JeanBookNerd Storytellers BOX

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Axie Oh

XOXO Official Blog Tour

Sean Penn

BOB HONEY WHO JUST DO STUFF

Robert V.S. Redick

SIDEWINDERS Blog Tour

Tom Bilyeu

Impact Theory

Bethany C. Morrow

A CHORUS RISES Blog Tour

William L. Myers Jr.

A KILLER'S ALIBI

BonHyung Jeong

KYLE'S LITTLE SISTER Nerd Blast

E.E. KNight

NOVICE DRAGONEER

Robert McCaw

DEATH OF A MESSENGER

Gregg Olsen

SNOW CREEK Podcast

Josh Duhamel

THE BUDDY GAMES

Lucinda Roy

THE FREEDOM RACE Blog Tour

Evie Green

WE HEAR VOICES

E.J. Mellow

SONG OF FOREVER RAINS Blog Tour

Sara Fujimura

FAKING REALITY Blog Tour

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Liza Nash Taylor Interview - In All Good Faith


Photo Credit: Brett Walsh Photography, Paris

Liza Nash Taylor, the author of Etiquette for Runaways, was a 2018 Hawthornden International Fellow and received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. The 2016 winner of the San Miguel Writers Conference Fiction Prize, her work has appeared in Microchondria II, Gargoyle Magazine, and Deep South, amongst others. A native Virginian, she lives in Keswick with her husband and dogs.

      
  


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think the human imagination is wired to seek escape, especially these days! With devices in our pockets or at our bedsides, reality is always a tap away. Stories take us out of that, and open our minds to dreams.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Well, of course there’s a feeling of validation in seeing your work in print. That feels amazing. What’s been life changing for me has been overcoming lifelong stage fright, through doing so many events on Zoom and social media live. I used to absolutely hate to be the center of attention in any situation, now, if people want to ask me about my work, I feel honored to have their attention.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a third manuscript, also historical fiction. It’s set in 1953 in Paris and has to do with the fashion industry there, and the designer Jacques Fath, who died tragically at the age of 47 from leukemia while at the top of his game. I’m also working on a children’s book using knitted animal figures and miniature settings I created during the winter of Covid.

Can you tell us when you started IN ALL GOOD FAITH, how that came about?
IN ALL GOOD FAITH is a standalone sequel to my first historical novel ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS, which came out in 2020 from Blackstone Publishing. I started the novel as part of my MFA coursework at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where it became my Master’s thesis in 2018. I knew I wanted to continue May Marshall’s story.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Good question! I hope they can lose themselves and be transported to 1932.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
The turmoil! For some reason I find it immensely satisfying to wrestle with ways to express emotional upheaval and to attempt to make characters’ emotions relatable to readers. I love it when a character makes a bad decision.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love for my sixteen-year-old character Dorrit to meet the character who inspired her personality, and that is Mattie Ross from Charles Portis’s novel, True Grit. One of my MFA advisors, Jacqueline Mitchard, made all of her advisees read it. I think it’s a pretty perfect novel and Mattie has an amazing voice. And speaking of voices, Donna Tartt narrates the audiobook of True Grit and it is absolutely one of my top three listens of all time.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
I grew up in a beach resort town. Once each summer, my parents would take the three kids to the local honky-tonk beachside amusement park. We’d make an ugly spatter painting, and play skee-ball and ride the bumper cars. There was an absolutely terrifying mechanized life-sized figure of a laughing woman sitting on a stool outside the house of terrors. We kids looked forward to that night all summer long.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Skinny dip.

Best date you've ever had?
Not technically a date, but when I started seeing my husband I owned and ran a shop on Nantucket Island. It was open from 9 am-10pm, seven days a week in the high summer season. I wasn’t often free for dinner dates, but one night he surprised me with a paper-bag dinner of sandwich and chips while I worked. He also brought the same for the woman who was working for me in the shop. His kindness in that single act made me realize I was in love with him.

What was the first job you had?
Besides babysitting? I got my first paid job at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand when I was sixteen. I could ride my bike there from home. It was hot and dusty and I got paid minimum wage to sort rotten potatoes. But that wasn’t the worst part—that was having to calculate price-per-pound in my head without an electronic scale.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
Going to college.

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Just last night I was discussing with my sister-in-law things that might inspire us to unfriend people on social media, such as too many pics of your unremarkable takeout dinners, or any pictures of your surgical scar/x-rays/stitches/wounds, or photos of you in a hospital bed before a routine procedure. We’re very indulgent regarding photos of cute dogs, tho.

First Heartbreak?
From about the second to sixth grades, I had a crush on a boy in my class. He had a crewcut and black-rimmed glasses and his ears stood out. We were always friends, but when we got old enough to “like” members of the opposite sex, he paired off with the girl in the class with the biggest bosoms.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Being the old, tough, jaded broad that I am now, I’d probably choose to skip love and live alone with my three dogs for companionship.

TEN FACTS ABOUT IN ALL GOOD FAITH
  • 1. The story is set in 1932, around the events of that summer at the Veteran’s Bonus March. It’s a part of American history I knew nothing about.
  • 2. The Bonus March ended after Herbert Hoover declined to meet with the 20,000 assembled veterans in Washington D.C. The term “Hooverville” was coined that summer, to identify the shantytowns that were erected all around the Capitol.
  • 3. The rural Virginia setting, Keswick Farm, is actually the house where I’ve lived for twenty years. It was built about 1825.
  • 4. Keswick Farm is a half a mile away from railroad tracks, and coal and passenger trains pass through all the time. After living where I do for a few months, I sort of stopped noticing the noise. The old Keswick depot building is across the road, and now it is part of a residential school.
  • 5. Dorrit Sykes’s name comes from two Charles Dickens characters, Amy Dorrit from Little Dorrit and Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist.
  • 6. My character Elsie also appears in Etiquette for Runaways. She’s based on my flapper grandmother, also called Elsie, who christened a ship in 1920 and played ragtime piano.
  • 7. I did a lot of fun research on candy, starting with making my grandmother’s recipe for pull taffy, which is a hot sugar caramel. It’s poured out bubbling from the pan, then scraped up and stretched repeatedly until it lightens in color. It’s flavored with molasses and vanilla and is still one of my favorites, though I always manage to blister my palms while pulling it.
  • 8. During the Great Depression, candy sales were booming, and there were candy bars introduced called “Chicken Dinner,” and “Goo-Goo Cluster,” and “Pearson’s Nut Roll”. Many of these were touted as having the same nutritional value, calorically, as a meal. These were marketed to target folks who rode the rails or were unemployed wayfarers with no cooking resources.
  • 9. I discovered my Boston settings in this novel during a three-day research trip in 2018. I had no itinerary, and roamed the city, discovering the amazing Boston Public Library where I took their fabulous docent-led Art and Architecture tour. Another Boston setting was the Gibson House Museum, which is a mid-19th-century period house museum. It was also a setting in the most recent movie version of Little Women.
  • 10. In my research I learned about what were called “hobo signs” which were a set of graphic markings used by Depression-era foot travelers to indicate a house or business that might offer food or turn folks away, or offer food after listening to preaching, or indicate if a water source was clean. These were a sort of shorthand that could be understood by illiterate or non-English speaking folks.
Your journey to publication
I took up writing in my early fifties, when my daughter went to high school. I started by taking literature classes at my local community college. That turned into the pursuit of an English degree, then that morphed into taking a few great courses in writing, and those led me to apply to a low-residency MFA program in creative writing, which I began at age 56. When I began my MFA I was working with a literary agent in a “revise and resubmit” status, meaning that I wasn’t originally offered a contract for representation, but worked with the agent on revisions of my first manuscript. After almost a year, I was offered a contract. More revisions followed and as I pursued my MFA, the agent and I parted ways and I had to start over querying. Once I landed another agent the manuscript went out on submission. Through all of this, I finished my second novel, and my agent negotiated a two-book deal with Blackstone. There have been some high highs and some low lows. Certainly I never anticipated that both of my books would launch during a pandemic. Even though that’s been tough, I’ve been buoyed by the support of my family, readers, and especially my fellow writers.

In the summer of 1932, Americans are coming to realize that the financial crash of 1929 was only the beginning of hard times. May Marshall has returned from Paris to settle at her family home in rural Keswick, Virginia. She struggles to keep her family farm and market afloat through the economic downturn. May finds herself juggling her marriage with a tempting opportunity to revamp the family business to adapt to changing times.

In a cold-water West End Boston tenement the fractured Sykes family scrapes by on an itinerant mechanic's wages and home sewing. Having recently lost her mother, sixteen-year-old Dorrit Sykes questions the religious doctrine she was raised in. Dorrit is reclusive, held back by the anxiety attacks that have plagued her since childhood. Attempting to understand what limits her, she seeks inspiration in Nancy Drew mysteries and finds solace at the Boston Public Library, writing fairy stories for children. The library holds answers to both Dorrit’s exploration of faith and her quest to understand and manage her anxiety.

When Dorrit accompanies her father to Washington, DC, in the summer of 1932 to camp out and march with twenty thousand veterans intending to petition President Hoover for early payment of war bonuses, she begins an odyssey that will both traumatize and strengthen her. Along the way she redefines her faith, learning both self-sufficiency and how to accept help.

Dorrit and May's lives intersect, and their fates will intertwine in ways that neither could have imagined or expected. Set against a backdrop of true historical events, In All Good Faith tells a story of two women’s unlikely success during the Great Depression.
You can purchase In All Good Faith at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LIZA NASH TAYLOR for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of In All Good Faith by Liza Nash Taylor.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Lexie Elliott Interview - How to Kill Your Best Friend


Photo Credit: Nick James Photography

Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. She graduated from Oxford University, where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. A keen sportswoman, she works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. The rest of her time is spent writing, or thinking about writing, and juggling family life and sport.
        
  


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
As soon as I was old enough to understand that books were written by authors, and that writing could actually be your profession, that was what I wanted to do. Even at the age of seven or so, I would take the stories I had written into school to show my teacher; I’m sure they were incredibly awful, but she was wonderfully encouraging. We’re still in touch, so she knows that I’ve achieved my dream of being a published author.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I have the same answer to both questions: Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass (which falls into the science fiction genre). I return to it every few years. The world-building is spectacular, but it’s the characterisation that draws me back. Good sci-fi only becomes great if the characters are strong enough to take you along for the ride.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Before being publishing, I had thought that the most rewarding experience would have been walking into a bookshop and seeing my book on sale for the first time, but no. Don’t get me wrong, the bookshop thing was cool—very cool, actually!—but in truth the most rewarding thing is receiving emails from readers. It’s always an honor and a privilege that any reader would choose to spend their time on my books, but the emails I’ve received during the pandemic have been particularly poignant: a wonderful point of connection in these difficult times, and a reminder of the power and reach of the written word.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
From an economic standpoint, the answer probably ought to be the first Harry Potter or the first Game of Thrones! But somehow I can’t quite imagine myself having written either—I suppose because they don’t fit with my writing style— and so I have to answer from the heart and choose the beautiful, lyrical masterpiece that is Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. I adore that novel, and I can absolutely imagine it coming from me, which might surprise many readers given that it’s a book that falls into the category of fantasy rather than psychological thriller!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing your latest book?
My children—no question! I love them dearly, but my goodness, they’re alarmingly effective at derailing productivity… As with many families across the world, they’ve been home rather more in the last year or so due to covid lockdowns and home schooling and so on, which has been absolutely lovely and absolutely impossible in roughly equal measures. I am looking forward to the time when I can once again escape the house and become an anonymous soul tapping away in a café, without anybody interrupting to ask me to sort out the printer, find their headphones or conjugate a French verb.

Tell us about HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND, and why you wrote it!
HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND is a psychological thriller, told through the eyes of Georgie and Bronwyn, who, together with Lissa, have been inseparable since dominating their college swim team. But Lissa, the strongest swimmer they know, has somehow drowned off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband. Gathering together with Lissa’s closest friends on the island for her funeral, the two women find more questions than answers, and as the weather turns ominous, trapping them on the island, nobody knows who they can trust…

The idea came to me whilst on holiday; we were fortunate enough to be staying in a beautiful eco-resort, which was just heavenly, but it occurred to me that, despite the sunshine and the luxury, it could actually be quite terrifying if you were somehow stuck there, with the staff gradually melting away… I also really liked the juxtaposition of the beautiful, sun-drenched setting with the inner darkness within the friendship group.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND
One of my favorite scenes occurs very early in the book. The gang of friends go for a night swim in memory of Lissa, who recently drowned. I’m really happy with it as it was an important scene to get right; it needed to bring the reader on board with what swimming signifies to this circle of friends and to Georgie (who is narrating in this chapter) in particular, and to show the impact Lissa’s absence is having on this activity that glues them all together:
My eyes are adjusting to the dim light: I watch the trail of silvery bubbles from Duncan’s feet; I watch my arms cut rhythmically through the darkness beneath me. I feel the cool water slipping past my limbs, the swell of it beneath me when a bigger set rolls in. Three strokes and look for Bron. Three more strokes, don’t look for Lissa. Bron, no Lissa. Bron, no Lissa. Slowly I am being cracked open. You can’t hide from yourself in the water; it doesn’t allow it. It seeps into even the finest of hairline fissures and soaks off the shell.
Another favorite is literally the first page of the book—these “Method” sections were so much fun to write!
How to kill your best friend

Method 1: Accident

Yes, but what kind of accident? It’s so easy in the movies: a pleasant walk along a cliff top, then—bam!—a sudden shove . . . In real life, there’s no handily accessible cliff, and if there was, nobody in their right mind would walk so close to the edge of it. And supposing, just supposing, those two obstacles were somehow resolved, there’s always the chance that somebody would see you. A dog walker, probably. There’s always a bloody dog walker around.
It’s just like they say: it’s not the murder that’s the problem; it’s getting away with it.
No, wait. The murder is a problem too.
TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT HOW TO KILL YOUR BEST FRIEND
  • 1. I had the title in mind before I knew what the story was. It was such an intriguing thread to pull on: why on earth would anyone want to kill their best friend? What can have happened to cause such a drastic reaction? And if you did want to do that, how would you go about it? I’m actually rather worried that I may never come up with a title as good as this one again.
  • 2. The main characters all like to go on swimming holidays together. This is a real thing; check out www.swimtrek.co.uk if it appeals to you.
  • 3. The resort in the book is (loosely) based on a real resort. I’m not telling which one or even roughly where it’s located, but nobody died when I was there. At least, not that I’m aware of…
  • 4. How To Kill Your Best Friend is my third novel, and probably the one I’ve most enjoyed writing. I think I had a bit more confidence in myself than with the previous two books, and I’d also put myself in a better position by creating a really detailed outline before I got stuck in.
  • 5. It’s not a covid-19 novel—most of it was written before the pandemic struck—but the majority of the editing and the publishing work took place under the cloud of the pandemic. I’ve been so impressed by how the Berkley and Penguin Random House team, in the face of a seemingly endless stream of obstacles, continued to work tirelessly with the same commitment, dedication and professionalism as ever, and (even more impressively) with no loss of enthusiasm.
  • 6. Look out for the “method” sections: my children had a whale of a time dreaming up creative murder methods for those, one or two of which made it into the book. Not your average after-school conversation topic, but so far they don’t seem in need of therapy!
  • 7. In case you’re wondering how I did my research on the swimming aspects, I was a competitive swimmer from the age of ten until my mid-twenties, and in 2007 I swam solo across the English Channel. It’s a topic I feel pretty qualified to write on!
  • 8. I really regret not filming my best friend’s reaction when I answered her question as to the title of the new novel I was working on. It was utterly priceless.
  • 9. I struggled initially with how to structure the novel: how to incorporate information from the past, and which character was the most natural narrator, amongst other issues. When I figured out that the story needed a dual narrative, everything else seemed to fall into place. And then I found that I really enjoyed switching narratives; it made it a more stimulating writing experience for me.
  • 10. My swimming friends will all assume I’ve based certain characters on real people from our little swimming gang. That’s wrong—my characters are always truly fictional—but it’s going to be fun seeing to whom they allocate each character!
Meet the Characters
Georgie and Bronwyn share the narration. Together with Lissa, they were the heart of their swim team at a UK university but their paths have since scattered. Now Georgie lives in New York; Bronwyn imagines her donning designer clothes for work, drinking cocktails in Manhattan bars and going home with whoever she feels like, but perhaps the truth doesn’t quite match Bronwyn’s assumptions… Bronwyn lives in the suburbs of London and is married with two children; she has recently given up her high profile career and is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t regret it. And Lissa? Well, before she drowned she was running a high-end eco resort on a secluded paradise island with her second husband, but you’ll have to read the book to find out more about Lissa!

Writing Behind the Scenes
I tend to research as I write – if I find something I need to know more about, then I look it up right there and then. The internet is such an amazing resource for a writer; I can’t imagine how anyone wrote anything at all before it was invented.

I listen to movie soundtracks as I write – though I shy away from those with words. My favorites are the soundtracks for The Last of the Mohicans and The Piano. I think movie soundtracks work so well because they’re designed to allow you to experience another medium at the same time; they give you space to work in.

Inspiration is not a problem for me. I have dozens and dozens of book ideas rattling around in my brain. The trick is to pick the one that truly has enough legs to carry a 300-page book, and that also excites the publishing team; it can take time to hone in on the right concept.

I pore over the entry lists for my sons’ sporting events. Each one is a treasure trove of potential character names, just waiting to be stolen. I would never take a full name, but I’m very happy to pilfer a first name or a surname. There’s a feeling you get when you finally land on the right name for a character; it feels like the tumbler in a lock clicking into place.

At around the 20,000 word point, I become incredibly neurotic about each manuscript and suffer a huge crisis of confidence. It’s happened with every single book so I can only assume that, unfortunately, it’s always going to be part of my process. My wonderful agent Marcy drags me out of it and keeps me going.


If you suspected your best friend, the person you were closest to in the whole world, was a murderer, what would you do? Would you confront her? Would you help keep her secret? Or would you begin to feel afraid? Most importantly, why don't you feel safe now that she's dead? From the author of The French Girl comes a novel full of secrets, suspense, and deadly twists.

Georgie, Lissa, and Bronwyn have been inseparable since dominating their college swim team; swimming has always been an escape from their own problems, but now their shared passion has turned deadly. How can it be true that Lissa, the strongest swimmer they know, drowned? Granted, there is something strange about Kanu Cove, where Lissa was last seen, swimming off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband.

Lissa's closest friends gather at the resort to honor her life, but Georgie and Bron can't seem to stop looking over their shoulders. Danger lurks beneath the surface of the crystal-clear water, and even their luxurious private villas can't help them feel safe. As the weather turns ominous, trapping the funeral guests together on the island, nobody knows who they can trust. Lissa's death was only the beginning....

You can purchase How to Kill Your Best Friend at the following Retailers:
        

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Anisha Bhatia Interview - The Rules of Arrangement


Photo Content from Anisha Bhatia

Born and brought up in Mumbai, India, Anisha Bhatia lives in San Diego, California with her husband and their two children. She loves tea, biryani, books and beaches, not necessarily in that order. The Rules of Arrangement is her first book.​
      
  


Greatest thing you learned in school
To advocate for myself, and that no one else was going to do it for me. It took a while for that to sink in though!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The support of fellow authors has been amazing! Especially the new authors who’ve debuted before me. They’ve been wonderful.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I started writing on and off because I didn’t want to forget my grandparents. I grew up listening to stories about their lives in Sindh and the home they left behind when India and Pakistan were partitioned. When I moved to America, I wrote simply to not forget. That was the beginning.

I remember reading a hilarious book by Sophie Kinsella which single-handedly pulled me out of a postpartum funk, and I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if I could do for someone what this book had done for me. That was how the germ of an idea started.

Tell us your latest news.
I recently did an interview with a fellow author for Women’s Fiction Day which was fun. It’s also really lovely seeing the support for THE RULES OF ARANAGEMENT from friends, family and fellow writers. I am awaiting publication day and working on a new novel. Hopefully the first draft will reveal some of its secrets to me.

Can you tell us when you started THE RULES OF ARRANGEMENT, how that came about?
After my second child, I took up an evening class at UCSD simply to get out of the house! The class was called Creating Unforgettable Characters, and Sheila Bua was the result of the final assignment.

While working on the initial drafts. I realized that the underlying thing I wanted to say with this book is for women, for girls from traditional societies, who wonder if there are choices besides what they’ve been told. This is to tell them that there are options out there and its ok to choose them and they can do that without breaking away from family.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d like to tell them that fighting your mind, your conditioning, is one of the hardest things a person can do. And that the people around them, their elders, the aunties and uncles, all of them have a story, all of them had dreams just like you do. They are who they’ve become because of that story.

And foremost, I wrote this story for girls, for women, especially South Asian, who’ve been made to feel “less” than because of their appearance or weight or skin. I want to tell them that you are enough, you deserve all the good things, all the chances you get - take those chances, don’t hold yourself back, and watch yourself soar!

What part of Zoya did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing the irreverent thoughts inside Zoya’s head. Growing up in India, you weren’t allowed to be too opinionated. It could mark you as a firebrand (read: not good daughter-in-law material), but I think a lot of girls have thoughts like these running through their heads, and I wanted to capture that. So, Zoya’s funny irreverent voice and Sheila Bua came together in a story.

And Sheila Bua, of course! I LOVED writing the funny things she says!

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
Chapter eight was enjoyable. It has Zoya and her boss Arnav meeting on a more personal level which was fun to write; the pacing is fast, and it is filled with humor and tender moments.

Chapter eighteen was something I really cherished where the reader learns how Zoya and Sheila Bua’s lives are connected.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Ha! It’s not a book character, but I would love to introduce Sheila Bua to Captain Marvel from the Marvel Universe. (I’m a huge Marvel fan!) It would be SO fun to see Sheila Bua try and matchmake her with one of the superheroes. I think she’d totally match her with Captain America, simply because they both have “Captain” in their names, so according to her bizarre logic they’d get along! She’d also tell Thor to shave more often!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
To take all critiques with a pinch of salt, unless they’re all saying the same thing. Then you need to really pay attention.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Believe in yourself, even when the thing you’re aiming for looks completely unreachable. Just once. Say ‘keep the faith’ and move one step forward, then another step. It will lead you to a place you had never imagined you’d get!

Best date you've ever had?
Oh gosh. None. I’ve led such a boring life – ha! (I really should’ve made something up J)

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
As strange as it sounds, I wouldn’t go back. The time now is where I am and where I’d like to be. All of our experiences, our emotions, the people around us, all the good and all the bad, everything is a part of a tapestry to get us to where we are right now, in this space and time. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I can’t say it was a particular incident but writing this book has made me more empathetic towards older Indian aunties. That they could have a life of their own, a story of their own, and that they are real people instead of just figureheads. That every person on this planet has a story, and a valid one. I wish I had realized that when I was younger.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
To a little cottage in a town in Cotswold, England. I would love to live there six months of the year, get involved in the town and community, drink lots of tea, and write books.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
All the things that need to be done the next day. And that is usually the time I get the best ideas for the story and characters. So, I hurriedly write them on my phone, after which I am wide awake!

First Heartbreak?
8th grade, I think. All one-sided!

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love for sure. Love and heartbreak give you perspective and make you more compassionate. And you can always change names and put them in a book!

TEN REASONS TO READ THE RULES OF ARRANGEMENT
  • 1. The story is about body image and how our societies condition us to not accept who we are.
  • 2. It tackles impossible beauty standards and the struggle to retain your identity.
  • 3. It is a satirical take on the South Asian culture of arranged marriage and expectations
  • 4. The main character irreverent narrative takes on a deeply traditional society to make it funny and relatable yet thoughtful.
  • 5. The story comes with a quirky cast of friends, aunties, relatives, bosses, the whole motley crew.
  • 6. It’s an inside look into the modern Indian life juxtaposed with traditions, the tussle between the two, and the women at the center of it.
  • 7. The story will introduce you to a boisterous Indian family, with a hint of romance.
  • 8. It’s an ode to the bustling city of Mumbai.
  • 9. It’s packed with mentions of Indian food – read on a full stomach please!
  • 10. More than anything, it is a love story of the self, of standing up for yourself no matter what and being true to who you are.
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE RULES OF ARRANGEMENT
One of my favorite quotes is from chapter 1
“The trick with our traditions is to not argue. Things don’t change just because you want them to. We’ve all rebelled passively for centuries—do your thing, quietly, without anyone knowing you’ve rebelled.”

Here’s a little scene from Chapter 1 where the reader gets the first glimpse of Sheila Bua wanting to get Zoya married:

The doorbell rings in a sing-songy tune, first of many buzzers in a day, its suddenness making Sheila Bua jump. Sujata bai, one of our three maids, saunters in. Her pink sari hangs limp on her thin body and she brings with her a musky odor.

“Tell me, Geeta,” Sheila Bua reverts her attention from the maid to the topic of the day, “have you started looking for boys yet?”

“No, we haven’t started. How can we start without you? But this stupid girl wants to wait for another year before getting mar­ried. Can you imagine?” Mum clicks her tongue and smacks my shoulder. “That we start looking for boys when she is twenty-seven! What are we to do?”

What happens to modern, fairly sane mothers when it is time to get their daughters married? “Yes, I want to wait for another year,” I mutter.

“Wait?” Sheila Bua staggers as if she’s discovered a dead body right in the living room. The heels of her sandals totter under her weight as she turns to Mum. “Are you out of your mind to let her wait? These girls of today! She wants to give me my first gray hair, turn me into an old woman?” Sheila Bua’s silky black hair, almost blue in its darkness (regular double doses of L’Oreal hair dye) is pulled back into a low ponytail. Angry little crinkles gather on her forehead at the collective foolishness of the young.


Balli Kaur Jaswal’s EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS meets Kevin Kwan’s CRAZY RICH ASIANS in this hilarious comedy of manners set in Mumbai where modernity jostles with tradition.

Zoya Sahni has a great education, a fulfilling job and a loving family (for the most part). But she is not the perfect Indian girl. She’s overweight, spunky and dark-skinned in a world that prizes the slim, obedient and fair. At 26 she is hurtling toward her expiration date in Mumbai’s arranged marriage super-mart, but when her aunties’ matchmaking radars hones in on the Holy Grail of suitors—just as Zoya gets a dream job offer in New York City—the girl who once accepted her path as almost option-less must now make a choice of a lifetime.

Big-hearted with piercing social commentary, The Rules of Arrangement tells a powerful, irresistibly charming and oh-so relatable tale of a progressive life that won’t be hemmed in by outdated rules. But not without a few cultural casualties, and of course, an accidental love story along the way.

You can purchase The Rules of Arrangement at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ANISHA BHATIA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Rules of Arrangement by Anisha Bhatia.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Family Plot by Megan Collins



When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

You can purchase The Family Plot at the following Retailers:
    

Photo Credit: Tania Palermo

Megan Collins is the author of The Winter Sister (Atria/Simon & Schuster). She received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and she holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was a teaching fellow. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is Managing Editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and two-time Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Compose, Linebreak, Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.

        

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Susan L. Read Interview - Mermaid Tears


Photo Content from Susan L. Read

Susan L. Read was born and raised in New Zealand, where she lived until she was 43. During that time she was an Elementary School teacher and Principal, a writer (with several of her poems being published in anthologies), and an avid reader of any books she could get her hands on. She had close personal relationships with three dogs (Sheba, Sheena, and Gemma), a bird (J.T.), eleven goats (Picard, Spock, Katie, Buttons, Betty, Starlight, Penelope, Lily, Peter, Fudge, and Chocolate), two goldfish (John and Glen), and twenty three mice (who all had names but there were too many to remember).

Susan moved to Massachusetts six days after 9/11. She left New Zealand on the first flight after airspace reopened. Since then she has been a wife, an educator, a dog rescuer, a reader, and a writer. She lives in Massachusetts, where she has a close personal relationship with her spoiled rescue dogs.

        
  


Most rewarding experience since being published?
MERMAID TEARS is not due to be published until the end of this month (August 31) but it has been very rewarding to read and hear feedback from those who have read it so far. The essential themes and messages I hoped to communicate in this book seem to have been received. This has me feeling that my message will be received by my target audience – middle grade readers.

Current and future projects.
MERMAID TEARS is the first of what will be a series of books set in the fictional Michaels Middle School in Massachusetts. Each book will explore a different aspect of mental health in young people. I am currently working on Book 2.

Greatest thing you learned in school?
School was not always a positive experience for me. I drew upon events in my own school years to help shape the character of Sarah in MERMAID TEARS. However, one positive thing does stand out. In High School I had a teacher, Mr. Clifton Buck, who seemed to believe in my abilities as a writer. He had me working on the school newspaper and made very positive and encouraging comments on written assignments. This was the beginning of a realization that writing was not just something I enjoyed but it also offered me a great way to sort through my own feelings and difficulties.

When you started MERMAID TEARS, and how that came about?
Just over two years ago I attended the annual Massachusetts Reading Association conference. One of the sessions I was particularly excited about attending was one led by the author Lynda Mullaly Hunt, whose work I have long admired. During this session participants were invited to join in a brief writing exercise (with the idea that it was an activity we could then take back to our schools and use with our students). We dipped our hands into a bag and pulled out an object, which was to be the motivation or theme of our writing. After writing for several minutes, we were asked who would like to share? My object was a piece of sea glass, a mermaid tear, and when I read my piece aloud Lynda was incredibly positive about it. She said I should use this and make it into a book. I did. And the piece I wrote that day became page 189 of MERMAID TEARS.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want my readers to think about whether this book is a window or a mirror for them. If it is a window, looking out at something which is not part of their life experience, I hope it will help them to develop a sense of understanding about their peers who are victims of bullying or who are experiencing mental health issues. I hope they will be encouraged to think of ways in which they could help, like the characters of Michelle and Giuseppe in the story. If it is a mirror, reflecting an aspect of their own life back to them, I hope they will realize they are not alone, and that help is available. I hope they will realize that once they take that first, and possibly most difficult, step of asking for help things can be quite different for them going forward.

What part of your Sarah did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoyed developing the wholeness of the character. Sarah is a three-dimensional character and is more than just her mental illness. Her interests include many of my own; geocaching, writing, reading, collecting beach treasures, and many more. As a teacher I always told my students that you write your best work when you write what you know. I feel as though Sarah is a great example of this.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
There are so many possibilities, but one that stands out is Mr. Falker, from THANK YOU, MR. FALKER by Patricia Polacco. Mr. Douglas, in MERMAID TEARS, is a real person. So is Mr. Falker. They clearly share a passion for reaching students with a variety of special needs. I think it would be wonderful to listen in on their conversation as they shared with each other stories of students they had made a difference to over the years.

Favorite event of childhood?
Early in MERMAID TEARS Sarah’s grandmother lives some distance away in another town. Sarah enjoys visiting her, picking fresh strawberries from her garden, and playing with her family of ceramic ducks (I now have this duck family in my china cabinet). This is another part of the character of Sarah which is modeled on my own life. Back in those days, long before seatbelts were required in cars in New Zealand, my brothers and I would travel with our parents to visit my grandmother, enjoy the day with her, then sleep in the back of the station wagon with the seat down during the two-hour drive home. After some years my grandmother decided to move to our town. Sarah’s grandmother moved to a new house. My grandmother organized for her house to be put on the back of a truck and moved to our town. That is a special memory! My brothers and I were allowed to go to school late that day so we could witness this special event for our family.

TEN RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME
  • My personal fascination with mermaids began as a little girl when I got a tiny plastic mermaid toy in a cereal box. I still have her, as well as all the members of her underwater band, some 55 years later!
  • Although there are mermaids in all the rooms of my home here in Massachusetts, the highest concentration is in my office where I do most of my writing. They inspire me.
  • I am passionate about rescuing dogs. I currently share my life with Princess Poppy Anne, a rescued chihuahua, and Princess Jessie Priscilla, a rescued beagle mix.
  • Like Sarah’s grandmother, I drive a MINI Cooper called Tardis.
  • As well as reading and writing, I enjoy a variety of handcrafts. Sarah’s grandmother taught her to knit and crochet. My grandmother taught me those same skills.
  • I became an American citizen on May 28, 2009.
  • In New Zealand Girl Scouts are called Girl Guides. I was a Girl Guide and was the first in my town to gain the highest award in Guiding – the Queen’s Guide Award.
  • Like Sarah, I have a love of soft toys. I have a very large collection! I also still have all my childhood dolls who rest comfortably in the bed I slept in when I was a baby.
  • After dogs, my favorite animal is the giraffe.
  • Since I was a little girl, I have loved the music of Glen Campbell. I was fortunate enough to see him live in concert twice. Once when he visited New Zealand, and again during his farewell tour.
Something everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Since coming to live in Massachusetts in 2001 I have met many people who tell me they have never travelled beyond New England. In fact, many have never left Massachusetts. I think it is important to travel at least once in your life. It doesn’t have to be anything like a world trip. But to move beyond what is familiar to you opens up so many opportunities for learning and personal growth. With this in mind I have a personal goal to travel to as many states as possible once I retire. I plan to convert a van to a living space and set off to learn as much as I can about this country and about myself. I am sure this will be reflected in future books!

Happiest childhood memory?
The day we brought our family dog home for the first time. She was a golden Labrador puppy. We named her Sheba. On the trip home she sat on Mom’s lap in the front seat while Dad drove. My brothers and I sat in the back. It was a long drive, and after a while we discovered that if we were quiet and ducked down in our seats Sheba would pop her head over the front bench seat. After we had squealed with delight, we would wait a few minutes and repeat this game of hide and seek. That day was over 50 years ago, but it has stayed with me not just because we were bringing our new family member home, but also because of the fun we had playing this game with her.

First job?
In New Zealand a school year is a calendar year. In January 1978, at the age of 19, I began my teaching career in my small hometown. The following year I moved to Auckland where I would teach for the following 20 years. During this time, I was fortunate to teach a very diverse student body. I learned a lot from all of them.

Last birthday?
Three friends and I got together for a mermaid themed gathering. The friend who was the hostess had gone to a lot of trouble to bring the mermaid theme into the event, and we had a great time relaxing, drinking iced coffee, and eating mermaid cupcakes.

Travel anywhere?
Right now, I would love to be able to travel to New Zealand to visit my family. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, planned trips for the past two summers have been put on hold. So, a trip home is top of my list.

Greatest adventure?
I think the greatest adventure in my life to date was coming to live in Massachusetts from New Zealand. I was 43, principal of an elementary school, and very settled in my life. The adventure began with the long-awaited arrival of my visa to enter the USA. Knowing it was going to be in my hands on a particular day I had booked my flight. I was due to fly out on September 11, 2001. We all know how the world changed forever on that day, so it was another 6 days before air-space reopened and I was finally able to come here to begin that great adventure.

Favorite book as a child?
C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series was definitely my favorite. I don’t even know how many sets of these books I have owned over the years. They always wear out from over-use!

Favorite Quotes/scenes from MERMAID TEARS:
I think my favorite scenes from MERMAID TEARS are the ones set in Dennis, Massachusetts. Sarah stays with her family in a cottage there, visits a favorite store, eats at two favorite restaurants, and spends time at Mayflower Beach. These scenes are set in real places where I have spent many happy hours myself. The beach is particularly important to Sarah. “Once we arrive in the parking lot, I know that I have hours of peace ahead of me. Hours where I can be me and not have to worry about what anyone else thinks. Hours where it doesn’t matter if I can’t sit still. I can just get up and go for a long walk, and no-one will question me. Hours where it doesn’t matter if I can’t concentrate on one thing for more than a few minutes. I can jump from one activity to the next without having to give an explanation to anyone. Hours where it doesn’t matter if my thoughts are racing or if I think I am the ugliest person on the planet. I don’t have to talk to anyone. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I can lose myself here. Perhaps the person I find at the end of the day will be a better version of me.” (Pages 69-70)

Scenes which feature Mr. Douglas are also favorites. As I have already said, there is a real Mr. Douglas who I had the privilege of working with for several years. I saw firsthand his passion for teaching, and his constant desire to make a difference in the lives of his students. The descriptions of him and his classroom in Chapter Nine are true to life, and a picture of the real Mr. Douglas can be viewed on my website. On page 141 Sarah describes birthday lunches, a tradition in Mr. Douglas’ homeroom. This is something which ‘the real’ Mr. Douglas does. He makes each student feel very special on their special day. Those who have summer birthdays can pick a day to celebrate. Sarah’s birthday lunch is the beginning of things changing for the better in her life. “Mr. Douglas, can we just have you and me for lunch, please? I have a big problem, and I need to ask you if you can help me.” (Page 143) Finding a trusted adult to ask for help isn’t easy for students, but it is essential for progress to be made. While there are messages in this book for students, there are also some for parents and teachers. Mr. Douglas models well how adults can create a relationship with students which will enable them to reach out if they need help.

Finally, the ending is a favorite. SPOILER ALERT: Sarah isn’t cured, but with all the support systems which have been put in place she can see a way forward. “I used to wish I was normal, but now I realize there’s no such thing. I know that some people are still going to judge me and others who have a mental illness. Or a physical illness. Or live in a different place. Or have different colored skin. Or any one of those millions of ways we can be different from each other.” (Page 240)

There's no such thing as normal.

Sarah has always been a hard-working student, even if she has felt her grades don't reflect her efforts. She is a good friend, a kind daughter, and she loves being creative. But lately she is struggling with school and friendships, and nothing brings her much joy. Her family doesn't seem to understand what's happening, and neither does Sarah. Everyone keeps telling her to do better, and Sarah is trying her hardest, but when her first year of middle school begins, what was supposed to be a fresh start turns into a disaster that quickly spirals out of control. Sarah, who can't understand why she is feeling this way, begins to seriously wonder if the world would be better off if she was no longer alive. Sarah has always felt a connection with mermaids, and she now wishes she was a mermaid herself, so she could just slip under the ocean and swim away, disappearing from everyone's lives forever.

Finally, Sarah reaches her breaking point, and in desperation, seeks help from a trusted teacher. Everyone in Sarah's life reaches in to pull her from her own drowning emotions, and with the help of her family, friends, teachers, and mental health professionals, Sarah learns there is a name for what she is feeling. She develops tools, not only for coping, but for thriving. In learning about her condition and gaining the support she needs for managing it, she begins the long journey back to her life.

Rewarding, memorable, and deeply evocative, this gorgeously written story about a girl who learns to navigate the choppy and scary waters of her mental health, is nothing short of remarkable.


You can purchase Mermaid Tears at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SUSAN L. READ for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Mermaid Tears by Susan L. Read.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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