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.



In Paperback: The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein

The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein paperback coverAlgonquin Books, May 27, 2014

Originally Read: I read The Explanation of Everything when it came out in hardcover on September 13, 2013. The Explanation For Everything by Lauren Grodstein

New Cover or Old?  I love the blue cover and the way it relates to Andy’s work in the lab. The font is also very appealing. The colors in the original were rather drab, and I doubt I would have gravitated toward it as much if I hadn’t really wanted to read Grodstein’s work in the first place.

What I Thought Then:  From my thoughts on The Explanation of Everything “: 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.

I loved Grodstein’s writing, the subject matter she chose and many of the characters, but I also felt that it lacked something (couldn’t quite put my finger on it.which would have made it a truly compelling read.

Now, On Further ReflectionMy thoughts on this book are pretty much the same. I have noted at other times, most recently on Twitter, that I have major problems reading apathetic characters, and I think there is a fair amount of inertia in Andy’s grief. That’s hard for me in general and definitely played a factor here.

Book Club Pick? Definitely. The subject matter (widowed man raising two girls, college professor who falls for a student, and creation vs. evolution) is what made this appeal to me, that and Grodstein’s stellar reputation with trusted voices. There is plenty to discuss, and frankly, I think book clubs work best when there are a variety of opinions on the book and subject matter. There was much that I appreciated about this novel, and it easily lends itself to spirited discussion.

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

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


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

Armchair BEA 2014: An Introduction Post

ArmchairBEA LogoPlease tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

I’m Nicole. I’m from New York City and I have written the blog Linus’s Blanket for 6 years now. I can’t even believe that it has been that long. I fell into book blogging by accident. This blog started out rather generally, and if you look way back in the time machine of my posting, you’ll find the odd restaurant/activity post and a few pictures. You can also see where I blogged about books during a vacation in Italy. The blog never recovered from there and since then it has been mainly about books, though over the next year or so I will be going in more of a general direction. Or so I say.

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

I was and have remained a pretty eclectic reader. A well-written book capturing my attention and curiosity can be about anything. Once I was firmly out of board books, basic chapter books, general tween/teen fare, I read a lot of mysteries. I loved Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and some of the Nancy Drew books. And I read quite a bit of fantasy and some of the classics. Freshman year in college changed the game for me when I was introduced to more contemporary “literature”. Toni Morrison’s Beloved made me think about what book could do and the reading experience in a much different way. Up until then, I thought of reading, when not a textbook, as entertainment. With Morrison I discovered layers and deeper meanings.

Best Books Read in 2013

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year?  

I read so many incredible books that it is hard to narrow it down to just one, so I went with a few. Pictured above are The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell; The Wife, Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon; and Schroder by Amity Gage. My favorite book this year has been The City of Stairs by Robert Bennett Jackson, whose other books I need to track down immediately.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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.