Book Nerd Guest Post
Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and a National Book Award finalist whose books are published and translated worldwide. Her first novel was The Queen of Everything (Simon & Schuster, 2002),of which a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly proclaimed: “This marks Caletti as a writer to watch.” Although written for adults, its coming-of-age themes gained it acclaim as a Y/A book. It made the cover of the esteemed review journal The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books (the first trade book to do so in the journal’s history), and then was chosen for PSLA’s Top Forty of 2003 and the International Reading Association’s Young Adult Choices for 2004. It is currently in its thirteenth printing.
Deb’s second book, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Kirkus called it, “tender and poetic,” and the book earned other distinguished recognition, including the PNBA Best Book Award, the Washington State Book Award, and School Library Journal’s Best Book award. It was a finalist for the California Young Reader Medal and the PEN USA Literary Award, and was also a 2005 IRA Notable Book, an SSLI Book Awards Honor Book, and made the New York Public Library’s Best Books for the Teen Age, Chicago Library’s Best Books of 2004, and the Texas TAYSHA’s list. Her third book, Wild Roses, won acclaim with starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, which deemed it, “rich,” and School Library Journal, which said the book was “multifaceted and emotionally devastating,” with “profound observations and vivid language.” It was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and was chosen as a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age and a RT Book Club Magazine’s finalist for Best Y/A Book of 2005. The Nature of Jade was a summer 2007 Booksense pick, a Books A Million Book Club selection, and was a finalist for RT Magazine’s Best Y/A Book of the Year.
Her fifth book, The Fortunes of Indigo Skye, was released April 2008, followed by The Secret Life of Prince Charming in 2009, The Six Rules of Maybe in 2010, Stay in 2011, and The Story of Us in 2012. In addition, several anthologies include work by Deb, including “First Kiss, Then Tell,” a Bloomsbury anthology benefiting NPR Youth Radio, and two collections of non-fiction critical essays developed by Borders Books: “The World of the Golden Compass” and “Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.” In 2013, Deb’s first book for adults, He’s Gone, will be released from Random House.
Deb grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and earned her journalism degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. When Deb is not writing books or reading them, she is a painter and a lyricist, and speaks widely to audiences on writing and life as an author. Deb lives with her family in Seattle.
Dear Nerds – thanks for sharing in a really big time for me, the publication of my tenth book, and my first novel for adults, He’s Gone. I couldn’t celebrate this release with a nicer group of people! Yay, Nerds!
Born This Way
I was likely born this way, as most of us probably are. “Us” - writers, the people who need to see and understand the world through the written word. I can remember very early on taking long car rides with my parents, sitting in the backseat, looking at the dry, yellow hills of California and having some vague longing to understand and describe how they made me feel.
Books only intensified this desire. From Ramona the Pest on, books were companions and most understanding ones at that. How did Beverly Cleary know exactly how I felt in Kindergarten? What magic did E.B. White possess to make me cry like that over a dead spider in Charlotte’s Web? What had allowed Roald Dahl to make me downright giddy with vicarious glee when those nasty kids got what was coming to them in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? (My God, all these years later, I still am sort of hoping to see the glittery corner of a golden ticket whenever I open a chocolate bar.)
I was encouraged in my early efforts at writing. My elementary school used to have writing contests that the entire student body was required to participate in. The winners had to read their stories in front of a school assembly. I won several times, and got a dose of the competitive thrill of success, coupled with the terror that came with it. My sister would tell me that she almost threw up with fear watching me head up that aisle to accept my blue ribbon and read my story, and I know that I, too, was shaking in my little shiny shoes. I was maybe six or seven. The thrill, the terror, it was pretty much what publishing would be like.
But I remember the day when I really knew I wanted to be a writer. I was maybe ten. I was in our living room, sitting in an avocado-colored green plaid rocker (my mother would tell you that avocado was THE color then), and I was thinking. And thinking. And a story began to form, and I don’t even remember what it was about entirely. Something along the lines of peace and brotherhood, two boys of different races who become friends, tra la la. (Okay, I hadn’t yet heard “Write what you know.”) What it was about - that part doesn’t even matter. What matters was the urgency. The need. This was beyond the hazy heart-pull in the back of the car looking at the yellow hills, and beyond the need to win a contest – this was NEED. I recall actually running to my room, the words tippling over in my head. I had to get them down on paper. I wrote in an all-at-once rush. It wasn’t about the fleeting fame of elementary school blue ribbons or even about Beverly Cleary or Roald Dahl. This was not about outcome. This was a soul-deep desire to express and convey and understand through words. And it has never left me.
From that point forward, I was always a writer. Years later, I had to get serious with myself about committing to the huge goal of publication. But that’s a separate story. More importantly, from then on, writing was not something I did or do. It was and is - and likely always will be - who I am.
The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.
As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.
Instead of getting answers on this dark trip that Dani has embarked on, it actually raised more questions. With her husband’s mysterious disappearance prolonging, Dani has all the time in the world to analyze her own life. All the possible reasons cross her mind as to why her husband is gone. When police fail to locate her husband, she’s suddenly under their scope as a possible suspect for his disappearance.
Deb’s writing is able to transport Dani’s dark downward spiral. It explores the intricacies of her mind and her marriage to her husband. The first person delivery gives readers a realistic view and in-depth details to her painful journey. There were so many questions as to why her husband went missing. Was there another woman involved? Was he killed? Did Dani kill him? Dani considered all of these questions as she desperately tries to piece things together.
The plot line is weaved intricately as we are given pieces about Dani and Ian’s past. Readers spend a lot of time in Dani’s head which made it a very interesting psychological thriller/mystery. An unexpected backstory is built with well-written flashbacks that seamlessly intertwine with the present. He’s Gone provides a real vision into the complexities of marriage and divorce and will have you second guessing the fallout.
You can purchase He's Gone at the following Retailers: