Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Alyson Richman Interview - The Secret of Clouds

Photo Content from Alyson Richman

Alyson Richman is the #1 international bestselling author of seven novels including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture. The Secret of Clouds, will be out in February 2019, and centers around the transformative bond between a mother and her son, and a teacher and her student. A story that will make readers examine what it means to actually live life with a full heart.

Alyson spent her childhood in both Long Island and Japan, and is the daughter of an abstract artist and an electrical engineer, and graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history and Japanese studies. She herself is an accomplished painter, and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research, and travel.

Alyson's novels have been published in thirty countries and twenty languages. Her books have received critical acclaim in both the United States and abroad, where they, have been bestsellers in, not only the United States, but, also, several countries. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children, where she is currently at work on her next novel, The Rivers of Grace.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I was an art history major in college, and people used to ask me what I was going to do with an art history degree once I graduated. I remember sitting alone on campus during my senior year and thinking if I could do anything in the world, it would be to write novels about artists. My professors had told me I had a gift for exploring “the story behind the painting,” and I loved having the opportunity to place the artist and his work in its historical context. I also relished examining the psychological relationship between artist and muse. I was lucky enough to receive a post-graduate grant which enabled me to research Japanese artists who studied with the French Impressionist painters. From that moment on, I started envisioning using my research as the basis for a novel. A few years later, I published my first book, The Mask Carver’s Son, about a Japanese artist who pursues painting in Paris during the turn-of-the century.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling connects us. There are certain universal themes that knit us together, love, loss, the need to be understood. I enjoy writing books in which my readers learn about a period in history through the eyes of a character who shares more with them than they realize at first glance.

What is needed for a story to be good?
I believe that a story needs to have characters that you care deeply about. These characters can be different from you, but readers need to be engaged in order to turn the next page. I think creating a rich, visual world that you can imagine is also very important. I’m the daughter of a painter, so I always describe my chapters as “mini canvases” where my readers step into a sensory-rich world where they feel, touch, and even smell what’s being described.

What do you hope for people to be thinking after they read your novel?
The heart of “The Secret of Clouds” at its essence is that there are people in our lives who have the capacity to transform us, who help open our eyes to experiences we might never have unless their life crossed with ours. The impact a teacher can have on a child’s life is enormous, but I also wanted to explore how a student can impact a teacher’s life and awaken parts of them they didn’t know previously existed.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why?
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez will always be my favorite book. I think the beauty in that novel is that despite the most difficult and challenging circumstances, the heart can still nurture and sustain the capacity for love.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing THE SECRETS OF CLOUDS?
I found the interviews with ballet dancers to be the most eye-opening. In the Soviet Union, often by the age of nine, a child who was drawn to ballet had already undergone an evaluation to see if one could potentially become a professional dancer. The competitiveness was so extreme that fellow students would put crushed glass in the toe shoes of other dancers. One former ballerina told me that her teacher used to put a cigarette lighter underneath her leg and tell her she had to lift her leg higher or she would be burned by the flame.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a new novel called “The Rivers of Grace.” It’s about an unlikely friendship between the intersecting lives of an Irish immigrant, a Vietnamese refugee, and a Vietnam veteran during the early 1980s. As their worlds’ collide, each is forced to put the ghosts of their past behind them and find a way to heal.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Katya and Sasha?
I was surprised that when writing Katya and Sasha’s love story, I found myself weaving in my parents’ own story. My father was an electrical engineer, and my mother was an abstract painter. I used their real-life contrasting nature to create my characters’ love story. Just like my parents, both Katya and Sasha are intrigued by the other’s talents. There’s a chapter in the early part of the book, when Katya and Sasha are first falling in love, and Sasha begins to explain “the butterfly effect” to Katya -- how one small event like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in the rain forest can change the destiny of so many other things.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
This is such a great question! I would love to introduce to each other Lenka, the Czech art student from “The Lost Wife” who survives the Holocaust because of her artistic skills, to Elodie, the Italian cellist in “The Garden of Letters” who sends coded messages for the Resistance during WWII. I think they’d sure have a lot to talk about!

What part of Yuri and Maggie did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing the scenes when Maggie finally begins to forge a connection with Yuri. I found myself imagining Yuri to have a lot of similarities of my own son, who was twelve when I began writing the book. My son is a huge baseball fan and so I modeled a lot of Yuri’s characteristics after my son, Zachary. It was also hard not to think of myself as Maggie, who wants to introduce the magic of reading to a little boy who doesn’t initially gravitate towards books.

  • 1) The Secret of Clouds is a different type of love story.
  • 2) The Secret of Clouds examines what is truly important in life.
  • 3) The Secret of Clouds depicts the life of a ballet dancer in the Soviet Union.
  • 4) The Secret of Clouds examines what it means to live with a full heart.
  • 5) The Secret of Clouds illuminates to the importance of teachers and education.
  • 6) The Secret of Clouds weaves in music, violin making, and the importance of finding one’s passion.
  • 7) The Secret of Clouds reminds you of those who helped you become the best version of yourself.
  • 8) The Secret of Clouds makes you reflect on those special people we carry with us throughout our lives.
  • 9) The Secret of Clouds is a book you could read with your teenager and discuss.
  • 10)The Secret of Clouds encourages us to examine what it means to leave something meaningful of ourselves behind.
What is your most memorable travel experience?
The moment my five-year old daughter stepped out of the train station in Venice and turned to me and said: “Mama, who made this miracle?” She couldn’t believe that the city appeared to emerge out of the water!

How are you feeling right now?
Nervous! It’s always an anxiety-riddled time right before a book comes out.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would be reading a good book in bed.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
Such an interesting question. I think the 1920’s. I’d like to imagine myself as a nineteen-year old flapper, full of life!

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother's love, a teacher's promise, and a child's heart.....

Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri's boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she'll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her — until she needs that strength the most......

A novel that will make readers examine what it means to live life with a full heart.


“Alyson Richman is known for her stunning historical fiction (The Lost Wife is being made into a movie as we speak!), but her first foray into a contemporary story will make you forget about the past…. The Secret of Clouds is a moving story about the power of one person to change our lives.” ―PopSugar

“Historical fiction doyenne Alyson Richman makes her foray into the contemporary with a riveting tale that explores the bond between an isolated student and his connection to the outside world: his tutor.” ―Instyle

“[A] devastating novel…bolstered by Richman’s perspective on how teachers and students can learn from each other, resulting in a heartening tale.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Richman writes a captivating…contemporary novel of making unexpected friendships and living life to its fullest. For fans of Marie Bostwick and Karen White.” ―Library Journal

“With lyrical writing and a compelling story…this book is tailor-made for book groups.” —Booklist

“Long renowned as a master of historical fiction, Alyson Richman spreads her wings and soars with the contemporary story…The Secret of Clouds is an unforgettable gift.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

“A story of family bonds, heartbreak, healing and hope—one that reminds us it is not how long we live but how well we live that matters most. The tenderly written ending will bring you to tears, but in the best possible way.” —Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

“A tender, captivating, and ultimately satisfying story about the emotional gifts exchanged between a caring teacher and a student in need. Thank you, Alyson Richman, for another heartrending tale.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Exquisite and haunting. Richman writes with the soul of a poet, and her captivating new novel enchants while tugging ever so gently at the heart. Her story stands as a reminder to never take any day for granted.” —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece

“Alyson Richman weaves an emotionally rich story of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit. The Secrets of Clouds will soar off the page and into your heart.” —Jamie Brenner, national bestselling author of The Husband Hour

“Alyson Richman captures the gift of love—for family, and those who feel like family—with her pen dipped first in truth, then crystalline tenderness, and finally compassion. The Secret of Clouds immersed me in the world of a teacher’s caring, an immigrant family’s heroism, and a child’s courage. Richman writes like a dream.” —Randy Susan Meyers, internationally bestselling author of The Widow of Wall Street

“In her new novel, Alyson Richman weaves storytelling magic with an extraordinary cast of characters: a compassionate young teacher, a precocious but ailing student, and an immigrant couple with a uniquely tragic past. Readers have come to expect Richman’s luscious prose and vivid details, but in The Secret of Clouds, she delivers even more – I was thoroughly captivated by this deeply personal tale of perseverance, acceptance, and the heart’s capacity for love.” —Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

You can purchase The Secret of Clouds at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ALYSON RICHMAN for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman. 


  1. "What was the best prank you ever pulled off?" I don't pull pranks! Eww! That's so not me!

  2. Can't wait to read this book sounds good.

  3. I loved the Velvet Hours! I can't wait to read this one.

  4. The best prank I ever pulled off was when I put two large plastic crows in my brothers backyard. His girlfriend could not figure out why the birds never moved. She finally went outside and discovered they were plastic. She was not impressed.

  5. The best one for me was when I convinced my little brother that the thorny weeds in the lawn came to life during the night and would come after him if he tried to kill them.

  6. Best prank involved convincing a friend he had a secret admirer, complete with letters sent from all over the country thanks to helpful friends. It wasn't a mean prank, more of a way to bolster his ego after a broken heart, but it was elaborate and he loved it.

  7. I don't pull pranks because I can't keep a secret!

  8. i can't remember ever pulling a prank