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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

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Julian David Stone Interview - It's Alive!


Photo Content from Julian David Stone

Julian David Stone has always been a creative at heart. When he realized in the ’80s that being in a band wasn’t in his cards, he began smuggling his camera into concerts – adventures he later chronicled in his best-selling coffee table book No Cameras Allowed: My Career As An Outlaw Rock & Roll Photographer. He moved to Los Angeles in his 20s to study filmmaking and wrote screenplays for Disney, Paramount, Sony and MGM, as well as a full-length play (The Elvis Test) and several short-form documentaries on Frank Sinatra for Warner Bros. 

He is also the writer and director of the cult comedy feature film Follow the Bitch. His award-winning debut novel, The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl, centers on the world of ’50s live television and is currently being turned into a TV series. His latest work, the historical fiction novel It’s Alive!, is a vibrant portrait of 1930s Hollywood centered around the chaotic and exciting days just before the filming of the beloved classic film Frankenstein.
        
  

Greatest thing you learned in school. 
Don’t waste your time trying to be popular. The unpopular ones – the weird ones – are a lot more fun.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
Seeing positive reviews come in from complete strangers. We all spend so much time writing in isolation. It’s so fulfilling when you see others enjoying your work.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer? 
My first involvement with storytelling came by way of being a filmmaker. Ironically, when I first broke into the film business I used to tell people in meetings that I was interested in everything but writing. When I realized that wasn’t going to work, I started writing screenplays. But, in all honesty, I never really fell in love with writing until I started writing novels. Which came well after I was a youth. The freedom to write anything you want – with no limit of budget or page count – is intoxicating and fulfilling.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
When I was starting out as a screenwriter there was a maxim that was repeated over and over – “write what you know.” I think this is just as important in writing novels. Write a subject that you have a connection to. Something that your life experience can bring a unique voice to.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us? 
I am half-way through my next novel. It’s about the 1960s space race against the Russians to land the first man on the moon. The Apollo moon landing program is a big passion of mine and I am immensely enjoying writing a novel about it.

In your newest book; IT’S ALIVE!, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
It’s Alive! is a thrilling and vibrant portrait of 1930s Hollywood centered around the chaotic and exciting days just before the filming of the beloved cult-classic film, Frankenstein. Woven with hopeful passion, emotional vulnerability, staunch determination, and creative fulfillment, readers will be swept along with breathless cinematic pace through events that will not only change the lives of everyone involved, but Hollywood itself.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
I hope they enjoy reading about an exciting and fun time when the film business was in its infancy, and the artists who worked in Hollywood were still trying to figure out just exactly what audiences wanted. It was thrilling time as film as an art form was coming of age.

What part of Junior did you enjoy writing the most? 
His youth. It was fun being able to write a character who was only 23 years old, yet had immense power. Not every 23 year old is in charge of a major movie studio! And someone that young, particularly in the roaring twenties, was a risk taker and a gambler – the perfect recipe for a fun character to write.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing IT’S ALIVE!? 
My novel is historical fiction so my main character is a real person: Junior Laemmle. Though he was well-known for many years, after 1936, he faded into relative obscurity. Finding out about him was a real detective story and when I finally found an audio recording where I could hear his voice, it was incredible. It was literally only one word, but it was a revelation to me. It was when the character finally became completely alive.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
I can’t think of a specific fictional character, but I think it would be very interesting to introduce Junior Laemmle to a modern studio head. I imagine they would have a lot in common, and lot not in common. When Junior was in charge, his studio was very much a family business. Those days are long gone with all of the studios now a small part of much, much larger corporations.

TEN FAVORITE READS EVER
  • 1. Fahrenheit 451
  • 2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay.
  • 3. Gods and Monsters
  • 4. A Man on the Moon
  • 5. The Boys of Summer
  • 6. What Makes Sammy Run
  • 7. Death of a Salesman
  • 8. The Martian Chronicles
  • 9. Tune In: The Beatles
  • 10. The Corrections
What was the best memory you ever had as a writer? 
The first time a complete stranger came up to me to tell me how much they liked something I had written.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? 
Drive across the country - with no particular schedule. See where the day takes you, and leave time to explore the full breath of this enormous and diverse nation.

Best date you've ever had? 
New Year’s Eve 2003 at a Grateful Dead concert. It was the first time I ever kissed my now wife.

What is your happiest childhood memory? 
Going to baseball games with my father. He loved baseball, and he passed his passion for the game on to me.

Who has had the most influence in your life? 
My Mother and Father.

What were you doing at midnight last night? Watching a panel discussion on Albert Einstein as part of the World Science Symposium on Youtube.

Writing Behind the Scenes
I love doing research. It’s by far my favorite part of the writing process. I love diving into a subject and spending months – or longer - tearing into it before I start the actual writing. When I write Historical Fiction I like to say I am ready to write when I can “Wear an era”.


The only thing harder than raising the dead is making a movie about raising the dead.

In the summer of 1931, life was good for Junior Laemmle. Though only twenty-three years old, he was the head of all movie production for Universal Pictures, and under his reign, the studio flourished. So much so, he was about to be bestowed with the greatest honor a young executive can receive in Hollywood: a promotion to vice president of the entire company. What’s more, Carl Laemmle, his father and founder of the studio, was returning to California for the first time in years to personally present the honor to his son.

Or so Junior thought.

When his father arrives, Junior discovers that instead of being grateful for transforming and catapulting the out-of-date studio into the future, his father is obsessed with Junior’s next production: Frankenstein. Like the year before, Carl is fervently against making another grisly and gothic film, despite Dracula becoming a huge hit—a project which Junior fought for and personally oversaw through production. Also not helping Junior’s cause, though the film is just days away from beginning production, the final choice between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff to play the role of the Monster, has yet to be made.

It’s Alive! is a thrilling and vibrant portrait of 1930s Hollywood centered around the chaotic and exciting days just before the filming of the beloved cult-classic film, Frankenstein. Woven with hopeful passion, emotional vulnerability, staunch determination, and creative fulfillment, readers will be swept along with breathless cinematic pace through events that will not only change the lives of everyone involved, but Hollywood itself.

You can purchase It's Alive! at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JULIAN DAVID STONE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of It's Alive! by Julian David Stone.

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{Nerd Blast} The Natural Genius of Ants by Betty Culley


Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2022)
Language: English
Hardcover: 240 pages
ISBN-10: ‎0593175778
ISBN-13: 978-0593175774

Praise for THE NATURAL GENIUS OF ANTS

"Endearingly executed, this gentle tale will see readers applauding as they reach the end." —Booklist, starred review

"Quietly and emotionally intelligent, this tale satisfies." —Kirkus Reviews

"This hopeful story that explores the reality of hardship and mistakes amid themes of forgiveness and resilience.” —Publishers Weekly


A summer ant farm grows into a learning experience for the entire family in this lyrical coming-of-age story from the award-winning author of Down to Earth.

Harvard is used to his father coming home from the hospital and telling him about all the babies he helped. But since the mistake at work, Dad has been quieter than usual. And now he is taking Harvard and his little brother, Roger, to Kettle Hole, Maine, for the summer. Harvard hopes this trip isn’t another mistake.

In the small town where he grew up, Dad seems more himself. Especially once the family decides to start an ant farm— just like Dad had as a kid! But when the mail-order ants are D.O.A., Harvard doesn’t want Dad to experience any more sadness.

Luckily, his new friend Nevaeh has the brilliant idea to use the ants crawling around in the kitchen instead. But these insects don’t come with directions. So the kids have a lot to learn—about the ants, each other, and how to forgive ourselves when things go wrong.

You can purchase The Natural Genius of Ants at the following Retailers:
 

Photo Content from Betty Culley

Betty Culley’s debut novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee, and the 2021 Maine Literary Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. Her first middle-grade novel Down to Earth is inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s an RN who worked as an obstetrics nurse and as a pediatric home hospice nurse. She lives in central Maine, where the rivers run through the small towns.

        

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

David Adams Cleveland Interview - Gods of Deception


Photo Content from David Adams Cleveland

David Adams Cleveland is a novelist and art historian. His previous novel, Time’s Betrayal, was awarded Best Historical Novel of 2017 by Reading the Past. Pulitzer prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler called Time’s Betrayal “a vast, rich, endlessly absorbing novel engaging with the great and enduring theme of literary art, the quest for identity.” Bruce Olds, two-time Pulitzer-nominated author, described Time’s Betrayal as a “monumental work . . . in a league of its own and class by itself . . . a large-hearted American epic that deserves the widest possible, most discriminating of readerships.” In summer 2014, his second novel, Love’s Attraction, became the top-selling hardback fiction for Barnes & Noble in New England. Fictionalcities.uk included Love’s Attraction on its list of top novels for 2013. His first novel, With a Gemlike Flame, drew wide praise for its evocation of Venice and the hunt for a lost masterpiece by Raphael.

His pathbreaking art history book, A History of American Tonalism 1880 – 1920, Crucible of American Modernism, has just been published in a third edition with a new sixty-page introduction by Abbeville Press; this bestselling book in American art history won the Silver Medal in Art History in the Book of the Year Awards, 2010, and Outstanding Academic Title 2011, from the American Library Association. David was a regular reviewer for ARTnews and has written for The Magazine Antiques, the American Art Review, and Dance Magazine. For almost a decade, he was the arts editor at Voice of America. He worked with his son, Carter Cleveland, founder of Artsy.net, to build Artsy into the leading art platform in the world for discovering, buying and selling fine art.

He and his wife split their time between the Catskills and Siesta Key, Florida. More about David and his publications can be found on his author site: davidadamscleveland.com.

      
  

Greatest thing you learned at school.
Love of good books especially Joseph Conrad and Robert Penn Warren.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
After reading the works of another Joseph, Joseph Campbell and his books on the power of myth: a world of wonder (the sheer majesty of humankind’s journey) just opened up, which I felt compelled to explore in fiction, as well as art history.

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?
Marcel Proust’s novels, Swann’s Way, or Remembrance of Things Past through Time Regained, which touch on so many of the great literary and philosophical themes about how memory seizes our lives and leads us on a journey into the strange and wonderful byways of the past, while engaging our present and tempting us to a future beyond imagining.

I read a lot of history and art history (since I’m also an art historian), and I need to do a lot of research for my books, and most recently reading up on the Alger Hiss spy trial and all the new information that has come out on Stalin’s spies, and how they infiltrated the US government in the thirties and forties. I just finished Carl Bernstein’s Chasing History, about his days as a copy boy at the Evening Star in Washington, DC during the early sixties, a poignant and nostalgic read for me since I, too, was once a copy boy at the Star when I was seventeen, a great paper founded by my great great grandfather, George Adams during the Civil War.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Believe it or not, sitting with a pile of books at over 30 Barnes & Nobles—and a bunch of Indies—with my last book and having a chance to talk to readers, and the satisfaction of signing a book that I know they will enjoy.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I suppose the impact of covid, in that for almost a year my sons were sheltering with us, but it was a distraction that I wouldn’t have missed for the world!

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
Well, my favorite would be Proust, see above, which is the greatest fictional achievement of all time in my opinion, but I’m also a great admirer of the novelist, Elizabeth Bowen, who wrote a near perfect little novel, A World of Love, set in a moldering Irish country house, so rich with landscape, the smells and sounds of a warm summer, and rumors of a lost love that it always makes my heart beat faster upon rereading. I’m also a huge admirer of Bowen’s short stories and those of Alice Munro.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would be fascinated to overhear a conversation between George Altmann (Princeton astrophysicist and main protagonist in Gods of Deception) with Marcel, the protagonist in Remembrance of Things Past. They would have a fascinating discussion on the nature of time and memory, since Marcel was very much up to date on the scientific advances of his day, and George would be able to discuss Einstein’s theory of relativity, much less all the spectacular developments in cosmology since the deployment of the Hubble telescope—allowing us to gaze back billions of years in time, something Marcel would find astonishing, since he’d found a complete cosmos in memories of his childhood.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Yes, Joseph Campbell’s four volumes, The Masks of God, which details how mankind developed various myths and religions to satisfy humankind’s need to explain the nature of existence, why we live and die, how the world came into being, how things grow and change, and how we are related to all the other creatures and living things with which we share the planet. Campbell is an inspiring guide to the history of different cultures and a deep dive into the human need to find meaning in life, and how that need is shared by all humanity, even if it manifests itself in different ways and seemingly strange departures. All of which has provided me with a sense of the mystery and awe—an ongoing fascination with the human instinct to create and find meaning, which remains at the heart of my storytelling.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Writing to me is more than just telling great stories, it is a way of probing for the things that really matter to us as human beings. My characters, like all of us, are struggling to discover some kind of truth, to answer a fundamental question about themselves as they confront life’s dilemmas. Having been involved in the art world most of my life as a historian, connoisseur, and collector, I find that the visual arts inform my writing, both in terms of description, the physical setting (always a character in its own right), and the struggle artists endure to explore the world from every angle. Great art, like great literature, must never give up all its secrets: there must always be enough mystery and ambiguity to keep the thing fresh and alive. Whistler and Joseph Conrad understood this well, as do such modern greats as Richard Ford, Alice Munro, John Updike, and James Salter: the most profound art is all about conveying feeling and the sense of spiritual quest—the fluttering glimpse of the unseen at life’s ecstatic heart. As Proust knew: we exist in thrall to the spell of memory infused with the metamorphic glories of the visual world.

Can you tell us when you started GODS OF DECEPTION, how that came about?
The novel came out of the research I did for my previous novel, Time’s Betrayal, which touched on the world of spies from the Second World War era and the early days of the Cold War, mostly dealing with the Cambridge Five, the British spies Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby and Donald Maclean—who had walk on roles in the novel. Well, I thought the damage they did during the Cold War in pursuit of Stalin’s stab at world domination was pretty bad; but little did I realize that our spies, the likes of Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White, actually did more damage to Western interests—think: giving away the atom bomb secrets, the disastrous settlements at Yalta (where Alger Hiss sat at Roosevelt’s right hand), and even Pearl Harbor and the Korean War—all abetted by Stalin’s agents of influence. How could this be, I kept asking myself? And so, I decided to explore this untapped literary territory and see if I could come up with some answers through the lives and memories of characters who lived through the era.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT GODS OF DECEPTION
  • The US government, war industries, and media were infiltrated by about 500 of Stalin’s spies.
  • In a secret Moscow ceremony in 1944, Alger Hiss was awarded the Order of the Red Star by the head of Stalin’s KGB.
  • Treasury Undersecretary Harry Dexter White in a secret meeting with his KGB handler signed on to Operation Snow, a campaign to provoke Japan into its ultimate attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Decrypted Soviet cables confirmed the conviction of the Rosenbergs for passing atomic bomb secrets but were not entered as evidence in their trial due to security reasons.
  • Soviet Spy William Weisband, working in army intelligence, tipped off his KGB handlers that the US had broken Soviet military codes and so knew about Stalin’s disposition of military assets. When the Soviets then changed their codes, the US was left in the dark and was blindsided by the invasion of South Korea—a war that could have been avoided if the US had known about the sending of weapons and supplies to North Korea—and so warning Stalin that the US would respond with force to any invasion of the South.
  • Alger Hiss sat at Roosevelt’s right hand at Yalta and each morning was debriefed by his Soviet handler, giving away all the nuances of the US negotiating strategy and so sealing the fate of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain.
  • If it wasn’t for the wartime decryption of Soviet cable traffic (Venona) many if not most of the KGB’s spies, including the Rosenbergs, would never have been revealed.
  • As early as 1939, Whittaker Chambers gave a long list of traitors (Stalin’s agents)—including Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White—to the top State Department security officer, Adolf Berle. Who relayed the names on the list to his boss and friend, FDR. Who told Berle this was a bunch of horse shit and he didn’t want to be bothered again with this kind of stuff. And so, for another six or seven years, KGB agents did everything they could to undermine American interests.
  • The penetration of the Roosevelt administration—and even the Truman administration—was so deep and so widespread that the likes of Alger Hiss at State, Harry Dexter White at Treasury, Lauclin Currie in the White House could act as agents of influence and so promote Stalin’s plans for the post-war world we inherited.
  • Without the Rosenberg’s and Claus Fuchs’ betrayal of atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets—hastening their development of an atomic bomb by years—Stalin would most likely not have felt confident enough to start the Korean War.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
As my characters developed and grew, as good characters always do in fiction, I discovered their fundamental humanity, and even those I didn’t really like in the beginning (spies for the KGB and such like), I came to better understand—how their early beliefs in aiding Stalin and the Soviet Union evolved from a misplaced idealism. And so my sympathy for their wrong-headed decisions in a very bad cause. I was reminded of Grant’s view of Lee: Never had a good man enlisted himself in a fight for a worse cause.

What part of Edward and George did you enjoy writing the most?
I think the verbal and intellectual sparing between Edward Dimock and his grandson George Dimock Altmann was fascinating to me: one of an older generation, a man of the law, dedicated to reason and fairness—and a passion for truth and justice; the other a passionate astrophysicist, a man of science who grew up in the digital age, who comes to the passion for truth telling from a very different angle. How these two joust over questions of Alger Hiss’s guilt or innocence, and larger issues of what constitutes a well-lived life, and where are ultimate loyalties lie, became more and more fascinating as the novel moves on: through their eyes and conversation the past echoes down the wind and we glimpse insights into the nature of time and memory—not to mention the modalities of spacetime and parallel universes!

If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?
I would probably go back to my earliest love, Joseph Conrad’s tales of the sea, and a character like Marlow who has sailed the seven seas, and seen the world from top to bottom; and into the bargain: the heart of darkness and the souls of many characters—something, as a writer I envy for all the great material, and perhaps a little wisdom as well.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from GODS OF DECEPTION
  • “All our suspects are dead and gone, Wendy, even those deaths, like the Judge, marked in limbo.”
  • “No, they’re not.” Her eyes were an electric blue as she found his. “I came to that conclusion the morning after the Altmann opening, standing here with my cup of coffee, watching the mist rising over the graves. They’re just like us—staring back at us, wondering, What was it all about? We owe them that much, George. We owe it to George Altmann and all the others . . . the truth. Without meaning, just being is pointless.”
  • Her blazing certainty sent a chill through him.
  • “But what chance do we have without data, witnesses, facts? I still cling to that, maybe more than ever. My faith in the scientific method—‘my fat head,’ as you call it . . . doubt. Not all of us can be fucking artists, you know.”
  • “There are facts and there are facts.” She lifted her eyes once more to the marble halls and inky-hollow porticoes, as if to scrutinize those endless but invisible lists of carved and inscribed names and dates that populated her vision. “Oh, they left more of a mark on the world than just this”—and she waved from where they were standing by the window to her stony canvases—“in the underground—you see, where they always find their way back into other people’s lives, especially the children’s, George. Trust me, I know, I know they’re calling out to us, George, like your grandfather’s paintings called out during your childhood, like your grandfather’s memoir does now, to give their lives and struggles meaning, to give them rest, to give us rest, to allow us to go on. We owe it”—and she reached for his hand—“to their children, or their children’s children if nothing else.”
  • He turned, not a little bewildered, but gave way and, smiling, as if in thanks, laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.
  • “You ask too much of life.”
  • “Or not enough.”
  • “Funny, you kind of remind me of him, the Judge—or his alter ego, on our hikes as kids, standing in this abandoned homestead deep in the woods—Handytown, we call it. We’d linger there to listen for the hermit thrush and help him repair the bluestone walls. And when we complained and asked why bother, he’d hold up an admonishing finger, smile sweetly, and tell us to listen, listen. He’d whisper as a breeze played in the lilacs by the crumbled cellar hole, ‘They’re still here, waiting to tell their stories . . . our blood offering.’”
Meet the Characters
George Dimock Altmann is a Princeton astrophysicist, boyish and brilliant, but so overwhelmed by the immensity of the cosmos that he retreats from the field to start a NY city art gallery, Dark Matter, where he opens a show of his grandfather’s paintings, an exhibition which go on to become an unexpected hit. And so begins our journey into his family’s difficult past.

Wendy Bradley, the youngest woman to ever climb Mount Everest, a professional climber and artist, meets George at the opening of his grandfather’s show. She is a tall and muscular athlete, with confidence to spare, and a riveting intellect honed on literary classics as taught by Harold Bloom at Yale, which she unleashes (but in a witty and often profound way) on George as their love affair grows, spurred on by a quest, not just for the truth about Alger Hiss, but about what happened to George’s artist grandfather and namesake, who died in a sinister fall (suicide?) from Woodstock’s Fishkill Bridge. Yes, there is a connection!

Presiding over the riveting love affair of George and Wendy is Edward Dimock, patriarch of the clan, the man who defended Alger Hiss in the 1950 “trial of the century.” The Judge, trying to finish his memoir at ninety-five, inveigles George and then Wendy into a search for the truth about Hiss, a truth that will impact their lives in many unexpected ways.

On an old corkboard in his grandfather’s office at his fabled Catskill retreat, Hermitage, George discovers nine exquisite pencil sketches by Altmann from the late 1930s, portraits of Alger and Priscilla Hiss and seven other Hiss associates, State Department, Treasury, and White House officials—some accused spies—who conveniently died or disappeared behind the Iron Curtain and so were unavailable to testify at the trial. The sketch of Alger Hiss has his home address, Volta Place, just visible on the back. Was this a Communist cell study group of which Altmann was a member? And how, exactly, did the Judge come by the sketches—damning evidence—in the first place?

Stunned at this unsettling revelation and its implications, George is drawn deeper into the series of ambiguous deaths (a KGB specialty) surrounding the Hiss case. This case, he soon realizes, affected not only the Dimock family but his own unhappy childhood growing up in Woodstock in the shadow of a forgotten artist. His largely absent alcoholic father, Jimmy Altmann, a techie electrician haunted by his father’s supposed suicide, built the sound systems for the Woodstock festival and the studio where the album Music from Big Pink was recorded, later becoming the head roadie touring with the Band.

George’s quest for the truth (not unlike his search as an astrophysicist for answers to the deepest questions about the universe) further complicates his fraught relationship with his father, who deserted his dancer-musician mother, Cordelia, youngest of three Dimock sisters, who now runs a bookshop in Woodstock. Word of the Judge’s memoir also stirs up trouble among George’s aunts, civil rights activist Alice Dimock and celebrity Upper West Side psychiatrist Martha Dimock, who have avoided their father for years due to real or imagined issues of abuse. All three sisters have very different stakes in discovering the truth about Alger Hiss, not to mention their father’s sterling reputation as a second circuit appellate judge (for many years on a short list for a Supreme Court nomination). All have something to hide; all fear revelations their father’s memoir might contain.

Through the Judge’s memoir, we see into the heart of a brilliant but flawed family, especially the talented pianist Annie, the Judge’s wife and great love, who played Carnegie Hall at sixteen and whose luminous musical spirit still haunts the great room at Hermitage, where her Steinway concert grand stands guard over a glittering, if flawed, reputation. Although a woman of profound talent, Annie was willing to sacrifice love and family for a career and her worshipful students and fans. Teddy, the Judge’s beloved son and family golden boy, who was killed in Korea, still captivates the imagination of the older Dimock sisters with his woodland exploits, rowing prowess, and sexual escapades over the long lake summers of their youth. None of the sisters or their children felt able to live up to the lager-than-life Teddy. Annie blamed her husband for Teddy’s death in Korea, as she blamed him for defending Alger Hiss and smearing Whittaker Chambers in the trial. Chambers’s memoir, Witness, about his days as a spy for Stalin, transmitting secrets from Alger Hiss, serves as a haunting leitmotif throughout Gods of Deception.

Edward Dimock’s mentor, Oliver Wendell Holmes, looms large in his memoir as the lodestone of his probity and allegiance to the law. Edward, fresh out of Harvard Law School, clerked for the great Supreme Court justice just a year after Alger Hiss’s clerkship with Holmes—yet another tie he and Alger Hiss share. Edward Dimock, his memory beginning to fail, claims to hide nothing from his grandson, even as the story of how the Altmann sketches came into his hands keeps changing as he drops hints of his college love affair with Alger Hiss’s wife, Priscilla. Yet, as George turns up a cache of Priscilla’s affectionate letters written over many years, more secrets emerge that throw doubt on the Judge’s veracity about his role in the Hiss trial. Was he just an unwitting client of Hiss on the defense team—taken in like so many by Hiss’s establishment credentials and earnest denials of guilt—or did his allegiance to Hiss run deeper?

Your Journey to Publication
A lot of G0ds 0f Deception was written and edited during covid, so my family was around, including my two sons. Distractions but good ones. I spent over four years writing the novel and very little changes in the routine of a writing life: like Woody Allen said—90% of creating stuff is just showing up.

Writing Behind the Scenes
Much of the setting of the novels, the Catskills, is near and dear to my heart, a place where I grew up and spent many summers. I was delighted to finally include some of the local life and history of our neck of the woods: the Delaware & Hudson Canal and the lore of the tanneries and blue stone quarries that once proliferated among the endless foothill of the Catskills, including the names of the long-gone farmers who have left us their fieldstone walls to remind us of their time, or as Thoreau put it: what they have scribbled across our woodlands.

What is the first job you have had?
A delivery boy and later a copy boy for the Evening Star.

Best date you've ever had?
With my wife after we got out of ballet class. I once danced with the Washington Ballet.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
How to write the next paragraph and where the story is going.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Venice, where I have set many scenes in my novels.

What's your most missed memory?
Walking the streets, calles, of Venice in the morning: the smells, the light, the art!!

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
9/11 which features in Gods of Deception. My wife was almost killed.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
To quote Samuel Johnson: Love is the wisdom of fools and the folly of the wise.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
The next day’s writing.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
Tell my father more times how much I loved him.

First Love?
She played the piano like Annie in Gods of Deception.


At age ninety-five, Judge Edward Dimock, patriarch of his family and the man who defended accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss in the famous 1950 Cold War “trial of the century,” is writing his memoir at his fabled Catskill retreat, Hermitage, with its glorious Italian Renaissance ceiling. Judge Dimock is consumed with doubts about the troubling secrets he’s kept to himself for over fifty years—secrets that might change both American history and the lives of his entire family. Was his client guilty of spying for Stalin or not? And if guilty, did Hiss’s crimes go far beyond his perjury conviction—a verdict that divided the country for a generation?

​Dimock enlists his grandson, George Altmann, a brilliant Princeton astrophysicist, in the quest for truth. Reluctantly, George finds himself drawn into the web of deceit that has ravaged his family, his curiosity sparked by a string of clues found in the Judge’s unpublished memoir and in nine pencil sketches of accused Soviet agents pinned to an old corkboard in his grandfather’s abandoned office. Even more dismaying, the drawings are by George’s paternal grandfather and namesake, a once-famous painter who covered the Hiss trial as a courtroom artist for the Herald Tribune, only to die in uncertain circumstances in a fall from Woodstock’s Fishkill Bridge on Christmas Eve 1949. Many of the suspected spies also died from ambiguous falls (a KGB specialty) or disappeared behind the Iron Curtain—and were conveniently unable to testify in the Hiss trial.

George begins to realize the immensity of what is at stake: deceptive entanglements that will indeed alter the accepted history of the Cold War—and how he understands his own unhappy Woodstock childhood, growing up in the shadow of a rumored suicide and the infidelities of an alcoholic father, a roadie with The Band.

In Gods of Deception, acclaimed novelist David Adams Cleveland has created a multiverse all its own: a thrilling tale of espionage, a family saga, a stirring love story, and a meditation on time and memory, astrophysics and art, taking the reader on an unforgettable journey into the troubled human heart as well as the past—a past that is ever present, where the gods of deception await our distant call.


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And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you DAVID ADAMS CLEVELAND for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Gods of Deception by David Adams Cleveland.

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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.

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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.
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