JeanBookNerd Storytellers BOX

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L.M. Elliott

LOUISA JUNE AND THE NAZIS IN THE WAVES Nerd Blast

Sean Penn

BOB HONEY WHO JUST DO STUFF

Leigh Lewis

PIRATE QUEENS Nerd Blast

Tom Bilyeu

Impact Theory

Veronica Henry

THE QUARTER STORM Official Blog Tour

William L. Myers Jr.

A KILLER'S ALIBI

Stacy Hackney

THE SISTERS OF LUNA ISLAND Nerd Blast

E.E. KNight

NOVICE DRAGONEER

Robert McCaw

DEATH OF A MESSENGER

Gregg Olsen

SNOW CREEK Podcast

Josh Duhamel

THE BUDDY GAMES

N.E. Davenport

THE BLOOD TRIALS Nerd Blast

Evie Green

WE HEAR VOICES

Jennifer Marie Brissett

DESTROYER OF LIGHT Blog Tour

Barbara Dee

VIOLETS ARE BLUE Nerd Blast

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Janet Key Interview - Twelfth


Photo Content from Janet Key

When Janet Key was twelve, she sang and danced onstage in the background of musicals, stayed up too late reading Shakespeare, and had a closet full of themed, handsewn vests.

      
  

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
This is my first novel being published, but it’s not the first novel I wrote…in fact, it’s not even the second or the third! My road to publication took way longer than I imagined, but it has made me immensely grateful to have gotten this far and for the opportunity to share my book with future readers. As for the inspiration behind writing TWELFTH, the inspirational moment was deceptively simple: I was rereading a Shakespeare play and remembering what it was like to read it when I was younger – like discovering a language I didn’t know I already spoke, or unearthing a hidden treasure – and that led to the idea, Well, what if there really were clues to a hidden treasure in a Shakespeare’s play? Such a small, spur of the moment idea, and yet it somehow managed to prompt years’ worth of creative work.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
I’m lucky in that my high school and higher education included theatre and creative writing, so it’s not one thing per se but the whole path to following my passion!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’m writing this when the book hasn’t been published yet, but already there have been many rewarding moments. One that happened recently was a friend of mine in a totally different city preordered a copy of the book from his favorite local indie shop, and the bookseller mentioned that they had already read and enjoyed the book. The reality that someone I didn’t know was interested in my book, read it, and enjoyed it enough to mention it to someone who they didn’t know knew me feels like absolute magic. As a writer who has gone through quite a bit of failures and setbacks before publication, I don’t take having any readers for granted, much less readers who enjoy the book.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I was always deeply engaged with the arts – dance, theatre, and visual arts/crafts, plus a few regrettable attempts at learning to play a musical instrument – but writing was something I always did, from keeping a journal to writing little illustrated storybooks to feverishly scratching out plays when I couldn’t find parts I liked in the already written ones. I honestly don’t think I knew you could “be a writer” when I was a kid. The first person I knew personally who had published a book was the husband of one of my dad’s coworkers who drove a truck for a living. I guess I thought that’s what I thought you did: write books and drive trucks. It’s not a bad combo, when you think about it, but so far I’ve only done the book writing part.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
I think focusing on voice and style can be a mistake for young writers. Start with the craft of a good story – character, motivation, conflict, action, dialogue, scene and summary, all that good stuff – before trying to define something as malleable as voice or style. Start studying the writing you admire surgically, with a meticulous eye for how those writers phrase their work and reveal information. For a while, your voice will probably sound like an imitation of those writers, and that’s OK, it’s part of the process. The hope is that the unique combination of the writers who influence you starts to blend with the literal voices around you, the regional music of the people you know and shorthand language of your family and friends, to create something entirely, uniquely yours. I’d also say there’s a big difference between style and just being obscure. Sometimes young writers hear a piece of advice like “have your own style” or “use interesting language” and then will go out of their way to insert lengthy, impossible to understand descriptions that leave their readers baffled or snoring. Aim for clarity and authenticity; you’ll be surprised how often you end up discovering an interesting description just through the process of trying to be precise.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I wish I were a writer who only focused on one thing at a time, but my desk (and my brain) is always cluttered with many different pieces in process. I write pretty broadly in terms of form and genre, too, so sometimes books and stories and scripts for adults get their pages crossed with different kidlit projects. As for what I hope will be published next, I currently have a finished YA book about Las Vegas, the history of the atom bomb, and time travel that my agent and I will start sending out soon. I’m also revising a bio-script about Helen Gahagan Douglas, a historical figure who gets a brief mention in TWELFTH.

In your newest book; TWELFTH, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
TWELFTH starts at a theater camp in the Berkshires, where my main character Maren has been sent mostly against her will. She’s certain she’s not going to enjoy it, but soon gets pulled into a treasure hunt for a legendary diamond ring with clues buried in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She makes great friends along the way, but draws a little bit too much attention from other people looking for the ring – including, perhaps, the ghost of the camps namesake, Charlotte “Charlie” Goodman. At the same time, there’s the parallel storyline of Charlie growing up in the 40s and 50s LA, dealing with questions of gender identity, and trying to live her dream of being a film director at a time of great suspicion and suppression in Hollywood. As the book goes on, the reader learns more about Maren and Charlie and how their stories intersect, as well as, I hope, gets to spend time immersed in the theatre and classic cinema and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a play about love in all its disguises.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Like the play that helped shape it, there’s a lot about gender diversity in TWELFTH. I hope the book both offers representation to gender diverse youth and prompts conversations and greater understanding amongst kids who have no experience. I also hope there’s a greater interest in Shakespeare and history, particularly queer and feminist figures who might be overlooked in education and popular culture. But mostly I hope it’s a fun, engaging mystery that you have to stay up late to keep reading (and maybe makes you cry at the end…you don’t have to cry, but quite a few people have cried, so maybe keep some tissues nearby).

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Maren?
Maren is a little like I was at that age: though our specific circumstances were not at all similar, I, too, was dealing with some heavier stuff, and my answer to it was to go quiet, put my head down, and try to slip under the radar. While she has always made a lot of sense to me, my first readers couldn’t say the same, and a lot of their margin notes were questions about who she was and what her motivation was about. It was a good lesson in not assuming others have an immediate insight into your characters – or, for that matter, into yourself. Sometimes you have to risk being vulnerable in the page and in life.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing TWELFTH?
TWELFTH was written in many, many different places – New York, Idaho, Ohio, and, of course, western Massachusetts, to name a few – but the most memorable place was probably Hong Kong. My brother and sister-in-law moved there in early 2019 and very kindly invited me to live with them for several months, so naturally I hopped on the next plane. Near the end of my stay, when I was trying to put together a clean draft of the book before I returned to working in the states, I rented a desk at a coworking space. I remember at one point I looked up from my screen, and I was so deep in the process of trying to describe the Massachusetts summer that it honestly took me a minute to remember I was about 20 stories up in a city of skyscrapers, halfway across the world! But that just goes to show that fiction writers live in their stories as much as in the real world.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love to take Charlie, a character who is gender questioning and growing up in an earlier, very socially conservative time, on a tour of some of the more recent kidlit novels. I think Charlie would be tremendously touched by all the diverse faces and voices in books now, and incredibly inspired by how free and openly the younger generation can live. Remembering the sacrifices past generations made to get here is always a good reminder for me to stay grateful of how far we’ve come, but also to keep up the fight.

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve ever given someone?
I’m a big fan of thrifting at second-hand shops, and over the years I’ve definitely managed to find some treasures. Still, I know not everyone feels the same as I do about “pre-loved” items, so I try to only give thrifted objects as gifts to people I know extremely well, and even then, only as a “bonus” gift along with something else. This Christmas was memorable in that not one but two people appreciated the gifts I had thrifted for them more than the gifts I had bought! Lesson learned: everybody likes a little hidden treasure in their lives.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Learn a useless skill that challenges you in equal parts to giving you joy – and don’t do it just once, but frequently, as often as possible. I’ve honestly made a practice of learning for the sake of learning: from certifications in SCUBA diving to teaching yoga (including one in Aerial yoga!) to gelato school (and yes, there is such a thing). I think learning something new is a way to constantly surprising myself with things I thought I couldn’t, wouldn’t do. Case in point: I was never a sporty person growing up, I don’t love heights, and I can feel very self-conscious when trying something physically challenging…but string a silk hammock from the ceiling and suddenly I want to get upside down! I also think the societal mindset about education – that it’s something you do when you’re young, for the utilitarian purpose of finding your career, and then you’re done – is absurd. Plenty of people don’t know their passion or their path in life when they’re 18 or 22, and that’s OK. It’s never too late to try something new or follow your dreams – something my mother modeled for me when I was a kid and she went back to law school. Right now, I’m a late-in-life community college fashion major – not because I plan on being a designer, but because I love sewing and wanted to learn the proper techniques. So let learning become a constant, active part of your lifestyle, including learning something that’s “useless” but joyful.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
I’m lucky to have a lot of happy memories: my dad has always been deeply engaged in my life, so I have a lot of memories of playing games with him and my brother, pitching tents in the backyard and catching frogs at the pond. My mom was and is incredibly creative, so we were always sewing and crafting and baking something. And, of course, I spent a lot of my childhood on stage, in dance recitals and community theatre, telling a story and playing make-believe in front of an audience. I can’t pick just one – an embarrassment of riches!

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
I was born in Modesto, CA, and currently live in Houston, TX, but to be fair, my family left Modesto when I was two years old, so I can’t say I miss it.

TEN FAVORITE BOOKS READ THIS YEAR
In no particular order (or genre, target age reader, or release date), here are ten books I read and loved between 1/22 and 4/22:
  • Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
  • All the Girls I’ve Been Before by Tess Sharpe
  • The Mirrorwood by Deva Fagan
  • Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Deleted Scene from TWELFTH
The week before I sent the draft of TWELFTH to my agent, I was about 100 pages over what tends to be a good length for kidlit. I knew the book would benefit from being tightened up, and I suspected that the only way I was going to get down 100 full pages wasn’t just to make small cuts, but to cut a plot point – specifically one of the clues to the treasure – out entirely.

To briefly summarize for those who haven’t read the book: there are four main friends looking for the diamond – Maren, Theo, Graham, and Sal – and they’re following various quotes from Twelfth Night that lead them closer and closer to the ring. When Maren includes Sal in finding one of the clues without consulting the other two first, Graham clearly feels a little jealous, and so I structured the following clue hunt around just Maren and Graham. The clue itself would be hidden in a library book, in one of Charlie Goodman’s favorite books.

I cut this scene for a couple of reasons: the first was that, on a craft/practical level, it seemed a little messy to add another text to the treasure hunt. Since Twelfth Night was already being used, I wasn’t sure how a different story with different quotes would contribute, and knew it might just confuse. It also felt true that this clue didn’t quite justify itself in comparison with the others – the realization of what the clue meant seemed too fast for the characters, perhaps in a way that strained credibility.

And finally, I wasn’t sure about the “message” the a scene offered. Education isn’t something I think about when I’m writing for adults, but when I’m writing kidlit, I’m conscious about what kids might take away from the characters they love. In general socially, we’re now in a place that encourages kids to “own” their feelings and then “let them go,” and I think that’s great, but it’s not always clear what owning feelings means or how they let them go. I started to think the scene modeled an unhealthy response to feelings: Graham was giving two of his friends the silent treatment until Maren goes out of her way to make him feel better. That isn’t exactly a way of owning your feelings, or fair expectations to have on your friends to solve your emotions. Instead, the cut version had Graham take responsibility for his feelings in what I think is a healthier way: he took the space he needed for a while; he didn’t expect someone else to fix his feelings for him; and when he was ready, he came back to his friends with a new set of boundaries about how they were going to move forward. Honestly, that’s a more mature response than a lot of adults I know can manage when they feel something like jealousy or exclusion, myself included, and I was glad to get to model it in fiction.

CUT SCENE:
Former clue:
Here lies your way,
DUE
West


The camp’s library looked much like any school library, full of colorful tables and beanbag chairs, with one slight difference: most of the shelves were filled with the slim-spined volumes of plays, tucked together like the lines of a barcode, instead of fatter novels and biographies. At the door, Maren flipped on the light switch and the fluorescents flickered and buzzed to life. She looked around — where to start?

“Shouldn’t we go get the others?” Graham whispered as he followed a few feet behind.

“No time,” Maren said, moving through the stacks. She was about to explain that Mr. Cairn had heard Monty telling her about the book, but she knew the disagreement they’d have to have. “Just…if we don’t move fast, someone else might find it first.”

“Find what?”

“West!” Maren said, checking the letters on the shelves as she went: here was A-D, here was E-J. She pushed on further. “Nathaniel West!”

“Nathaniel West?” She could hear Graham hurrying after her. “Am I supposed to know who that is?”

“He was a writer who wrote about old timey Hollywood, apparently — here!” Maren pulled them down a few more, to the shelf marked T-Z.

“Old time Hollywood?” Graham followed. “You mean like when Charlotte Goodman was alive?”

“Exactly.” Maren dropped her to her knees to better read the W’s. Her fingers brushed past Wallace, Washburn, and Wasserstein. “And his book is right— here!”

She snatched up a thin volume and showed it to Graham. The cover read The Day of the Locust in large white font, while below it was a picture of an old film camera.

“That looks pretty old,” Graham said. “First edition, maybe.”

“Yeah,” Maren said, running her hand carefully along its front. “And Theo would drool over this camera.”

“So where do you think the clue is?” he asked.

But Maren had already started fanning through the pages. She expected at any second a piece of paper to drop out, an envelope with the gold trim, but she made it to the end and still hadn’t found it. She fanned through again, and then a third time. She felt under the book jacket and inside the library cardholder. Still nothing.

“This makes no sense,” she said, flipping through the pages harder now. “It’s supposed to be here!” She turned the book upside down and started shaking it.

“Stop!” Graham said again, and pulled the book out of her hands as if rescuing a kitten. “That’s old, you’ll break the binding.”

“What?” Maren asked indignantly. “Sal and I had to dig out a potato plant to get the last clue, it’s not crazy to think we might have to take apart a book to find this one.”

Graham glared at her. “You can put plants back in dirt,” He said. “But you can’t put a book back together after you rip it up, especially not a first edition.”

“Fine,” Maren said. “Do you have any other ideas?”

“Hold on a second.” Carefully, he began turning the book over in his hand, feeling the spine and jacket, flipping through the pages one at a time with agonizing slowness.

“I already did that,” Maren huffed, but Graham ignored her, just continued his careful crawl through the book, as if he were actually reading it. It felt like hours later when he finally got to the end and paused, his hand resting on the envelop for the check out card.

“The clue made a big deal about the word ‘due’ right? That’s what led you to the library, right?”

“Yeah, so?” Maren said.

“So, where’s the card to check the book out?” He showed her again the empty envelope.

“Well…” Maren started, but couldn’t think of anything to say.

Graham turned and started toward a back corner. “We should check the card catalogue.”

“Where?” Maren asked, but Graham was already far ahead and didn’t answer. Maren hurried to follow, feeling both impressed and annoyed. When she got to the end of the shelves, she saw Graham was at a high wooden cabinet with tons of little drawers. He pulled out the W’s as she walked up. One card was standing up higher than the others.

They exchanged a look.

“You don’t think someone else found it first, do you?” Maren whispered.

Graham didn’t answer, just drew out the card for the book. It was blank, and Maren felt a surge of disappointment.

“If Renee Wallace got here —” Maren started to say, but the words dried up in her throat as Graham flipped the card over.

Taped to the back, almost exactly liked up with the card itself, was a small ivory envelope with a gold lining.

Graham peeled it free, then held it out to Maren with trembling hands.

She shook her head, amazed, and smiled at him. “You open it,” Maren said, pushing it back towards him. “You found it.”

Graham smiled back. Then, without a word, set on the envelope with vicious fingernails. For someone who was so gentle with the old book, he attacked the envelope with vicious tears.

“Be careful!” Maren laughed. “You don’t want to rip up the clue!”

But Graham had finally freed the paper and shook it out. His eyes moved rapidly over the page a few times. Then he held it out for Maren to see…

END OF CUT SCENE


Better Nate Than Ever meets The Parker Inheritance in this heartwarming mystery about finding your people and accepting others as they are.

Twelve-year-old Maren is sure theater camp isn’t for her. Theater camp is for loud, confident, artsy people: people like her older sister, Hadley—the last person Maren wants to think about—and her cinema-obsessed, nonbinary bunkmate, Theo. But when a prank goes wrong, Maren gets drawn into the hunt for a diamond ring that, legend has it, is linked to the camp’s namesake, Charlotte “Charlie” Goodman, a promising director in Blacklist Era Hollywood.

When Maren connects the clues to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, she and her new friends are off searching through lighting booths, orchestra pits and costume storages, discovering the trail and dodging camp counselors. But they’re not the only ones searching for the ring, and with the growing threat of camp closing forever, they're almost out of time.

You can purchase Twelfth at the following Retailers:
        

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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Abbi Waxman Interview - Adult Assembly Required


Photo Credit: Leanna Creel

Abbi Waxman was born in England in 1970, the oldest child of two copywriters who never should have been together in the first place. Once her father ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back, her mother began a successful career writing crime fiction. Naturally lazy and disinclined to dress up, Abbi went into advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director at various advertising agencies in London and New York. Eventually she quit advertising, had three kids and started writing books, mostly in order to get a moment’s peace.

Abbi lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, three dogs, three cats, a gecko, a snake, five pigeons, four chickens, and two guinea pigs. Every one of these additions made sense at the time, it’s only in retrospect that it seems foolhardy.
        
  


Tell us about ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED!
Adult Assembly Required is a novel about a young woman attempting to start over and finding that wherever she goes, there she is, if you follow me. But it’s also about how friends can understand you better than family, and being brave, and pushing through.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Definitely hearing from readers. It’s easily the best part of the job.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
  • 1. It is set in the same world and real-life neighborhood as my previous four books.
  • 2. It features characters from my first and third books.
  • 3. I based the house on a real house I drive past frequently and always dream about.
  • 4. Pigeons play a relatively small role in the book, but I did quite a bit of research about them, and then randomly – as I was writing the book – ended up rescuing a pigeon and now have 6 of them. This was a complete coincidence.
  • 5. The book was written and rewritten during the pandemic, mostly on a chair in my garden.
  • 6. The animals in the book are based on some of mine. I have a really old gentlewoman pug named Daisy, a grey cat named Oliver and a scruffy dog like Herbert (he preferred I didn’t use his real name).
  • 7. The locations in the book are all based on real places, parks and sandwiches in Los Angeles.
  • 8. A character in this book was a main character in an earlier book, and I really enjoyed writing about her from someone else’s point of view. In general I like repeating characters because I get to know them a little better with each book.
  • 9. Having said that, Adult Assembly is the last of my Larchmont books, at least for now.
  • 10. This is nothing to do with the book, but did you know pigeons mate for life and share all their duties precisely 50/50? Well, it’s true.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
My mother is also a writer, and she told me to not care too much, not to throw anything away, and to dress warmly because you get cold when you’re sitting still for too long.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
Anything by P.G. Wodehouse or Agatha Christie.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a rewrite of my next book, as yet untitled. It’s a whole new set of characters, new location (still Los Angeles, but not Larchmont like the others).

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Very little. I’m hoping they’re just letting their brains idle along, while being amused and distracted.

What part of Laura did you enjoy writing the most?
The sporty parts, because I couldn’t be less sporty myself, and I enjoyed the vicarious exercise.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED?
Handing in the first round and having it essentially rejected. I did several huge rewrites, and it was all during the pandemic and a little stressful. I’m extremely pleased with it now, but my editor Kate Seaver deserves a lot of the credit.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Nina Hill would really, really like to meet Library Lion.

TEN WAYS YOU GET INSPIRED TO WRITE
  • 1. Waking up early.
  • 2. Eavesdropping on conversations between strangers.
  • 3. Reading non-fiction
  • 4. Talking to strangers, which I highly recommend.
  • 5. Listening to music.
  • 6. Napping.
  • 7. Driving around mindlessly.
  • 8. Being in Target.
  • 9. Daydreaming, which I also highly recommend.
  • 10. Desultory conversation with friends.
Where can readers find you?
Usually in the kitchen, with a snack in my hand and a faraway expression on my face. Or Instagram.


A young woman arrives in Los Angeles determined to start over, and discovers she doesn’t need to leave everything behind after all, from Abbi Waxman, USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

When Laura Costello moves to Los Angeles, trying to escape an overprotective family and the haunting memories of a terrible accident, she doesn’t expect to be homeless after a week. (She’s pretty sure she didn’t start that fire — right?) She also doesn't expect to find herself adopted by a rogue bookseller, installed in a lovely but completely illegal boardinghouse, or challenged to save a losing trivia team from ignominy…but that’s what happens. Add a regretful landlady, a gorgeous housemate and an ex-boyfriend determined to put himself back in the running and you’ll see why Laura isn’t really sure she’s cut out for this adulting thing. Luckily for her, her new friends Nina, Polly and Impossibly Handsome Bob aren't sure either, but maybe if they put their heads (and hearts) together they’ll be able to make it work for them.
You can purchase Adult Assembly Required at the following Retailers:
        

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Robin Farrar Maass Interview - The Walled Garden


Photo Content from Robin Farrar Maass

Robin Farrar Maass is a lifelong reader and writer who fell in love with England when she was twenty-two. She enjoys tending her messy wants-to-be-English garden, painting watercolors, and traveling. She lives in Redmond, Washington, with her husband and two highly opinionated Siamese cats. The Walled Garden is her first novel, and she’s already at work on her next novel set in England.

        
  

Greatest thing you learned in school.
It has to be learning to read in first grade—I’ve never forgotten the wonder of it!

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
More than anything else, I think reading influences my writing. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life—I actually got in trouble from my mother sometimes for reading “too much”! (What does that mean??) Even now, everything I read makes me want to tell better stories and try new things in my own work, so that my books might be able to nurture readers in the same way books have always nurtured me. I’ve always used books to help me live my life, to gain insight, find comfort, and explore other worlds.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think storytelling is just vital, to give hope in hard times like this pandemic we’re just coming out of, to help us make sense of our lives, to remind us who we are and who we want to be, and to give us alternate worlds and stories to live in.

Beyond your own work (of course) what is your all-time favorite book?
That’s such a hard question! I think it has to be Dorothy L. Sayers’ 1935 novel Gaudy Night. There are so many things I love about it. First, Sayers is a great writer. She was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford University in the 1920s, and she’s incredibly well-read in multiple languages in a way I dream of being. Second, the setting: Oxford in the 1930s. There’s ancient beauty there, but also a sense of unease. Europe is still haunted by the horrors of WWI, and of course, we can feel WWII lurking just around the corner. Third, embedded in the classic mystery format is a heartfelt, deeply considered questioning of exactly what is a woman’s place in the world, which remains, even after almost a hundred years, amazingly resonant. You can feel how high the stakes are for Sayers’s fictional alter ego, Harriet Vane, and thus, for Sayers herself. And fourth, Lord Peter Wimsey, surely the world’s most perfect man!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I started blogging twice a month on my website robinfmaass.com last fall, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been writing a lot of essays and guest posts like this for various book-related websites and enjoying that too—it’s a different kind of writing than novel writing.

I’m also about a quarter of the way into a new stand-alone novel about an American artist who’s been married to a Brit for ten years when she discovers that he’s been unfaithful. Seeking a fresh start, she moves out of London to a cottage in the countryside where she finds a cache of letters and diaries from a young woman who was evacuated there during WWII. This discovery launches her on a quest to find out who the people in the letters were. There’s a mystery about some paintings that were done during the war that have disappeared, and an abandoned summerhouse the artist claims as a studio, even as she wonders if she’ll ever be able to paint again. There’s also a bearded estate manager who keeps popping up when she least wants to see him—and she hates men with beards!

In your newest book, THE WALLED GARDEN, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
American grad student Lucy Silver arrives in England hoping to solve a longstanding literary mystery and finish her graduate studies in a blaze of academic glory. But as Lucy starts to piece together the correspondence between her late grandmother and Elizabeth Blackspear, the famous poet and garden writer who’s the subject of Lucy’s dissertation, she discovers puzzling coded references in the letters. And when an elderly English aristocrat with a secret connection to Elizabeth offers Lucy access to a neglected walled garden on his estate, the mystery deepens.

As spring turns to summer in Bolton Lacey, Lucy finds herself fighting the Blackspear Gardens’ director’s attempt to deny her access to vital documents in the archives . . . and trying not to fall in love with an attractive Scottish contractor. In the midst of this turmoil, she stumbles upon an illicit plot to turn the historic gardens into a theme park. As she races against time to save the gardens, Lucy’s search for the truth about Elizabeth’s life leads her to a French convent where she uncovers explosive evidence that will change her life and the lives of everyone around her, ultimately revealing a home—and an inheritance—more incredible than anything she could ever have imagined.

TEN FACTS ABOUT THE WALLED GARDEN 
  • 1. The characters of Lucy, Sir Edmund, and Sam first came to me in a dream more than 20 years ago. It’s so long ago that I don’t remember details, but I was intrigued so I started writing about these three characters, trying to discover who they were. Lucy and Sir Edmund came to me fairly quickly, but Sam was the most difficult—it took me multiple drafts to figure him out.
  • 2. Elizabeth Blackspear’s garden is based on a real English garden called Waterperry near Oxford. I would live there if I could—I’ve visited it twice and it’s just dreamy! I made some changes to suit the needs of my story, but most of it is just as it appears in the book: the entrance, the Virgin’s Walk, the River Walk, the café, the Garden Shop, and the way the house is situated in relationship to the garden. I made up the Grand Allée and the Grove of Saints, and then had fun situating Priory House, Sir Edmund’s estate, further along the River Walk.
  • 3. When my beloved writing coach suggested to me that Elizabeth Blackspear was a poet as well as a garden writer, I said to her, but that means I’ll have to write the poetry! Her response still makes me laugh every time I think about it. She said, you don’t have to write the poetry, you just have to write something that sounds like the poetry! Needless to say, all of Elizabeth’s “poetry” in the book was written by me.
  • 4. Using the Victorian Language of Flowers to develop the code in Elizabeth’s letters to Amanda Silver, Lucy’s grandmother, was one of the most fun parts of writing the book. There are so many great Victorian meanings for plants that I didn’t get a chance to use, like: Beauty is your only attraction (Japan rose), Affection beyond the grave (Green Locust), Alas! for my poor heart (Deep red carnation), I change but in death (Bay leaf), and Your charms are engraven on my heart (Spindle tree).
  • 5. I’ve been trying to grow a Maiden’s Blush rosebush in my own garden for the past four years, sadly, without great success. I’ve gotten a few flowers with that famous scent but it’s a bit sulky here—perhaps the conditions don’t suit it. I’m starting to think it needs English soil to really thrive!
  • 6. The Duke of Charlborough is based on a real duke whom my family and I overheard being interviewed by a local newspaper at the café in the garden of his famous country house.
  • 7. I had a ton of fun making up flower-themed dresses for the Flower Fête. I created a mood board of images and I’m still dreaming about the dress I would wear if I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.
  • 8. As I mentioned above, I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Oxford, and my original intent was to set the book there. But as I wrote, my fictional villages of Bolton Lacey and Bolton St. George began to take on lives of their own, and I ended up (regretfully) cutting most of the Oxford scenes. But I couldn’t cut the tea scene at the Old Parsonage!
  • 9. I especially enjoyed creating the meals in The Walled Garden because as a reader I love it when authors give you the details of what people eat. I love savoring food vicariously (no calories!) but I also think it’s really fun to recreate literary meals from your favorite books with friends. There’s something about food that takes you inside that literary world in a tangible way.
  • 10. Le Couvent de St Geneviève in Dijon (while completely fictional) was inspired by a B&B run by an elderly order of nuns where I stayed in the hills above Florence in 2007. My room was very spare and cell-like, but the villa was an absolutely gorgeous place with an enchanting garden and amazing sweeping views out over the Italian countryside.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
First of all, I would hope they’re just enjoying the story! Ultimately, what I’d really like people to come away with is a sense of hope—and a feeling that they’ve been able to escape to another world for a while, one they would like to come back to. Writing The Walled Garden sustained me through some hard times in my own life (even pre-pandemic) and I would be delighted to think that it could help readers persevere and not give up hope, even when times are hard.

What part of Lucy did you enjoy writing the most?
As a fairly reserved person myself, it was very liberating to have Lucy be able to just blurt things out—even at times when she probably shouldn’t!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Since she’s an orphan who was raised by her grandmother, I think Lucy would enjoy meeting Penelope Keeling from Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shellseekers. I think Lucy craves friendships with older women who can speak wisdom from their experiences into her life. Lucy and Penelope are both deeply intuitive women who are willing to act in unconventional ways. And since Penelope is a gardener like her grandmother, I think Lucy would feel right at home!

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
When I was 22, I got on an airplane for the first time in my life with a friend and went to London—and I never got over it! I’d grown up in a small town in Washington state reading Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart, and going to England was like coming home for me. I’d just read Gaudy Night in college and I fell especially hard for Oxford—it’s my spiritual home—and a city I’ve returned to many times.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I would say travel alone—especially in a foreign country. There’s something about having to navigate another place—by yourself, without anyone else to depend on—that teaches you a lot about how to be comfortable with yourself, and how to roll with the unexpected. I’ve traveled alone in England and Italy, and I think knowing you can do it gives you a sense of resilience that nothing else can give.

Best date you’ve ever had?
My first date with my high school sweetheart. We were both 17. We went to the state fair. Reader, I married him!

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Probably my arrival in Venice in 2001. I was joining a group of watercolor painters touring Italy and I was supposed to meet them at the airport, but my flight was hours late and they left without me. Though I had a voucher to get boat transportation into the city, I spoke no Italian and I couldn’t find anyone at the airport who knew anything about it. It was the pre-cellphone era, so the only thing I could think of to do was keep asking till someone finally contacted the hotel where I was staying, and they got someone to agree to let me get on a boat that would take me to the Rialto Bridge. Then I was supposed to wait there for someone from the hotel to come and meet me. I remember how shocked I was—I’d never been to a place where you couldn’t just get a cab from the airport to your hotel!

So I waited and waited and waited at the Rialto Bridge with a horrible headache and the sun beating down, till it finally dawned on me that no one was coming. By then, I had taught myself the Italian phrases for please and thank you, so I started walking. Whenever I saw a business with an American Express logo in the window, I went in, hoping they might speak English, and said per favore and pointed to the name of the hotel on my travel documents. And the lovely Italians would gesture and point and I would murmur grazie, grazie, and keep going. I have no idea how long it took or how many people I asked before I finally made it to my hotel. When I walked into the lobby, the guy behind the desk said joyfully, “Ah! The missing lady!” I was torn between thinking what a great title that would be for an Agatha Christie novel and wanting to strangle him!

Most frequent song played?
Lucy and Sam’s song is “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. “Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars . . .” Yes, please!

First heartbreak?
I think it would have to be the death of my beloved grandmother Helen when I was eleven. I gave Lucy’s relationship with her grandmother Amanda in the book some of the qualities I still miss in her. She loved flowers and was always beautifully dressed with a necklace and matching earrings. I think my obsession with flowered dresses comes from her—I never once saw her wearing pants.

Favorite things to do alone?
Snug into one of my favorite reading spots with a cup of tea, books, and a stack of the latest British home décor and garden magazines.

Where can readers find you?
At my website robinfmaass.com, and on Instagram and Twitter @robinfmaass.


American grad student Lucy Silver arrives in England hoping to solve a longstanding literary mystery, write her dissertation, and finish her graduate studies in a blaze of academic glory. But as Lucy starts to piece together the correspondence between her late grandmother and Elizabeth Blackspear, the famous poet and garden writer who’s the subject of Lucy’s dissertation, she discovers puzzling coded references in the letters—and when an elderly English aristocrat with a secret connection to Elizabeth offers Lucy access to a neglected walled garden on his estate, the mystery deepens.

As spring turns to summer in Bolton Lacey, Lucy finds herself fighting the Blackspear Gardens’ director’s attempt to deny her access to vital documents in the archives . . . and trying not to fall in love with an attractive Scottish contractor.

In the midst of this turmoil, she stumbles upon an illicit plot to turn the historic gardens into a theme park, and becomes determined to stop it. As she races against time to save the gardens, Lucy’s search for the truth about Elizabeth’s life leads her to a French convent where she uncovers explosive evidence that will change her life and the lives of everyone around her, ultimately revealing a home—and an inheritance—more incredible than anything she could ever have imagined.

You can purchase The Walled Garden at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ROBIN FARRAR MAASS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Walled Garden by Robin Farrar Maass.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Katie & Kevin Tsang Interview - Dragon City


Photo Content from Katie and Kevin Tsang

Katie and Kevin Tsang met in in 2008 while studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Since then they have lived on three different continents and travelled to over 40 countries together. As well as the DRAGON REALM series, they are the co-writers of the young fiction series SAM WU IS NOT AFRAID (Egmont) and Katie also writes YA as Katherine Webber.
  

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Katie: Stories connect people! They are a wonderful way to understand other experiences, but most of all they provide entertainment and an escape from reality.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Kevin: Hearing from our readers! We love when readers take the time to write us letters and tell us that the books are meaningful to them.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Katie: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer, it always was my dream job!
Kevin: I loved telling stories, but I didn’t realise that I could be a writer until I met Katie and saw how driven she was to pursue being an author. And then she took me along on the ride!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
We are currently working on the 5th book in the Dragon Realm series, as well as a new young fiction series called Space Blasters. Katie also writes YA novels so is working on edits for one of her YA novels.

In your newest book; DRAGON CITY, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
KT: Dragon City is set in an alternate future run by evil dragons, and our heroes have to survive and save the day!

What part of Billy did you enjoy writing the most?
KT: Billy is very loyal and cares a lot for his friends, we really enjoyed writing that, as well as his bond with his dragon Spark.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing DRAGON CITY?
KT: There is one scene in particular between Billy and Spark that we both found very emotional!

Last thing you made with your own hands?
Kevin: I love cooking, so I made homemade tortillas recently
Katie: I do lots of crafts with our young daughter, so the last thing I made was a painting with her.

What is your greatest adventure?
Having a family together and writing books together.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
Katie: A Wrinkle in Time, I loved that it was an epic adventure with family relationships at its heart
Kevin: Jurassic Park – I loved how exciting it was!

What were you doing at midnight last night?
Taking care of our 6 month old daughter!

TEN RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME
(we did some as a couple and some individually)
  • We met studying abroad in Hong Kong
  • We’ve travelled to over 40 countries together
  • Kevin loves to grill
  • Katie loves to eat cookies but is a terrible baker because she gets distracted
  • Kevin is afraid of sharks
  • Katie was born in San Diego, California
  • Kevin was born in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Kevin’s favorite sweet is salty licorice
  • Katie loves anything spicy
  • We had our wedding on a mountain in Palm Springs
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from DRAGON CITY
One of our favorite scenes is the opening scene in chapter 2…enjoy!

CHAPTER 2
DRAGON TEETH

Billy Chan was inside a dragon’s mouth.

It was hot, damp and it smelled terrible. And, of course, there was the ever-present danger that the dragon might decide to crush Billy between his jaws.

He peered out from behind the dragon’s sharp teeth. “Could you open up a little wider? There’s something stuck back here,” he called out.

The dragon, who had sleek black scales and flowing silver whiskers, as well as a surprising and impressively long silver beard, grumbled but unhinged his jaws a bit so Billy had more space to move around.

“Thank you!” Billy said, repositioning himself so he had better access to the dragon’s back molars. Because Billy Chan, twelve-year-old surfer from California, was currently spending his days cleaning dragon teeth.

“Ugh,” he muttered under his breath, as he picked out something with feathers from in-between the dragon’s back two teeth. “What is this?” Why couldn’t dragons have toothbrushes?


Book 3 of the Dragon Realm series.
Billy Chan and his friends have been transported 5,000 years into the future where the evil Dragon of Death has become ruler of Dragon City. Humans now live to serve the dragon population, and it’s no different for Billy, Charlotte, Dylan, and Ling-Fei. After losing contact with their own dragons, they’re determined to track them down in this new city, even if it means putting their own lives at risk. But one dragon has turned to the dark side and has no plans to return. With the help of a new clan of dragons, can the four friends undo the Dragon of Death’s villainous work—or will she triumph eternally?
You can purchase Dragon City at the following Retailers:
        

1 Winner will receive a Copy of all three books in the series.
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Catherine Drake Interview - The Treehouse on Dog River Road


Photo Content from Catherine Drake

Catherine Drake lives with her husband in Stowe, Vermont. The Treehouse on Dog River Road is her first novel.

Catherine fell in love with Vermont when she moved there shortly after her wedding and is still starry-eyed for the state, saying this about the people and culture: “People have a greater understanding that the land shapes us and that we must rely on it to survive. Farms, cows, being outdoors, and Maple Syrup are BIG.”

While she has lived up and down the east coast in rural, suburban, and urban areas and traveled extensively throughout the US, Catherine feels there is no equivalent to Vermont and has devoted The Treehouse on Dog River Road as a love letter to it.

Catherine was inspired to tackle the subject of work/life/love balance in today’s world after having witnessed scores of young women look for meaningful careers after college.

        
  

Greatest thing you learned in school. 
In my early years, I learned to identify power dynamics in female friendships and that was a great thing to understand at a young age.

What was your favorite book as a child? 
 The Giving Tree – it is mentioned in my novel. I’m a huge tree fan.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us? 
Passing wisdom, history and cautionary tales down through the ages keeps our culture, families and values alive.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
 My younger sister died right as I was finishing. I was shattered and it threw me off course for a year. I am heartbroken that she never got to read the entire book.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us? 
I am currently outlining the book that I have been longing to write. It is a contemporary story of a grandmother, mother and 16-year-old daughter, each experiencing transitions in their lives, who, due to unexpected circumstances, end up together on a road trip to a most unexpected place.

In your newest book, THE TREEHOUSE ON DOG RIVER ROAD, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
At 28, Hannah Spencer is disillusioned with her current life. After college she had followed her friends to Boston and ended up living a life that she never imagined for herself. She makes an abrupt decision to leave her well-paying job and take some time to reconsider what she wants to do and where she wants to live. This respite takes the form of a move to Vermont to take care of her niece and nephew for the summer. There, while building them a treehouse, she falls for Nathan who complicates her desire to embark on a new life out west. The book explores a young woman putting her life on hold to take stock and uncovers what is truly important to her in her quest to create her best life.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE TREEHOUSE ON DOG RIVER ROAD
  • The first line of the book “I’m against it, but I’m not above it.” This quote sums up Hannah’s dilemma of how she has spent the last few years of her life.
  • The first time Hannah takes the kids out for the day and realizes how hard her summer is going to be.
  • Hannah and Nathan’s first “date” on the backyard deck while the kids are asleep upstairs.
  • The wedding scene – a barn wedding on a beautiful day in Vermont. Lots of fun, lots of drama.
  • The storm. Based on true events that happened during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
I hope readers are carried away while reading but when they are finished, I hope that they are inspired to contemplate their own choices about where they live, who they bring into their lives and their careers. I hope readers notice all the things that make Hannah fall in love with Nathan and vice versa - things such as Nathan giving Hannah space to make her own decision and Hannah recognizing that Nathan is a great guy, not because he is a rich, famous, or handsome character trope, but because of the choices he makes, the things he does and the respect he shows her.

What part of Hannah did you enjoy writing the most? 
I loved writing Hannah’s progression of figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She’s literally all over the map with ideas, but she figures it out in the end. I also enjoyed writing her slow burn romance with Nathan.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
I would introduce Nora, the six-year-old girl, to Ramona Quinby. Together, they could rule the world.

TEN REASONS TO READ THE TREEHOUSE ON DOG RIVER ROAD
  • 1. It will make you silently smile, then chuckle, then laugh out loud and you need an upbeat book right now.
  • 2. Because you love a relatable, realistic love story.
  • 3. It has the BEST dog, Cooper, and you will meet, then love, then worry about what happens to him.
  • 4. You’ve always wondered what it’s like to have little kids around when you are kicking off a romance.
  • 5. It is set in the beautiful state of Vermont, and you will ask yourself, “Hey, why don’t I live in Vermont?” (Or at least visit)
  • 6. You appreciate the great outdoors.
  • 7. You like a romance book that involves not only the love interest but incorporates friendships and family relationships.
  • 8. You enjoy a story filled with people who are straight-forward with each other and don’t spend the entire book lying or deceiving each other.
  • 9. You love a book where you don’t really know how it will resolve.
  • 10. You’ve always wanted a treehouse.
At a movie theater which arm rest is yours? 
That’s not a thing for me, but I do like holding hands with my husband when I watch a movie.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager? 
The 70’s - so much was happening, and it was not encumbered by addiction to technology.

Best date you've ever had? 
Dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower for our anniversary. We sat next to a French couple celebrating their anniversary and spent the rest of the evening chatting and walking the streets of Paris with them.

What event in your life would make a good movie? 
I went to Burning Man with nine close women friends for a week in celebration of our 50th birthdays. I need to write a movie based on this event!

Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time? 
Learning to sing. I have a horrible voice.

First Heartbreak? 
When my dog got out and we never saw him again.

Favorite things to do alone? 
I love to listen to audiobooks while gardening.


Twenty-eight-year-old Hannah Spencer wants nothing more than to change everything about her life.

After ten years of living in cities, Nathan Wild has just moved back home to Vermont and doesn’t want to change anything about his.

Recently laid off from her depressing job in Boston and ready for a challenge, Hannah heads to Vermont for the summer to take care of her sister’s kids and do some serious soul searching. There, against the stunning landscape of the Green Mountains, she embarks on an ambitious project: building a treehouse for her niece and nephew. As she hammers away, she formulates a plan to jump-start her life with a new job out West. But will Nathan-next-door complicate her desire to change course? A witty, romantic, and inspiring story of a young woman taking control and making tough choices about love and work to build the life she wants, The Treehouse on Dog River Road will have you rooting for Hannah every step of the way.

You can purchase The Treehouse on Dog River Road at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CATHERINE DRAKE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Treehouse on Dog River Road by Catherine Drake.

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