and then moved into urban fantasy genre with my Grigori Legacy series. The first book in the series, Sins of the Angels, was actually intended to be a paranormal romance, but it took on a life of its own and became much darker than I’d anticipated—so I suppose you could say that I fell into the UF genre by accident. I’m very glad to have done so, however, as I’m thoroughly enjoying exploring the evil streak I apparently possess… 😉

 I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I don’t have a particular ritual/food/other prop that I need for writing, no. But routine is definitely important to me. I find I think most creatively first thing in the morning, before the day’s demands begin creeping in to distract me, and so I generally have an early start. I’m up at 5:30 to feed the animals (we have two cats, a rabbit, a bearded dragon lizard, and a very, very large dog), out the door by 6:00 to walk the dog, and in my chair for 7:00. Apart from that, I would say my only other need is sheer persistence in order to maintain that routine…especially as the days get shorter and I have to get up in the dark and cold (*shudder*).

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

Sins of the Angels was originally entitled “The Tenth Choir” to reflect its basis in angel mythology—specifically the Grigori, who were the original fallen angels. My agent felt that the title was too vague (and given what I’ve learned about the industry since getting into publishing, I would agree). We went back and forth with several ideas before settling on my suggested “Sins of an Angel,” which was the title under which the proposal went out to editors. When Penguin USA acquired the rights, my editor felt that title was too romance-y, and so there was more back-and-forth until it further evolved into Sins of the Angels. (And I think that answers the question of how involved I was, lol.) Sins of the Son was a natural follow-up to the first title, and set the “Sins” theme for the remainder of the series: Sins of the Lost, which comes out in October, and finally, Sins of the Warrior.

Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?

Gwynneth Ever After by Linda PoitevinI do look back at my early work occasionally, yes. Usually with a shudder, lol! I can’t even begin to describe all the ways in which my writing has improved since I began. The learning process has been a humbling experience, to be honest. There are so, so many aspects to my craft that I didn’t have a clue about when I started out: point of view; pacing; world-building; avoiding the information dump; internal and external goals, motivations, and conflicts; and the list goes on. And I’m still learning, too. Every book teaches me something new that I try to incorporate into the next. It turns out that storytelling is hard work! 😉

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I read voraciously when I was growing up…and very eclectically, too. My father was a science fiction fan, and I read everything he brought home. Our neighbor brought over a bag of Harlequin romances for my mother and I read those. In Grade 5, I challenged myself to read as many of the books in the library as I could, starting at the beginning of the ‘A’ shelf in the fiction section (I think I made it to ‘G’ or ‘H’ before leaving that school at the end of Grade 7). In high school, I started reading high fantasy (Piers Anthony was a favorite), then moved on to things like Anna Karenina and The Count of Monte Cristo. Like I said…eclectic!

As for a pivotal point where I discovered I wanted to be a writer…that pivot came later in life and was more of a realization that I could be a writer. Pursuit of fiction-writing as a career was definitely discouraged when I was growing up, I’m afraid.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

I work on one book at a time, mostly because I’m afraid that if I had more than that going, none of them would ever be done. (My greatest challenge in life is finishing the projects I start…just ask my husband.) And so far I haven’t had to scrap an entire story. Scenes, yes, but not the whole story. I think that’s partly because I mull my ideas over for such a long time before I start writing them down. By the time I put fingers on the keyboard, I already have a good mental sense of my character, where he/she is starting, and where he/she will end up. I suppose you might say scrapping process happens at that stage—if I don’t have an ending in mind, the story never gets a start.

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The Wandering Goose, S.E.C.R.E.T., Subtle Bodies – Little Book Reviews

The Wandering Goose by Heather EarnhardtThe Wandering Goose: A Modern Fable About How Love Goes by Heather Earnhardt, Frida Clements (Illustrations) (September 17, Sasquatch Books) Oddly touching, this is the illustrated story of a bug and goose who spend time together, become friends and eventually fall in love. Short and bittersweet the illustrations and lovely, and though tinged with loss the story is hopeful and life affirming. (Source: Edelweiss)

SECRET by L. Marie Adeline

I skimmed through some of the novel’s sexy times (you know what to expect after awhile!), I loved that the novel explored Cassie’s feelings about her husband, why her relationship with him was so damaging to her, and how she needed to focus more on her own wants and needs before she could make capable decisions about choosing the right man for her life. Just when things really start looking up, Cassie hits a snag that sends her in another direction, as is to be expected in the first novel of the series. (Source: Publisher)

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

Subtle Bodies: A Novel by Norman Rush (September 10, 2013, Knopf) I’m not fully sure what I expected when I picked up Norman Rush’s Subtle Bodies. The premise is simple but promising. Ned and Nina are a married couple trying to get pregnant with their first child when Ned is called away to attend the funeral of an old college friend (the ringleader of their witty, irreverent nonconformist clique) with whom he has had little contact for twenty years. Furious that he has left in her most fertile time of the month, Nina takes off after him and arrives to ensure their offspring, and to navigate Ned through the analysis of the brief friendship which shaped his life. Rush is a wonderfully observant writer an there is much that he gets right about the haunting dynamics of lost friendships, and the insular concerns of career and marriage, but there was a lack of emotion connecting the threads, and some insufferable characters that made this a slow and tedious read. The characters are given to long winded political rants and lengthy conversations that lack a true conversational feel, and seem to serve more as an arena for the presentation of very big ideas (invasion, war, Jewish and Palestinian problems in the Middle East). Hopefully Rush’s other acclaimed work will more prominently feature the emotional impact missing from this one. (Source: Purchased)

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In Paperback: The Memory of After by Lenore Appelhans

The Memory of After by Lenore Appelhans

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 3, 2013

Originally Read: I read The Memory of After when it was called Level 2. The paperback version of the book received a makeover with a brand new title and cover.

New Cover or Old? I really like the new cover and new title, but I really liked the old cover. The Memory of After is a more intriguing title than Level 2, so I approve that change.

Level Two by Lenore Appelhans

What I Thought Then:  From my thoughts on Level 2  “Felicia Ward has the makings of a classic heroine, her young life is a balance of happy memories that are later tempered by difficult moments with her family (her relationship with her mother in particular) and the painful consequences of mistakes she has made with them and in her friendships. Her strength is in the light and the dark that shapes her and makes her a character whose growth and choices you want to see. ”

Now, On Further Reflection: The more I think back about this book , the more I like how Felicia is a balanced mix as a character. She has had a difficult life but she also treasure the good that could be found. She also has a variety of emotions and feelings about her experiences – angry, questioning, strong, vulnerable – never just one thing. Also, while The Memory of After is the first in a series of books, there is a closure here, if you choose not continue with the series. But you should! I got a sneak peek and it’s good.

Book Club Pick? I think it would be pretty hard not to find something to talk about – the afterlife and what it’s like, how Felicia feels about her death, her relationship with her parents, the boy she is intrigued with, the boy she loves. Go ahead, take your pick.

Links

Out of Twenty: Lenore Appelhans, Author of Level 2, Answers Eleven Questions
Lenore’s Author Video
My Thoughts on Level 2
Presenting Lenore (Lenore’s Blog)

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The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure: Pre-Publication Preview – Part IV

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (October 8, Sourcebooks Landmark) is generating a ton of pre-pub buzz. It is an October Indie Next Pick, a Library Journal starred review, and a National Reading Group Month Selection. The book’s description piques interest, undeniably. I have the final installment of a four part pre-publication sneak peek.

Check out the description below, read the previous installments (Beth Fish Reads – Part I , Erika Robuck’s Muse – Part II, and  Devourer of Books – Part III), and then move on to read the final excerpt.

 

Excerpted Publisher’s Description: In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money – and maybe get him killed. But if he’s clever enough, he’ll avoid any trouble. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won’t find it. He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can’t resist.

But when one of his hiding spaces fails horribly, and the problem of where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal, Lucien can no longer ignore what’s at stake. The Paris Architect asks us to consider what we owe each other, and just how far we’ll go to make things right.

Written by an architect whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every soul hidden and every life saved.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT

Pre-Pub Preview
Part IV

Lucien thought this was an amusing comment that he was obliged to let out his great belly laugh, the kind that annoyed his wife but always delighted his mistress. But Manet didn’t laugh. His face showed no emotion at all.

“Before I give you a little more information about the project, let me ask you a personal question,” Manet said.

“You have my full attention, Monsieur Manet.”

“How do you feel about Jews?”

Lucien was taken aback. What the hell kind of question was that? But before giving Manet his gut response—that they were money-grubbing thieves—he took a deep breath. He didn’t want to say anything that would offend Manet—and lose the job.

“They’re human beings like anyone else, I suppose,” he replied feebly.

Lucien had grown up in a very anti-Semitic household. The word Jew had always been followed by the word bastard. His grandfather and father had been convinced that Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer on the staff of the French Army headquarters back in the 1890s, was a traitor, despite evidence that a fellow officer named Esterhazy had been the one who’d sold secrets to the Germans. Lucien’s grandfather had also sworn that Jews were responsible for France’s humiliating defeat by the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, although he could never provide any real proof to back up this charge. Whether one hated them for betraying the country, for killing Christ, or screwing you over in a business deal, all other Frenchmen were anti-Semites in one way or another, weren’t they? Lucien thought. That’s the way it had always been.

Lucien looked into Manet’s eyes and was glad he’d kept his true feelings to himself.

He saw an earnestness that alarmed him.

“You’ve probably noticed that since May all Jews over the age of six are now required to wear a yellow Star of David,” said Manet.

“Yes, monsieur.”

Lucien was well aware that Jews had to wear a felt star. He didn’t think it was such a big deal, though many Parisians were outraged. Gentiles had begun to wear the yellow stars or yellow flowers or handkerchiefs in protest. He’d even heard of a woman who’d pinned a yellow star on her dog.

“On July 16,” said Manet, “almost thirteen thousand Jews were rounded up in Paris and sent to Drancy, and nine thousand were women and children.”

Lucien knew about Drancy. It was an unfinished block of apartment buildings near Le Bourget Airport that an architect friend, Maurice Pappon, had worked on. A year earlier, it became the main detention camp for the Paris region, though it had no water, electric, or sanitary service. Pappon had told him that Drancy prisoners were forced onto trains to be relocated somewhere in the east.

“One hundred people killed themselves instead of being taken. Mothers with babies in their arms jumped from windows. Did you know that, monsieur?”

Lucien saw Manet’s growing agitation. He needed to redirect the man’s conversation to the project and the twelve thousand francs.

“It is a tragedy, monsieur. Now what kind of changes did you have in mind?”

But Manet continued as though he hadn’t heard a word.

“It was bad enough that Jewish businesses were seized and bank accounts frozen, but now they’re banned from restaurants, cafés, theaters, cinemas, and parks. It’s not just immigrant Jews but Jews of French lineage, whose ancestors fought for France, who are being treated in this way.

“And the worst part,” he continued, “is that Vichy and the French police are making most of the arrests, not the Germans.”

Lucien was aware of this. The Germans used the French against the French. When a knock came at a Frenchman’s door in the middle of the night, it was usually a gendarme sent by the Gestapo.

“All Parisians have suffered under the Germans, monsieur,” Lucien began. “Even gentiles are arrested every day. Why, on the way here to meet you, a…” He stopped in mid-sentence when he remembered that the dead man was a Jew. Lucien saw that Manet was staring at him, which made him uncomfortable. He looked down at the beautiful parquet floor and his client’s shoes.

“Monsieur Bernard, Gaston has known you a long time. He says you are a man of great integrity and honor. A man who loves his country—and keeps his word,” said Manet.

Lucien was now completely confused. What in the hell was this man talking about? Gaston really didn’t know him at all, only on a professional level. They weren’t friends. Gaston had no idea what kind of man Lucien truly was. He could’ve been a murderer or a male prostitute,and Gaston would never have known.

Manet walked over to one of the huge windows that overlooked the rue Galilée and stared out into the street for a few moments. He finally turned and faced Lucien, who was surprised by the now-grave expression on the old man’s face.

“Monsieur Bernard, this alteration is to create a hiding place for a Jewish man who is being hunted by the Gestapo. If, by chance, they come here looking for him, I’d like him to be able to hide in a space that is undetectable, one that the Gestapo will never find. For your own safety, I won’t tell you his name. But the Reich wants to arrest him to find out the whereabouts of his fortune, which is considerable.”

Lucien was dumbfounded. “Are you insane? You’re hiding a Jew?”

Normally, Lucien would never speak so rudely to a client, especially an enormously rich one, but Manet had crossed into forbidden territory here. Aiding Jews: the Germans called it Judenbegunstigung. No matter how wealthy he was, Manet could be arrested and executed for hiding Jews. It was the one crime a Frenchman couldn’t buy his way out of. Wearing some dumb yellow star out of sympathy was one thing, but actually helping a Jew wanted by the Gestapo was sheer madness. What the hell had Lucien gotten himself into—or rather, what had that bastard Gaston got him into? Manet had some set of balls to ask him to do this for twelve thousand or even twelve million francs.

“You’re asking me to commit suicide; you know that, don’t you?”

“Indeed I do,” said Manet. “And I’m also committing suicide.”

“Then for God’s sake, man, why are you doing this?” exclaimed Lucien.

Manet didn’t seem put off by Lucien’s question at all. He almost seemed eager to answer it. The old man smiled at Lucien.

“Let me explain something to you, Monsieur Bernard. Back in 1940, when this hell began, I realized that my first duty as a Christian was to overcome my self-centeredness, that I had to inconvenience myself when one of my human brethren was in danger—whoever he may be, or whether he was a born Frenchman or not. I’ve simply decided not to turn my back.”

“Inconvenience myself” was a bit of an understatement under these circumstances, Lucien thought. And as for Christianity, he agreed with his father: it was a well-intentioned set of beliefs that never worked in real life.

“So, Monsieur Bernard,” continued Manet, “I will pay you twelve thousand francs to design a hiding place that is invisible to the naked eye. That is your architectural challenge. I have excellent craftsmen to do the work but they’re not architects; they don’t have your eye and couldn’t come up with as clever a solution as you could. That’s why I’m asking you for your—help.”

“Monsieur, I absolutely refuse. This is crazy. I won’t do it.”

“I’m hoping you’ll reconsider my proposition, Monsieur Bernard. I feel it can be a mutually beneficial arrangement. And it’s just this one time.”

“Never, Monsieur. I could never agree…”

“I realize that making a decision that could get you killed is not one to be made on the spot. Please, do me the favor of taking some time to think about this. But I’d like to hear from you today by 6 p.m., at the Café du Monde. I know you need to make a closer examination of the apartment for you to decide, so take this key and lock the door when you finish. And now, monsieur, I’ll leave you to it.”

Lucien nodded and tried to speak, but nothing came out.

“By the way, at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, I’m signing a contract to produce engines for the Heinkel Aircraft Works. My current facilities are much too small to handle such a job, so I’m planning an expansion next to my plant at Chaville. I’m looking for an architect,” said Manet as he walked toward the door. “Know of one?”

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The Paris Architect will be available on October 8. Watch the book trailer, and preorder it at: IndieBound – Amazon – Barnes & Noble

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Giveaway: The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson

The Voice Is All by Joyce Johnson

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is one of those books that I have tried more than once to read. I’m fascinated by the impact this book has had on generations, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t able to get into it. I remember trying to read it toward the end of college, so maybe I had already passed the time where I would have really appreciated.

One thing that I love, though, is reading about writers. So even though I haven’t read what’s supposed to be one of the great coming of age stories, I am looking forward to reading the stories behind the stories. You can too. Take a look below to read the publisher’s jacket copy, and then fill out this form by Monday, September 16th at 11:59 p.m. EST for your chance to win a copy of The Voice Is All.

In The Voice is All, Joyce Johnson, author of her classic memoir, Door Wide Open, about her relationship with Jack Kerouac, brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend to show how, caught between two cultures and two languages, he forged a voice to contain his dualities.  Looking more deeply than previous biographers into how Kerouac’s French Canadian background enriched his prose and gave him a unique outsider’s vision of America, she  tracks his development from boyhood through the phenomenal breakthroughs of 1951 that resulted in the composition of On the Road, followed byVisions of Cody. By illuminating Kerouac’s early choice to sacrifice everything to his work, The Voice Is All deals with him on his own terms and puts the tragic contradictions of his nature and his complex relationships into perspective.

Good luck!

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Out Of Twenty: Madeline Miller, Author of Galatea, Answers Ten Questions

Madeline-Miller-007

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. As a big fan of both mythology and their retellings, I have read and been delighted with both of Madeline Miller‘s offerings (read my reviews of The Song of Achilles and Galatea). Here is what Madeline  had to say about reading, writing, and starting the day with poetry.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

Hello all, and thank you so much, Nicole, for having me on!  My name is Madeline Miller, and I’m the author of The Song of Achilles, a novel about the Greek hero Achilles narrated by his lover, Patroclus; and most recently of a short story e-book single, Galatea, which retells the myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with his statue, from the perspective of the statue herself.

I grew up in New York and Philadelphia, and currently live in Cambridge, MA.  Along with writing, I teach Classics and direct Shakespeare plays, which are the three equal loves of my working life.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I like to start the writing day by reading poetry—there is something about its beautiful precision that helps to focus my mind.  I usually just open my Norton Anthology at random and let the fates decide.

I also love to take walks.  I get stuck a lot while I work (for me, getting stuck is part of the process as much as being unstuck) and taking a few laps around the neighborhood will usually shake something loose—or at least brighten my mood enough to send me back to tackle it again.

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

I’ve been fascinated with Galatea and Pygmalion’s story for over a decade, ever since I first read Ovid’s version in college.  It’s one of those myths that is filled with so many different resonances: the artist’s obsessive love for his or her art, the power of our yearning for the beloved and, particularly gripping for me, the drive to idealize women, rather than allow them to be real.  I found Ovid’s detail that Pygmalion has rejected the other women of his town telling—he is only happy with a wife he has created himself.  I immediately began wondering what it would be like to live with such a husband–especially given that he had, in fact, literally created you—and promised myself that one day I would give Galatea the chance to answer, in her own voice.

What I didn’t realize was that that voice would come to me at 1AM in the morning, when I was supposed to be leaving for a book trip the next day. I scrambled for my laptop and spent the next four hours taking what felt like dictation.  It was as though the story had percolated and percolated, and finally my mind said: okay, enough thinking, starting writing NOW.

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

There’s nothing that can stop me from reading!  And, in fact, reading a really great novel while I’m in the midst of my own book inspires me to work harder.  Though I do generally try to avoid novels about the same topic I’m involved with.  For instance, when I was working on The Song of Achilles I declared a moratorium on all Greek myth related stories after the Renaissance (a promise I broke only once, for Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad).

This will sound strange, but I’m often most inspired by academic articles and books.  Right now I have a stack of about fifty of them by my bedside for my next book, and am slowly working my way through.  Hearing scholars debate a subject helps me crystalize my own feelings without getting in the way of creativity.

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

A key part of the original myth of Galatea and Pygmalion is that their daughter, Paphos, grows up to be famous enough that they name the town of Paphos for her. That detail had to remain outside the scope of my story (you’ll see why if you read it), but it was very much in my mind as I wrote.

Also, in Ovid’s original telling of the story, the statue given a name at all—she’s only “the ivory woman.” The name Galatea came only in later versions.

What types of books would some of your characters have if they were readers?  Given their issues what book(s) would you suggest for them to read?

Galatea by Madeline MillerGalatea is, in my imagining of her, intensely intelligent and curious.  She’s desperate to learn to read, and if she had the chance, I think she’d absorb every bit of printed text she could find: poetry, philosophy, history, astronomy, etc.

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people.  What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

My daily schedule is still evolving as I try to figure out what it means to be a “full-time writer.”  When I wrote my first book, I was teaching and directing full-time, and so my writing was relegated to weekends and vacations, where I wrote in twelve or fourteen hours binges.  Right now  I’m experimenting with more regular hours—start at 9, end sometime in the afternoon when I run out of steam.

I think my greatest challenge is actually balancing writing (which is completely internal) with things like emails, social media and updating my website (completely external).  I’ve learned that I can’t do them both at the same time, and my current solution is to have days that are sacrosanct for only writing, where I try not to even check my email.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

True confession time: I am terrible with titles.  For almost the ten years that I worked on it, The Song of Achilles was simply “Achilles Story” in my mind.  So when it came time to actually give it a real title, I went into a panic.  But, thanks to some brainstorming with friends, my agent and my editors, I stumbled upon something that felt right.  Poetry and songs in the ancient world were the same thing—and the Iliad itself, which was a key source for me, means “The Song of Troy” (Ill-is the Troy part; —ad the song part, which is the source of the English word “ode”).

As for Galatea, I knew that I wanted the title to be her name from the start.  Pygmalion tends to dominate versions of their story, and I wanted to stake a claim to this retelling as entirely hers.  It’s not particularly inventive, but it felt right.

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The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein – Book Review

The Explanation For Everything by Lauren GrodsteinThe Explanation for Everything
Lauren Grodstein
Literary Fiction
Algonquin Books
September 10, 2013
Hardcover
352 pages
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Andy Waite is a young father, atheist, and biologist, raising his daughters alone after the death of his wife, Lou, in Lauren Grodstein’s new novel, The Explanation for Everything. Andy is adrift  and at somewhat of a crossroads – estranged from his brilliant but scandal plagued mentor, attempting tenure at what he considers to be a second tier university, managing his girls (who seem older by the minute), and troubled by unexpected results in the research that is the cornerstone for a grant he is seeking. Though Lou, died several years before, he still grieves deeply for her and sees her ghost everywhere. Andy’s life takes several unexpected turns when Lionel, a young Creationist, joins one of his courses, and then steers Melissa, a young woman seeking sponsorship for an independent study in Intelligent Design, Andy’s way.

The Explanation of Everything proves why Grodstein’s work is lauded by readers and critics alike. Her writing is lovely and well-considered. I loved the details that supported the  intimate portrait of Andy’s relationships with his daughters, his neighbor, Sheila, and his place among the faculty and staff. Grodstein made it easy to see why Andy arrived at some of his conclusions, and how he could have wandered so far off track.

Still, there was something missing (a lack of urgency, too much apathy from the characters?), that was hard to pinpoint and bogged the story down. While I was happy enough while reading it, I didn’t find particularly compelling reasons to go back to it once I had set it aside. While Andy and his daughters were fully realized (and maybe even Lionel, whose character I really enjoyed), the revolving female characters would have benefited the novel had they been fleshed out a little more.  I also would have liked to have more cohesion in the way certain story lines were linked. Halfway through, a story that was before only mentioned in passing, takes center stage in a way that is rather jarring, even though it’s also one of the more fascinating aspects of the book. As carefully paced as it is the ending is rather abrupt and vaguely unsatisfying.

Ultimately, The Explanation for Everything didn’t work for me as fully as I had hoped, but Grodstein is an author whose work I will continue to look forward to. A Friend of the Family comes very highly recommended, so luckily I will have that to read in the meanwhile.

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