• Out Of Twenty: Elena Mauli Shapiro, Author of In The Red, Answers Seven Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their Elena Mauli Shapiroown interview by handpicking the questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Elena Mauli Shapiro is the author of  In The Red. Here is what Elena had to say about reading, writing, and her obsession with memory.

    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.  My name is Elena and I am a novelist.  Sometimes I write short stories, but they either turn into novels or are eaten by a novel which then incorporates pieces of the story within itself.  Basically everything my brain does is in the service of eventually producing a novel.  It’s a chronic condition.  I have been writing stories as long as I remember.  It just took a long time before I got good enough that somebody decided to pay me.

    I’ve published two novels so far.  The first, 13 rue Thérèse, is sort of a historical romance set in 1928 Paris.  The second, In the Red, is a brooding Eastern European gangster thing.  I am sometimes told that my stories are different enough that they feel as if they have been written by separate people.  While I really enjoy expanding my range as a storyteller, I can tell you that every book I write will always feature sex in some form, and that my texts will always be obsessed with memory—be it the workings of individual memory or collective memory in the forms of history and myth.

    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 throughout the writing process?

    I have been really into cake lately.  I love how combining four cheap, pedestrian ingredients (flour, butter, sugar, eggs) in the right way can make magic in your mouth.  It’s a miracle!  It’s a little bit like writing a book in that it involves careful layering of ingredients to produce a satisfying whole, but it’s way more awesome than a book in that, with cake, you can have yumminess within a couple of hours.  Since it often takes years for a book to take shape, it’s psychologically helpful to produce something delicious in a manageable amount of time!  I just made a Crème de Cassis cake when a friend came to visit yesterday.  Basically, find a good basic white cake recipe and add some tasty booze to the batter and you can’t go wrong.  A cake that will make you cry it is so good is this Baileys Irish Cream cake.  Strap in for some awesome.

    In the Red by Elena Mauli ShapiroDid you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were you in choosing the name of the book?

    Titles are weird in that I either get a good title immediately, or I never get one.  I had the title for In the Red right from the beginning.  I never had a title for 13 rue Thérèse.  It drove me nuts.  It was my agent who ultimately suggested the title.

    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?

    I very seldom actually look at my old texts.  I even avoid looking at my published work.  Once it’s printed it’s done, nothing left for me there.  Sometimes I will salvage an old idea or scene from something I’ve written previously that didn’t turn out.  That’s why even failed pieces are useful: you never know what you can take from them later.  But when I do that I usually pull the idea or scene from memory and rewrite from scratch, I don’t consult the old text.  I did have one occasion to look at old stuff before a move a few years ago, when I had to dispose of accumulated papers.  I had tons of printed material, especially from college when I couldn’t trust floppy disks to preserve my data.  I absolutely dreaded having to look at that stuff: I thought I would be horrified going through it, at how abjectly shitty my writing used to be. I was convinced I would cringe at all the expository dialogue, incompetent mechanics, and poorly rendered feeling. But I liked my former self a lot more than I thought I would–not because the writing was good. It was fairly hideous.

  • Out of Twenty: Brian Payton, The Author of The Wind Is Not A River, Answers Seven Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author Brian Paytonand they choose their own interview by handpicking the questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Brian Payton is the author of  The Wind Is Not  River. Here is what Brian had to say about reading, writing, and the relevance of historical fiction.

    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?

    I’m a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. My latest book, The Wind Is Not A River, is both a survival story and a love story set in the wilderness of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands leading up to the only battle of WWII fought on American soil. My previous books, The Ice Passage and Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness are narrative nonfiction books dealing with history and conservation respectively. My first novel, drawn from events in my own life, was Hail Mary Corner. I live in Vancouver with my wife and our two daughters. I’ve been writing since my late teens.

    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 am resolutely non-superstitious so I have no writing rituals. Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, I approach it much the same way: I treat it not like “a job” but as a vocation and a call to action. With fiction, once I have an idea, I chain my ass to a chair for a few weeks to see if a character and story begin to show signs of life. I do not wait for the muse; I follow my interests and get to work.

    Write the question you would most like to be asked and answer it.

    Your latest book is historical fiction. What makes this story relevant today?

    Great survival stories can tell us something elemental about what it means to be alive. This story is primarily a story of survival and devotion set against a history that has been lost in the popular culture—a history I hope to help reclaim. Great love stories can tell us something about the human experience, what it means to live with, without, and for one another… who we are in the presence or absence of love.

    With this book, my goal is to transport readers to a stark, beautiful, and unforgiving landscape, then challenge them to ask themselves: How far would you go in search of the truth, or to honor a lost loved one? What are we willing to do to survive, or risk for the sake of love?

    The Wind Is Not  A River by Brian PaytonAre you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

    When I’m writing fiction, I allow myself to read nonfiction. Conversely, I read fiction when I’m writing nonfiction. Although I have no writing “rituals” per se, each day before writing I try and read some poetry no matter what I’m working on. During the writing and editing of The Wind Is Not A River, I immersed myself in the poetry of Seamus Heaney, particularly the bog poems.

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

    From the beginning, I had the title of this book in place: The Wind Is Not A River. I realize the title is a head scratcher, a koan, but it evolved naturally out of the course of the narrative and the struggle of one of the two main characters. It is of the place in which the book is set and is appropriate. I realize that some people might find it too cryptic and therefore may be inclined to give it a pass, but many readers are intrigued and curious to take part in solving the mystery. I’m more interested in telling this story to the second group of readers.

    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?

    Honestly, I can’t remember much of what I read as a child, beyond the Hardy Boys mysteries, ghostwritten by authors collectively known as “Franklin W. Dixon.” Then, as now, I loved being read to. I remember being mesmerized by my stunningly beautiful third grade teacher, who read E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web to the class. I was hooked on every word.

    And then I read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath when I was 14, and it shook me to the core. I vividly remember savoring the final scene while on the road, curled up in the hatchback of our Ford Pinto (infamous for having its gas tank behind the bumper!) because there were not enough seats for all us kids. By the time I reached the ending, I was sobbing loud enough to require explanation. I knew then that I had magic in my hands and wanted to become a magician.

    1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

    About the Author: Brian Payton is the author of The Wind Is Not A River, which was chosen as an American Booksellers Association IndieNext “Great Reads” Pick, an American Library Association “Library Reads” Pick, an Amazon Book of the Month, and a BookPage Top Fiction Pick (Jan. 2014). Payton is also the author of the novel Hail Mary Corner and two acclaimed works of narrative nonfiction: Shadow Of The Bear: Travels In Vanishing Wilderness, which was a Barnes and Noble Book Club Pick and a U.S. National Outdoor Book Awards Book of the Year; and The Ice Passage: A True Story Of Ambition, Disaster, And Endurance In The Arctic Wilderness, which was a finalist for the Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize. Payton lives with his family in Vancouver.

    Photo Credit: Alison Rosa, Doug Rosa

  • E.B. Moore, Author of An Unseemly Wife, Answers Ten Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their own interview by handpicking the questions (and how many!) they want to answer. E.B. Moore is the author of  An Unseemly Wife. Here is what E.B. had to say about reading, writing, and how family stories inspired her writing.

    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?

    I came to writing by accident.  After college and art school, I worked as a sculptor hammering and welding large bronze sheets, but the body can only put up with so much, before it gives out.  Mine did, and returning to college, (at the same time as my youngest daughter), I stumbled into another creative outlet— poetry, always with narrative, mostly with a farm theme mirroring how I grew up.

    Finishing Line Press published my twenty-six page chapbook, New Eden, A Legacy, the chronicle of my Amish great grandmother’s catastrophic trek west in a covered wagon. Readers wanted more of “Ruth’s” story, and much to my horror, a novel seemed the only answer. After years more sweat and schooling at Grub Street Writers, I finished An Unseemly Wife.

    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?

    An Unseemly Wife by E.B. MooreStoking the furnace is an important part of writing.  You’ve got to eat.  The biggest problem is limiting the time spent surfing the frig.  I’ve been known to rationalize eating as research.  Pickled pigs’ feet appear in my book, so to get the exact flavor and the feel of its gelatinous substrate housing the meat, I needed a sample.  Hard to find unless you’re in Amish country. I went to Lancaster PA, and more appealing things beckoned: sour cherry pie, pecan, shoofly, custard, whoopee pies, not a pie at all.

    Reading is actually more useful, serving as inspiration when I get bogged down.  I keep special books on a handy shelf so I can read snippets.  Sometimes just a paragraph or two is enough.  These are at the top of my pile: March, by Geraldine Brooks, Grapes of Wrath, Lord of the Flies.

    My day starts early.  4:00am is the sweet spot; I’m sharpest then, and it limits interruptions.  The only problem:  when my friends go out to dinner, I’m ready for bed.

    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?

    When I was a kid, my mother told me her family’s story often.  One was how Aaron bundled his pregnant wife Ruth and their four littles into a covered wagon, and against their Amish faith, joined the dreaded English heading for free land in Idaho. On the trek, they faced Indian attacks, pestilence, and prejudice leading to betrayal, and they were left alone on the trailside fighting for their lives.

    Mother wanted to write this story, but a brain tumor took her memory before she wrote more than a cryptic list of incidents.  Living with me after her operation, she’d ask over and over to hear about Ruth.  My kids would cover their ears and run from the room. “No, no, not the wagon of death again.”

    In the end, the characters nattered at me until I wrote them down. And yes, my life has changed.  I’m now a slave to new characters who intrude whenever it suits them.

    What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

    I’m reading The Violet Season by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.  I came across her historical novel because she wrote a wonderful blurb for my book.  Hers is a captivating story of family trials as they struggle for control of a violet farm.  I had no idea there was such a thing as farms that raised only violets.

    Kathy brings me into the scenes with intriguing details and dynamic conflicts as Ida tries to protect herself and her daughter from the dictates of overbearing men who should be protecting them.

    Since writing my own book, I read more carefully, watching how the author develops character and plot.  It’s harder to get consumed by the story, but when I do, as with Kathy’s book, it’s a thrill.

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

    The most surprising discovery came as I questioned my uncles and cousins for their slant on the family catastrophe.  It turned out, reports of my great grandmother’s unseemly behavior (resisting her husband’s demand to leave the farm and put the lives of their children at risk) had come down only through the female side of the family.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Early on, men would have seen her message of self-reliance as reactionary, a message that would encourage women to disobey their husbands. Even my brother had been left in the dark.  My son, on the other hand, knows all.

    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?

    In the early morning dark, before I’m fully awake, ideas for scenes float in, and I write them on a pad without turning on the light. If I wake fully, the ideas will disappear.  Later, after breakfast I flesh them out on the computer. After lunch, comes editing time, quick before my eyes roll back in my head, and I hit the couch for a nap.  Then more editing takes the rest of afternoon until I no longer trust my judgment. Late edits usually have to revert to earlier versions.

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

    My title started out as A Wager Of Bones. Then my wise agent, Alice Tasman, persuaded me that at first glance, it didn’t tell enough about what was inside the book. I resisted, chewing on suggestions like a cow on a cud, but couldn’t gag them down.

    ‘Wife’ should be in the title, Alice said.  I stomped around in a most unseemly manner, and there it was, the word that described Ruth best.  When I told Alice, she jumped on it, and to my delight An Unseemly Wife was born.  Not wanting to lose ‘A Wager Of Bones,’ I used it to head the book’s third section.

    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?

    School reading was hell.  Words and letters traded places on the page and I stumbled along wondering why everyone else in first grade could zip through See Spot Run before I turned the first page. Being dyslectic made all of school a struggle, but outside reading, where speed didn’t count, took me on magical journeys along with Grimm, Kipling, Dickens, and many others.  Being a writer didn’t cross my mind until my fifties.

    Are there other books you love or writers you admire that are from your local area?

    I’m part of an amazing community of writers in the Boston area.  Many of them, too many to mention here by name, are instructors at Grub Street Writers and can be found on the Grub website, and others can be found on the blogs:  beyondthemargins.com  and  deaddarlings.com  Take a look, their books are varied and well written, something for everyone.

    What’s next?

    I’m finishing another Amish novel. The book follows Joshua (an alias I use for my grandfather, this story based on his escapades) as he escapes his father’s secret whippings. Joshua, eleven and alone, starts on a ten-year journey, descending into the underbelly of the American west, while his mother, at home on the farm, struggles to accept God’s will: her son is dead. But questions haunt them both, and the answers force them to confront the unexpected snake in their Amish garden.

    1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

    About E.B. Moore: E. B. Moore grew up in a Pennsylvania fieldstone house on a Noah’s ark farm.  The red barn stabled animals two-by-two, along with a herd of Cheviot sheep. After a career as a metal sculptor, she returned to writing poetry. Her chapbook of poems,New Eden, A Legacy, (Finishing Line Press, 2009) was the foundation for her novel, An Unseemly Wife both based on family stories from her Amish roots in Lancaster. E. B. received full fellowships to The Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo.  She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Out of Twenty: Martha Woodroof, Author of Small Blessings, Answers 6 Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  authorMartha Woodroof and they choose their own interview by handpicking the questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Martha Woodroof is the author of  Small Blessings. Here is what Martha had to say about reading, writing, and making a bucket list helped her publish her novel.

    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?

    I got my first rejection letter at the age of twelve from the poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly. As it was a personal letter asking me to send in more stuff, I took that as encouragement. I’m both a college dropout (Mount Holyoke) and a grad school dropout (the University of Virginia). My first real job was as a teacher’s aide in a pilot Head Start program in Greensboro, North Carolina. Since the turn of the century, I’ve been attached to WMRA, the Little Public Radio Station that Can, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and actively freelanced for the NPR Culture Desk and for npr.org.

    Before that – among a lot of other things, I co-owned restaurants, did a bit of acting, was fired as a magazine editor, hosted local TV talk shows and anchored the news, wrote a book called How to Stop Screwing Up: 12 Steps to a Real Life and a Pretty Good Time, cooked for an artist’s colony, was a country music disc jockey and a psychiatric occupational therapy aide, taught preschool, published a bunch of essays, was a morning drive-time personality on a tiny AM radio station, ran a college bookstore coffee shop, directed a college’s co-curricular programming, and failed to sell cars.

    I finished an early draft of Small Blessings a couple of years ago and then put it away to work on some radio and non-fiction projects.
    I’ve never been all that frightened of failing (which is lucky, as I have failed a lot). It seems to me we are each responsible for living our own lives kindly, productively and well; figuring out what we need and want to do with our time and our talents, and then going after those things full-tilt. With this in mind, when I hit my early sixties, I made a bucket list. As I’ve done (and failed to do) a lot of very different things, my bucket list had one item on it: Publish Small Blessings! I’d recently reread the novel, re-fallen in love with its people, and the one thing I really wanted was to land them a better gig than life in a cardboard box in my home office.

    How Small Blessings came to St. Martin’s is a long, funny story involving some more major non-shyness on my part and (as any first novelist will tell you) a giant helping hand from the serendipity gods. One auction later, Small Blessings and I had fetched up at St. Martin’s, which is publishing heaven as far as I’m concerned.

    Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof - JacketAs to the stories I want to tell: I want to explore the lives of ordinary people who have ordinary problems and somehow things happen that bring out the best in them. I am, and have always been, an optimist!

    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?

    My process is not very mysterious; it’s what I think of as the Just Do It school of writing. I get up every morning and write for a couple of hours before I do anything other than give my email a cursory look. As soon as I start to interact with the outside world, the inside of my head turns a pinball machine and I lose my ability to hang out in my imaginary worlds.

    As to rituals and food: Coffee. Brought to me in continuous supply by my husband, Charlie, who is bucking for sainthood.

    Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

    Q: Is writing fiction fun?
    A: Yes!

    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’m a long-term sober alcoholic/addict (hallelujah!). Sobriety has taught me that there’s always another chance. Or conversely, as the Doobie Brothers once put it: “You always have a chance to give up. So why do it now?”

    If I had to be stuck on a desert island with only one book, it would be The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, edited by Sally Fitzgerald. In one particular letter, someone asks Ms. O’Connor (who was a seriously devout Catholic) what our duty in prayer is. Ms. O’Connor replies something to the effect that our duty is to figure out what we want and ask for it. The italics are mine, as I read this at a point in my life when I was not yet sober and so was really floundering. And even though I wasn’t even a person of faith at the time, I remember those words hitting me like a blow. Our duty is to figure out what we want…

    At the time I was clueless about who I was, let alone what I wanted. That moment with Ms. O’Connor began an ongoing process of learning to accept myself exactly as I am in the world as it actually is. This has been both challenging and, at times, very scary. But – yowza! – it’s also, in my opinion, the most alive way to live. How can we possibly be happy without first being our real selves? So – back to Small Blessings – in general, I think I’m interested in writing about nice, well-meaning people who are willing to face the extreme challenge of accepting themselves as they really are and, in the process, learning what it is they really, truly want.

    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?

    My mother read aloud to me way past the age when I could read on my own. She was an English professor who loved literature, and she made Dickens and Shakespeare and Jane Austen as real to me as second grade. I think that’s when I fell in love with words and their power to tell other people’s stories.

    Long years reporting in the NPR system only fueled this love. Stories allow us to inhabit the lives of people we will never meet (or who will never exist, in the case of fiction), try on their viewpoints, experience their struggles and triumphs, feel their emotions. I can truthfully never remember not wanting to be a story teller in some form or other.

    Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?

    I love all my characters, and I was surprised by how much I missed their company once Small Blessings was finished. Writing Agnes Tattle (Tom Putnam’s mother-in-law) was a real blast, because she is so no-nonsense and straightforward.

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    About the Author: Martha Woodroof was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR, npr.org, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. Their closest neighbors are cows.

  • Out of Twenty: Thrity Umrigar, Author of The Story Hour, Answers 12 Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their own Thrity Umrigarinterview by handpicking the questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Thrity Umrigar is the author of  The Story Hour.  Here is what Thrity had to say about reading, writing, and whether talking solves problems.

    As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

    Honestly, it’s been the kindness of readers.  People who make the time to come to my readings.  Or write to me on my fan page on Facebook.  Or write me long, detailed emails that sometimes break my heart but always remind me that words matter, that literature matters.  That there is a good reason to spend months at a time lost in writing a book, neglecting friends, family, house, pets.

    Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?

    Honestly, I have loved writing all my characters.  Each one is different, each one carries his or her own history, and I’m intrigued by them all.  I love trying to figure out why they behave the way they do, what in their past tugs at their present.  I have to confess that Lakshmi was probably the most challenging one to write because of her ungrammatical, idiosyncratic English and the way she would turn a phrase.  In many ways, Lakshmi was a stranger to me—she grew up in the Indian countryside, she was the daughter of peasants, she had an eighth-grade education.  She had very little in common with me.  And she insisted in speaking in this very non-standard English.  So I had to get to know her in the course of writing this novel.

  • Out of Twenty: Denise Mina, Author of Red Road, Answers Seven Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their own Denise Minainterview by handpicked which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Denise Mina is the author of  Red Road, the fourth book in her Scottish detective series featuring Alex Morrow.  Here is what Denise had to say about reading, writing, and taking the reader into a different world.

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

     I’m a Scottish woman who lucked out! I started as an incompetent legal academic, doing a PhD in The Ascription of Mental Illness to Female Offenders. I realised that I’d probably spend the rest of my life trying to get people to listen to the things I’d discovered and I’m not that pushy. To be an academic you have to really sell yourself and I’m not the best at that.  So, I started writing a crime novel with all of the ideas in it, thinking that people would read for the mystery but come across all of the ideas in there. That book was Garnethill.

    The books I like to work on have pace and take the reader into a different world that they having imagined before. I like heroes and heroines that are unexpected: psychiatric patients, rude women, the fat girl in the office.

    I am often struck by the different ways books can be interpreted by who read and how they read it. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you get into character, and prepare to read narrate a book?

    Honestly, I’ve got kids, a lot of elderly relatives and a man who couldn’t find his arse with both hands so I don’t have time for routines or rituals. I just look at the calendar, weep softly and get on with it. Panic is a good motivator. Working in the morning is good too: there’s a period of about two hours just after I’ve woken up when I don’t have a head full of other things, so I often get up a couple of hours before everyone else and work then.

     Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

    Does being lauded as a writer make you feel like a bit of a phoney?

    All the time. I see other writers talk about their work with total certainty and confidence. Maybe they don’t feel that way but I can’t even put it on. I always think of Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes. Larkin was constitutionally questioning  and Hughes was certain. I feel like Larkin. I wake up a little bit embarrassed.  I used to be embarrassed about feeling embarrassed but now I think of it as the ability to have two feelings at the same time. It’s my super power.

    Red RoadWhat was the most interesting thing that you’ve found out while preparing to read a book that you’re working on?

    Reading a lot of the research on women who marry men in prison or on death row for Deception. The dynamic in those relationships mirrors that between fan and pop stars: you can be completely over the top because you’ll never meet really, it’s the distance that causes the erotic tension. There’s a great book about Australian women who married men in prison and followed them after they got out. Terrifying! One guy took all of his wife’s teeth out to punish her.

    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?

    I get up before the kids and write for one or two hours before they get up. Then an hour and half of nagging, feeding, shouting, walking and get everyone to school. Then back to the desk, re read what I’ve done, decide what I’m going to do today. Batter into it. By about 11 am my concentration is fading and I spend about an hour and a half refusing to admit it has. I check my email, facebook, twitter. I empty the dishwasher. I sweep the hall.

    Then I give up and have lunch early. Then I come back, work for a bit more, set out the work for the session and get on with interviews, admin, phone calls etc. The kids get out of school at three o’clock so I usually think of something great at 2:30, just as I have to set off. Jot it down, go get the kids. Get everyone back home, feed, nag, homework, nag. If I have child care which is about two afternoons a week I sit down and work until 5.

    How jaw dropping dull is all of that?

  • Out of Twenty: Kimberly Elkins, Author of What Is Visible, Answers Six Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their own Kimberly Elkinsinterview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Kimberly Elkins is the author of  What is Visiblea fictionalized account of the life of Laura Bridgman—the blind and deaf woman who first learned sign language, paving the way for Helen Keller. Here is what Kimberly  had to say about reading, writing, and the books that gave her the courage and inspiration to write her own novel.

    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?

    Hi there, I’m Kimberly Elkins, a writer and professor living in Cambridge, MA, although I spend part of the year as a Visiting Lecturer in the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Hong Kong, the first program of its kind in Asia.  I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, then got a degree in English at Duke University, followed by an MA in Creative Writing from Florida State, and an MFA in Fiction from Boston University.  Too much school!

    I write literary fiction and nonfiction, including short stories and personal essays. My work has been published in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, the Iowa Review, the Chicago Tribune, and Glamour, among others.  My first novel, What is Visible, just came out in June 2014.  It’s based on the real-life historical figure of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf-blind person to learn language, fifty years before Helen Keller.  Laura also couldn’t taste or smell, having lost four of her five senses to scarlet fever at age two.  In the nineteenth century, she was considered the second most famous woman in the world, second only to Queen Victoria. Thousands flocked to Perkins Institute to visit her; Darwin and Dickens wrote about her, and there were even Laura dolls worldwide with their eyes poked out and covered with her trademark green ribboned shade.  The book explores the complex reasons why Laura has been virtually erased from history, which include debates about religion, ideas of female beauty and sexuality, and the exploitation of the disabled.  We remember only Helen Keller as the first deaf-blind person to learn language, and with What is Visible, I aim to set the record straight.

    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?

    When I’m writing, I usually stay up very late, until about 4:00 a.m.  That’s my best writing time.  Then I get up around 8:00 or 9:00.  That leaves only four or five hours of sleep, so I make it up by luxuriating in usually two naps a day, one in the early afternoon, and one in the evening.  Research indicates that napping is a great boon to creative thinking, especially problem-solving, and I always wake feeling revitalized creatively.

    What is Visible Book Cover Hard cOver EditionThe other main thing I do is to keep a huge poster board I’ve made on the wall above my desk that is specific to the project I’m working on.  For my novel, What is Visible, it was decorated with pictures of the real-life historical characters to keep them always in my sight.  The board was also divided into small boxes for days, month by month, as many boxes as the board allowed, and for every day that I wrote (which was every single day for the last two-thirds of the novel), I stuck a lovely little flower sticker in the box, the equivalent of giving myself a gold star.   I also noted the word counts at the end of every week in gold ink with many encouraging exclamation points.  As silly as it might sound, having that board above the desk, with all its pictures, reminders, goal-setting and encouragement really did help psychologically as I sat down each day to work.

    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 first read about Laura Bridgman in a 2001 New Yorker article, and was amazed that I’d never heard of this remarkable American icon.  But more than the article, it was the photograph accompanying it that cut right through to my heart:  a frail, almost emaciated, and yet somehow fierce-looking young woman with a ribboned shade tied around her eyes, sitting ramrod straight with a stubborn dignity, and balancing an enormous, raised-letter book on her lap. As someone who has suffered on and off from severe depression all my life, I immediately identified with that profound sense of separateness and isolation, and knew immediately that I had to find out why she had been virtually lost to history.

    Although Laura and I would seem to be wildly different to the naked eye, in writing her story, I was able to let go and share a piece of myself through this book.  I am also very proud to have brought this incredible woman back into the public eye to reclaim her rightful place in history.

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

    Yes, I keep books that relate in some way, either in terms of research or theme, close by, and dip into them randomly when I feel the need for inspiration. For example, with What is Visible, I kept on my desk biographies of all the main characters, plus the fantastic historical novels that inspired me and gave me the courage and vision to write my own:  Property by Valerie Martin; Gob’s Grief by Chris Adrian, and A Brief History of Women by Kate Walbert.  And for general good artistic and spiritual advice, I often refer to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, especially the inspiring quotes from master artists, writers and philosophers on the side of every page.  Other than those and more research materials, I’m really not able to read much for pleasure when I’m deep in the throes of writing.

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

    I always knew the title; it was the same title I gave the short story, published in the Atlantic in 2003, which begot the novel of  the same name.  No one else ever had any say in it.  What is Visible most literally refers to the narrative itself:  at the end of “telling” her story to the young Helen Keller, who is being groomed to be “the second Laura Bridgman,” Laura says that while she will not be able to read what she has written, she prays that “what is invisible to man may be visible to God.” The idea of what is visible versus what is invisible, or below the surface, and also what it means to be truly visible to others–emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually–has always fascinated me.  So the phrase “what is visible” is all-encompassing; it’s not just about Laura’s handicap, but about the myriad ways in which we all perceive and misperceive the world and each other.

    Did you have to do much research when working on your books, and do you tend to write first or research first?

    I generally research fairly exhaustively first, and then write.  For What is Visible, I spent two years immersing myself in the letters, journals and enormous historical coverage of Laura and my three other narrators: Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, the founder of Perkins, who took Laura in at age seven and taught her language; Julia Ward Howe, his famous poet and suffragist wife; and Sarah Wight, Laura’s beloved last teacher.  Besides the archives at Perkins School for the Blind, I was fortunate to get fellowships at Harvard, Radcliffe, the Massachusetts and Maine Historical Societies and the American Antiquarian Society, the last of which was most useful in simply acclimating myself to the 19th-century sensibility.  I learned quickly that it was better to read from the period than about the period, a strategy I strongly suggest for anyone writing historical fiction.

    1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

    About the Author: Kimberly Elkins’ fiction and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlantic MonthlyBest New American VoicesThe Iowa ReviewThe Village Voice,The Chicago TribuneMaisonneuveGlamourPrevention and McGraw-Hill’s college textbook, Arguing Through Literature, and Slice, among others. 

    Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz
  • Out of Twenty: Ayelet Waldman, Author of Love & Treasure, Answers Ten Questions

    In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing  author and they choose their own interview by handpicking Ayelet Waldman, author of Love & Treasurewhich questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Ayelet Waldman is the author of  Love & Treasurea novel aboutthe fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War”.  Here is what Ayelet had to say about reading, writing, and choosing the ideal title. She also shares one of her novel’s deleted scenes.

    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? 

    I got my start writing fiction in a most unusual way, I think. I was a very happy criminal defense attorney, representing indigent defendants in federal court. My husband, Michael Chabon, is a novelist, and we had a perfect system going on. He kept the house running and food on the table, and I went off to work everyday at a job that provided health insurance. What could be more ideal? It all worked beautifully until I had a baby, at which point I suddenly didn’t want to be working 12 to 16 hour days. More importantly, my work was so emotionally consuming that while I was a perfectly adequate wife when what was required was, basically, appreciation and an interest in sex, when I had to be a partner and a mother, I quickly realized I couldn’t bring it both at work and at home.

    I set out to write a light-hearted murder mystery (I was a fan of the genre), more as a way of keeping busy when I quit my job and found myself a (bored) stay-at-home mother. As soon as I sold my first series, however, I realized that I loved writing, and that I wanted to write things that were more challenging. I wanted to write the books that I admired and came back to year after year, rather than the books I was able to enjoy with a new mom’s limited attention span. I left the mystery series behind and began writing more serious, literary fiction. Although you’ll find my sense of humor still there in all my books, even in Love & Treasure, which deals with very serious topics like war and betrayal, art and the Holocaust.

     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 have four children, a big dog, and a messy house. If I was too precious about my writing space and ritual, I’d never get anything accomplished. I have a studio – one I share with my husband. It’s lovely, but mostly it’s separate from my house. I work well in it, but not noticeably better than I did when I used to work in cafes. For me it’s all about being away from the kids. It’s virtually impossible to write with a toddler wrapped around your ankles (though I used to manage it pretty well when hitched up to a breast pump). My kids are older now (10 through 19), but they are no less demanding, and I have to get away from them to work.

    I also have to be detached from the Internet, that evil succubus, stealer of time. Freedom, the program that disconnects you from the Internet, works wonders for me.  The last thing I need is tea. Earl Grey tea, with one teaspoon of sugar and a dollop of whole milk  (because skim milk is not only gross, but it’s a lie. It’s all sugar!).

    Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

    Q: How many copies of your book should I buy?

    Answer: One for every single person you’ve ever met in your life.

    Just kidding. Sort of.

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

    A very brilliant and famous writer once told me that refusing to read while you are writing in order to avoid influence is a mark of the rankest amateur. I have a lot of sympathy for that point of view.

    First of all, didn’t we all become writers because we love to read? And every writer I know is always writing. We’re never not writing. Refusing to read while writing would rob you of your greatest pleasure!

    But more than that, I crave influence. I want Jane Austen’s prose to seep into mine. I want Philip Roth’s sentence to influence me. Being influenced by great writers will only make my work better. And it’s not like I’ll end up writing pastiche. Everything comes out through the lens of my own mind.

    I do have one rule, however. I only read writers who are better than me. I don’t want to be influenced by bad writing. Fortunately, that leaves me a steady and delightful stream of novels (and even the odd non-fiction book) in which to immerse myself.

    Love and Treasure book cover, hardbackWhat was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include? 

    At some point I realized that the only way for me to write a novel about the Holocaust that was not exploitative was to refrain from writing any scenes of genocide, any scenes in the camps, any scenes of explicit horror. I’m not saying this is a rule for all writers, but it was what I had to do. I had already written a scene, however, that I thought was really good. I wanted that scene in the book so much, but at the same time, I knew that it cheapened the novel. It’s gone from the book, but you can read it here.

    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?

    One of my characters has just read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and it completely rocked her world, as it rocked mine when I read it at her age.

    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? 

    I am an early riser who despises mornings, a truly tragic combination. I wake, thus, at 6 and spend the next three hours tossing and turning, periodically picking up my ipad to buzz through email, falling back asleep, cuddling my husband’s unconscious body in the vain hope he will wake up and entertain me (he works at night and only comes to bed at 4 AM, so you can imagine how much he loves this.

    Then I haul my miserable ass out of bed, sit down with the first of about six hundred cups of tea, and read the paper, surf the web, do my email. I also harangue my youngest child (who is homeschooled) about doing his work. This is the first of many periods of nagging, the activity I engage in lieu of exercise. I wish nagging made a person lose weight. I’d look like Keira Knightley.

    By 10 I’m ready to work. I turn Freedom on to disconnect myself from the internet and work until lunchtime. I lunch with my husband and son, and then work until 3, when it’s time to pick up my younger daughter from school and my older son from BART, the train he takes to his high school in the city. I am far too easily convinced to stop for an ice cream or a boba tea (google it. It’s divine) on the way home.

    Then I spent the next few hour nagging people to do their homework.

    I try to be vivacious and charming as my husband cooks dinner, hoping he will be so enchanted by my adorableness that he will offer to do the dishes for me. (This works more often than I should admit).

    We then have dinner all together (one of the joys of unathletic children is that mealtime is never disrupted by practice).

    I clean up the kitchen (or not) and then we either have a second (third?) bout of homework-related nagging, or the family watches a show together. We’re huge Sherlock, Dr. Who, and Vikings fans, so if those shows are on we freely violate our ostensible “no TV during the week” rule.

    My husband then reads to the kids. Every once in a rare while I join on this activity, most recently for To Kill a Mockingbird. 

    After that my husband goes to work and I watch a movie or some TV (I should be more ashamed to admit how much I love TV, but I don’t care. TV is awesome). At about 10 I turn off the TV and read. Sometimes, if I woke up super early, I’ll crash by about midnight. If I am in the middle of a particularly good book, I snap off the light at 3:59, as I hear my husband walking up the stairs, and pretend to have been asleep for hours.

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

    This book’s title I chose, which has not always been the case. I was flirting with various titles, none of them very satisfying, when someone (Was it me? Was it my husband? Was it my friend Jonathan Lethem?) suggested Love and Treasure. As soon as I heard it I knew it was perfect. I kept it, despite the fact that I published another book called Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. But I did not choose that title. It was forced on me, though I’ve come to appreciate it despite having called it Love and Other Impossible to Remember Titles for a very long time. I decided not to sacrifice the ideal title just because I’d already done one “Love and.”

    As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

    How much you have to hustle to be read, to sell books, all so that you can continue to do the work you love. But I won’t whine about it. I am so very lucky that I my job is to sit around making up stories. How cool is that? Everything else is just chaff, easily blown away in the wind.

    What’s next?

    I’m working on another historical novel. This one starts on the French Riviera in 1938, winds its way through 1940s Hollywood, a women’s college in the 1950s, New York City in the 1970s and ends up god only knows where.

    1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

    About the Author: Ayelet Waldman is the author of Love and TreasureRed Hook Road and The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was adapted into a film called The Other Woman starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York TimesVogueThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have appeared on All Things Considered and The California Report.

    Ayelet’s missives also appear on Facebook and Twitter.

    Her books are published throughout the world, in countries as disparate as England and Thailand, the Netherlands and China, Russia and Israel, tlc-logo-resizedSouth Korea and Italy.

     

    Follow the rest of Ayelet Waldman’s TLC Tour, here.

     

     

  • Summer Shorts 14 Blog Hop: The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe (Narrator: Hillary Huber)

    summer-shorts

    Summer Shorts/ June is Audiobook Month

    June is Audiobook Month and it is the official start to my personal audiobook listening season. It’s so warm and beautiful that I have the inclination and make time to walk all the places, and listen to all the books. Last year I participated in a wonderful collaboration between audiobook narrators and bloggers called Going Public…In Shorts, organized by the lovely and accomplished Xe Sands. I interviewed Karen White and featured a story she read called The Death of a Soldier, from the public domain by Louisa May Alcott.

    Normally Going Public posts an audiobook narration each week from the public domain, but again, for the entire month of June, there will be Summer Shorts, a new short story each day featuring a narrator reading a short piece by an author whose work they admire. You can listen to a different story for free each day, and buy the collection, including additional unreleased recordings, at the end of the month. Proceeds from purchases support ProLiteracy. From the Going Public website:

    The audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

    Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download.

    Choosing A Story

    Mrs. Poe Hardcover

    At the time were discussing the June launch of this project, I had been reading Lynn Cullen’s Mrs. Poe, the absorbing  fictionalization of Poe’s relationship with Frances Osgood, a celebrated poet in her own right. The novel details the affect this rumored relationship had on his marriage and on the mental health of the fragile Mrs. Poe. Many references were made to Poe’s stories, what kind of mind could have created them, and the hardships he suffered that might have informed such a grim perspective on life. I was reminded by how much I enjoyed reading Poe’s stories growing up, and how  creepy they remain so long after they were written- even to my adult ears.

    I really loved Hillary’s take on this story and the attitude she gave the narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart. It seemed appropriate given who he is and what he is attempting.

    Listen to The Tell-Tale Heart

    The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe

    The Tell-Tale Heart is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. (The victim was an old man with a filmy “vulture-eye”, as the narrator calls it.) The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in the form of the sound—possibly hallucinatory—of the old man’s heart still beating under the floorboards.

    The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe (read by Hillary Huber) by Going Public


    About Hillary Huber

    huber_h_dMultiple Audie Finalist, Earphone Award winner and one of AudioFile’s Best Voices of 2010 and 2011, Hillary has recorded close to 200 titles. AudioFile Magazine says, “Hillary Huber’s narration is lyrical enough to be set to music.” Hillary splits her time between Santa Monica and NY.

     

     

    More Summer Shorts 14

    Remember to check out the full release schedule here, but for now:

    6/2/14 – Johnny Heller reading Dave Barry’s Money Secrets by Dave Barry/ Library Journal

    6/3/14 – Mark Turetsky reading  How Angelina Buglebrain Got Her Start by Tom and Angleberger / Nerdy Book Club

    6/4/14 – Tavia Gilbert reading Beautiful Things by Michelle Webster-Hein/ The Reading Date

    1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Mail Call

  • Out of Twenty: Cecelia Ahern, Author of One Hundred Names, Answers Ten Questions

    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 Cecelia Ahernwhich questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Cecelia Ahern is the author of  One Hundred Namesa novel about what happens when a woman goes on a journey of discovery as she tries to find the common denominator in a mysterious list she finds containing a hundred names.  Here is what Cecelia had to say about reading, writing, and the benefits of writing longhand.

    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?

    After graduating with a BA in Journalism and Media Communications I was twenty-one years old and going through what I call a ‘quarter life crisis’. I was quite down, was going through some issues, was very introspective, withdrawn from others and was really trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I have always written from an early age as a hobby, as therapy and a way of figuring things out, but I came up with the idea for PS I Love You I knew it was different from everything else and it took over my life. I put pen to paper and couldn’t stop. I was writing the story for me, just as I did with all of my other stories, with no intentions of having it published. I was writing from 10pm till 6am, longhand, then typing it by day. I hibernated for three months and completed the book. I poured my heart and soul into the novel, and seeing how seriously I was taking it, my mother encouraged me to show it to somebody in the publishing world. I found an agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor who wanted to see three chapters, then after ten chapters she agreed to represent me, she sent my chapters to publishers and within two months I had my first book deal, film deal and rights were sold to forty seven countries. It was incredibly overwhelming and exciting. I wrote because I was passionate about the story I was telling, because I’m passionate about writing, and it changed my life.

    PS I Love You really struck a chord with people all around the world and I believe it’s because they connected emotionally with it, so they are the type of books I write. When I write something funny, I need to laugh at my desk. When I write something sad, I need to be crying at my desk. I must believe in and be moved by my work. I write about characters who we meet at their lowest and darkest point in life and the stories are about taking them on journeys of self discovery, using these tragic moments to actually become stronger people who are more aware of themselves. I find that when we’re happy we don’t ask questions but when we’re going through difficult times, we analyse everything. We can become stronger in these moments and my novels are about the strength of the human spirit – and while they’re quite dark, I like to inject them with humour as that’s what I do in life and it’s important to balance the light and dark, the funny and sad.

    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?

     For the past ten years I’ve been writing longhand. Each time I begin I date and time the page as I really like to document the journey I’m taking while writing – it’s like a diary only I’m not writing about me! I write a chapter, then type a chapter straight after and I edit that as I go so immediately it’s a second draft. I like to light a Jo Malone candle, have a decaf latte and then I get lost in my own world. I used to work at night time as it was my most natural time but since having children I work regular office hours but still feel that I can be as creative as I was. Thankfully…

     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 One Hundred Name PB Cyou?

    I consider myself an honest writer. I write about what moves me, what I feel connected to, I don’t write for other people, for publishers, even for the readers. I think at the beginning many people wanted me to write a different version of PS I Love You for every novel, but for me, to be creative, is to be free to do whatever it is that my instinct is telling me. I don’t believe you can know what people think is going to be a good story, I don’t like it when stories are twisted and turned and contrived to become something that isn’t natural – and when stories are messed with so much that they lose their heart so One Hundred Names was very much me expressing those opinions. Kitty has lost her way and she has lost the ability to write a story with heart. She has spent too many years writing for a market, digging for dirt, looking for the story that people don’t want to tell that she has forgotten to listen to the everyday stories that people do want to tell, that people have forgotten are important. One Hundred Names is my mission statement!

    What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

    I’m currently reading my way through the Divergent series because I want to see the film but need to read the book first. Previous to that I read and loved Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which was one of my all time favourites. I love quirky stories from authors Aimee Bender, Audrey Niffenegger and Andrew Kaufman. The authors whose books I most look forward to each year are Karin Slaughter and Lee Child. I like crime thrillers, and these authors pay very close attention to creating rich, strong characters as well as having clever plots.

    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?

    Everyday is different for me but I work from ten till 6pm. I write my novels from January until June, I edit June, July and August, and they are published around the world in October so I travel for Sep, Oct , Nov and Dec. I’m either writing my book, editing my book, creating TV shows, reading film and television scripts, or doing interviews. Everyday is different.

     If you could have everyone read five books, which ones would they be?

    The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kauffman; The GoldFinch by Donna Tartt;  The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield; The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

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

    The title was incredibly important to me as it was the title that inspired the entire idea. I was half-watching the MTV awards and an actress appeared onscreen to announce exclusive trailer for her new movie, One Hundred Names. As soon as I heard the title my mind went on overdrive. I loved the title, I started thinking of what it could be about and in that short space of time I had created the idea of a journalist who comes across a list of one hundred names and has to track them down and hear their stories in order to write a career saving article. As it turns out, I had misheard, the movie was called The Hunger Games!!

    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?

    I was twenty one when I wrote my first novel so I have definitely improved with each novel and I can see the journey from the first book to my tenth novel. I hope to continue to improve over the next ten books…

    Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?

    I have an office which is outside of my home, and I have made it my calm creative space where I can light candles and work in silence – although there is currently a Pilates class going on beneath me! I also like to write by the sea.

    What’s next?

    My tenth novel is called How To Fall In Love and I have just completed my eleventh novel! Love, Rosie, a film adaptation of my second novel will be out in October starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin and I’m continuing to develop TV series for ZDF network.

    1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

    About Cecelia Ahern:  Before embarking on her writing career, Cecelia Ahern completed a degree in Journalism and Media Communications. At twenty-one years old, she wrote her first novel,  PS, I Love You which instantly became an international bestseller and was adapted into a major motion picture starring Hilary Swank. Her subsequent novels, Where Rainbows End, If You Could See Me NowA Place Called HereThanks for the Memories,  The Gift and  The Book of Tomorrow were also bestsellers along with her collection of short stories, Girl in the Mirror.

    Cecelia co-created the ABC Emmy Award winning TV comedy Samantha Who?, Hallmark’s Three Wise Women, and adapted her own novella, Mrs Whippy, for the stage. Cecelia’s books are published in forty-six countries and have collectively sold over 13 million copies. She lives in Dublin with her family.

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