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Okay, whoa.guesthousecover

I just refreshed my blog three times because I was sure there had to be a post more recent than my last one LAST YEAR.

Nope. Gah.

Friends, where does the time go?

I’ve missed coming here—I’ve missed having you all visit. So it’s time to get back to it.

I’m sure you’ve all been reading the posts for The Next Big Thing in which writers are tagged to talk about what they’re working on. I’ve been fortunate to be tagged a few times but because I’m such a superstitious goof (I blame my gypsy blood) I was always hesitant to play. Just last week, author Peter Geye, who I had the pleasure of meeting at SIBA and who I’ll be seeing again in two weeks at the UCF Book Festival, tagged me and I figured the Evil Eye might finally be looking away or sleeping or whatever the Evil Eye does when it’s not looking directly at a person.

So now, without further ado, I’m ready to play The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book? The Guest House

What genre does your book fall under? Women’s Fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, a hard one, for sure. The novel features many characters—and truly covers the spectrum of romantic relationships and ages so while I did imagine a few actors as I wrote, I would be hard pressed to cast everyone. The novel centers around two families, one a North Carolina family who summers on Cape Cod and the other a local family who owns a construction business on the Cape. The matriarch of the local family, Edie, still runs the business with her son and fiercely supports her all-female crew. She’s sharp-tongued but highly emotional, earthy but feisty—I imagine Sissy Spacek or Sally Field. Her daughter, Lexi, an architectural photographer who finds herself falling in love with the younger brother of the man who broke her heart is more reserved than her tempestuous mother but every bit as passionate. Maybe Emily Blunt or Rachel Weisz.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book? The lives and hearts of a wealthy Southern family and a local family of builders become tangled through several generations of summers on Cape Cod.

How long did it take you to write the first draft your manuscript? I would say 4 months, but I tend to rewrite so intensely through the process and change so many things that I can never keep drafts straight.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I have always been a fan of authors who write about life on the coast, so I’d love to imagine my novel might appeal to the same readers of Karen White, Wendy Wax, Elin Hilderbrand, Patti Callahan Henry and Heidi Jon Schmidt.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Growing up in New England, I spent a good deal of time on the Cape—but it was a summer I spent working and living on Martha’s Vineyard on the property of one of the shingle-style cottages featured in the novel that was my true inspiration for the story. I’d always remembered it as a deeply romantic place, full of secrets and promises.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest? After a long, cold winter (even for those of us in North Carolina!), it might be nice to start summer vacation a little early. Also, as a student of architecture and architectural history, it was important to me to include lots of architectural details in the novel’s setting.

When and how will it be published? It will be released by NAL/Penguin on June 4 of this year—just in time to hit the beach with a good, sandy read!

****

Okay—now it’s my turn to pass the questions. I am excited to tag two very gifted writers who I have known since I first started blogging, Laura Maylene Walter and Averil Dean. Ladies, I can’t wait to read all about your Next Big Things.

 

AliceCoverSeveral years ago, thanks to the wonderful blog of Betsy Lerner, I found myself quickly, and fortunately, swept up into an amazing community of kindred writing spirits. Among those great folks, was a writer named Averil Dean.

One visit to Averil’s blog and I knew this woman meant business. From the first, I was struck by the richness of Averil’s writing, the scope and grace of her words, the way she made every bloody sentence seem effortless. (Seriously: if she wasn’t such a cool and generous cat, I could have easily resented the heck out of her for all of her talent.)

Then came the news that Averil had sold her debut novel, ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES, to Harelquin MIRA, and let me tell you, friends, I have been counting the days ever since in anticipation of her launch.

Just get a load of this summary of ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES:

With haunting prose and deft psychological insight, Averil Dean spins a chilling story that explores the dark corners of obsession—love, pain and revenge.

Ten years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft’s life. Now, she has a chance to right that wrong—and she thinks she’s found the perfect man to carry out her plan.

After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese’s house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes. When Jack comes home unexpectedly, Alice hides in the closet, fearing for her life. But upon finding her, Jack is strangely calm, solicitous…and intrigued.

That night is the start of a dark and intense attraction, and soon Alice finds herself drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying surrender to a man who is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. As their relationship spirals toward a breaking point, Alice starts to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run—and how deadly they could be. 

Oh, and did I mention ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES launches TODAY!!!???

Before I say any more, let me let Booklist spill its beans about this novel:

“Alice Close Your Eyes will have readers on the edge of their seats. Promising newcomer Dean spins a web out of the deepest human obsessions…[her] tricky tale of psychological romantic suspense will leave readers wanting more.”

((Good on ya, girl!))

So it is with great pleasure and excitement, that I welcome Averil Dean to the blog on this first day of 2014 to talk a bit about the writing life and her debut novel, ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES!

Averil, what are you most looking forward to about ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES being out in the world?

AverilSelfportraitforwebI’m looking forward to actually seeing it in bookstores. I play out the scenario in my head sometimes: I walk through those big double doors, into the warm bookish fug of Powell’s or Barnes & Noble, past the bookmarks and (please god) the remainder table, and there, in a pool of its own diffuse glamor light, is my book. Cue the choir of angels! and the trumpets! and one rabid fangirl who races up with a pen and ten copies of my book for all her friends!

Okay, maybe the fangirl is unrealistic. But there better be a f*cking trumpet.

The publishing journey is a wild and wonderful ride–but even if we think we know what to expect, the process can surprise. Tell us one part of this process that wasn’t as you imagined it would be.

Everyone involved in publishing is in it because they love books and want to see the best possible incarnation of the writer’s work. People feel passionately about what that looks like, and they’ll push and argue and persuade and cajole in order to get their points across—but for me this process has been anything but confrontational. I’ve been surprised at the relief that comes at the resolution of a sticky point, because I know that everyone is arguing purely out of love for the book. Publishing is truly a collaboration. It’s no longer me alone with my ideas, but a whole team of people devoted to their jobs and by extension to my book. I really love the vibe of all that.

Speaking of surprises…no matter if an author plots or pants it when it comes to writing a novel, certain elements–be it characters or events or both–can still come along to surprise us about our stories as we shape them. Was there a part or character in ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES that, as you were writing, took you–and the novel–in an unexpected direction?

The book went in a much more sinister direction than I originally intended. I had planned to write a sly little neo-noir story—darkly sexy but not so angry or intense. I’m still not sure exactly what happened, but somewhere in the middle of the first draft the book took a turn for the dark side and refused to ever come back. I think this is often the case with writers. We imagine an idealized version of our stories early on, but as the work progresses it begins to take on the mood or character of the writer, whatever that might be. It’s impossible to escape yourself in writing a book; all the darkness or the beauty or fineness inside you will find its way out. Even a writer who’s willing to be inauthentic will be revealed, because the work will feel inauthentic to the reader. I had to fight through my own phoniness at first, but over time I learned to work with the unlikable parts of my character and not worry so much about this need to be loved and accepted. Not in writing, at least. I still bake cookies for the office.

To learn more about Averil and her acclaimed debut, visit her at her website.

Averil, my warmest thanks for sharing this incredible day with us, my dear. I couldn’t be more proud of you, lady.

 

Thanks, Giving

This Thanksgiving, I had the good fortune to visit my husband’s family in New Orleans, a place that I will always hold dearly in my heart. In the years since my husband and I evacuated after Katrina, I have only been able to return a few times, but each time I did, I saw the city growing stronger and stronger and this visit made my heart soar. There is still so much to do, still places in the city that are still struggling, but there’s no question that New Orleans is back.

But in seeing the recovery years after Katrina, how could I not think about the challenges that remain for so many after Sandy’s devastation? I thought too about how quickly we lose awareness of the continuing struggles of people after the ravages of a storm when the media shifts its lens to another story.

As many of you may have read, I lost my beloved Olive at the beginning of this year. When she was just a few months old, we rescued each other from a shelter in Brooklyn, NY, and this year, I know that shelter, and so  many near it, are facing possibly their hardest season ever in the wake of Sandy. There are many, many efforts going on and I know that you all, dear friends, are well aware of them–but I wanted to take a moment and share with you a list you may not have seen yet sent to me by my dear friend and writer Jackie Cangro, who gives so generously of her time and her heart to animals in need in the areas that were affected by Sandy.

I know Olive would send out this post if she were here. She knew how to give joy better than anyone I’ve ever known.

Miss you, Boo Bear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NY/NJ Area Relief Efforts:

Woodbridge Animal Shelter took in about 4 feet of water on the first floor where the dogs were housed. Luckily they were able to get them all to safety, but they need to rebuild.
http://woodbridge.patch.com/blog_posts/woodbridge-animal-shelter-desperate-for-supply-donations-abffe3a6
https://www.facebook.com/WoodbridgeAnimalShelterAndPetAdoptionCenter
Chip in Donation page: https://www.facebook.com/WoodbridgeAnimalShelterAndPetAdoptionCenter/app_163344180379236

O.S.C.A.R in Sparta, NJ is a foster network that is busy transporting animals from shelters and placing them in their foster network until the other shelters are up and running again.
http://www.oscaranimalrescue.org/

Humane Society of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) suffered from flooding in their clinic and shelter areas.
http://hsacpet.com/

The animal rescue shelter was not flooded, but they have been taking in a large number of abandoned / lost pets since the storm.
https://www.facebook.com/SeanCaseyAnimalRescue
Sean Casey has a wish list on Amazon where you can even purchase desperately needed supplies have have them shipped directly to the shelter.
http://www.amazon.com/wishlist/2GW0AT7AZJ7VQ/ref=sr_1_1_acs_wl_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342290876&sr=8-1-acs

 

More Mermaid Sightings!

I can hardly believe THE MERMAID COLLECTOR has been out in the world for over two weeks now.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have so many people cheering me on throughout these days (and before) and hosting me at their wonderful blogs while my MERMAID breaks the surface! In case you might have missed any of my visits, I just wanted to share the list here and and to send out a huge thank you to you all who have hosted me or reviewed the book, as well as a huge hug to all of you who have been so supportive across the internet-universe.

I am a lucky lady to have so many kind friends.

Teri Carter: Carter Library

Devourer of Books

Bermuda Onion: Review and Interview

SheReads

A Novel Review

Literally Jen’s Blog: Guest Post and Review

Traveling with T

The Debutante Ball

Deep South Magazine–Part of their Fall/Winter 2012 Reading List

Writerspace Blog

 

Photographer: Catherine Pelura

I first connected with Erika Robuck on Twitter because we both spelled our names with a K. True story!

Turns out, we had a lot more in common than just that. Erika is not only an incredibly lovely and gracious woman, she’s also a talented writer whose novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL I had the pleasure of reading before it launches in five days on September 4th  so I was thrilled that Erika agreed to come visit the blog and answer a few questions about her book.

But first, a bit about HEMINGWAY’S GIRL:

Key West, 1935. Mariella Bennet has just lost her father and now must temper her dreams of starting a charting fishing boat business with the new responsibilities of caring for her ailing sister and her emotionally-crippled mother. When a chance encounter with Key West’s most famous resident Ernest Hemingway offers her a chance to work in the writer’s house, Mariella can no more deny the opportunity to offer financial security to her grieving family than she can deny her attraction to her employer—an attraction that is quickly complicated by the entrance of a new suitor, and Hemingway’s suspicious wife.

As Mariella tries to balance her feelings for both men with her devotion to her family, a storm of another kind brews in the distance; a hurricane that threatens to devastate an already struggling coastal town—and bring about the collision of many hearts when it finally comes ashore.

Romantic and beautifully-rendered, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL shines its expert lens on a rich slice of history—and a man we all imagine we know. Mariella is a deeply satisfying character. Torn by her growing affections for both Hemingway and Gavin, she remains fierce but tender, driven but loyal. Erika has deftly housed her wonderful and diverse cast in settings that reveal incredible period detail, then she lets them fill the pages.  

Without further ado, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome Erika Robuck to the blog!

* * * *

EM: Erika, my first question is a two-parter: It goes without saying that Hemingway is an iconic, larger-than-life character. But like so many historic figures, we as readers can all-too-often imagine we “know” that person and bring to the table our fixed notions of who they are. In HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, you have done a remarkable job of drawing Hemingway as a unique character, so well-rounded and genuine. Firstly, did you find that a daunting prospect as a writer, to know you might be challenging a reader’s fixed ideas? And secondly, how did you find ways to bring out the uniqueness in a character that came with so much baggage? Was it hard to know which parts of his personality to keep and which parts to accentuate or even play down?

ER: When I first realized I would write about Hemingway, I was worried that both his legions of fans and critics would search for their versions of Hemingway in my work, and make noise if they didn’t find it. Because of this, I spent as much time as possible with not only biographers’ versions of the famous writer, but with his own writings—from fiction, to essays, to letters. After reading thousands of pages of text, I felt like I had a firm grasp of the kind of man Hemingway was, and I think I have portrayed him fairly. I am prepared that I will stir up some backlash from those with strong opinions on Hemingway, but that is part of the risk I am willing to take to represent this time in his life and hopefully, to inspire people to go back and read his work.

EM: One of the many things that struck me as I read HEMINGWAY’S GIRL was the incredible attention to detail you showed in setting your historical scenes. That must have taken such thorough research! I know personally I can get so overwhelmed by collecting period details and am never sure how much/how little to insert to set the scene. Can you talk a little bit about that process? Such as, how did you choose what to include and if you have a system to organize so much information as you go?

ER: Thank you, Erika! Research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process and why I love historical fiction. There are so many undiscovered corners of the past that want to be known. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was one of those forgotten events I found while researching the novel. Hemingway wrote an op-ed piece for a communist paper expressing his outrage over the deaths of the WWI veterans building the Overseas Highway in the Keys from that hurricane. Once I knew the novel would build to that event, I was able to focus the very broad research I’d already done on that time in 1935. I then made very detailed timelines of the months of 1935 with regard to Hemingway’s life events, what was going on in the Keys, and what was going on in the country. Then I imagined my characters and placed them in the events to give readers an emotional connection to the past.

EM: Mariella’s relationships with the two men in her life, the tempestuous Hemingway and the tender boxer Gavin are both so rich and diverse–yet the reader always feels there is a remarkable sort of balance in her affection for both men throughout the novel, even as she is exploring her feelings for each. Was it hard as a writer to maintain that for her? Were there points in the story where you felt as conflicted as she did and possibly wanted her to make different choices in a scene?

ER: Oh, yes. I struggled with my feelings about what my protagonist would do as much as she did. Both men represented lifestyle choices or aspects of Mariella’s character that would greatly influence her future. Both men had appealing sides and not so appealing sides, but I loved both of them dearly. I think we all have these dark and light aspects of our inner selves, and we surround ourselves with people that fuel our needs at certain times. The greatest challenge for me was building up the more positive aspects of Hemingway’s personality in light of all of the popular views of the writer. His loyalty, his understanding of social strata, and believe it or not, his capacity for sensitivity to others came through in his letters and in his fictional characters, and I hope I did him justice.

* * * *

My warmest thanks to you for sharing your thoughts, Erika!

Friends, you can learn more about Erika and her novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL at her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

A Mermaid Sighting

How great is she?

My mother found her in a seaside shop in coastal Maine and couldn’t resist her. (Who could?) As her gold loop reveals, she’s an ornament, and she’s exactly what I imagine Tess would have sitting in her bathroom cup holder in THE MERMAID COLLECTOR.

Like so many residents of Cradle Harbor, twenty-five year-old Tess lives for the magic of the town’s annual Mermaid Festival, eeking out a living as a woodcarver and searching for a love as mystical as the sea. But on the eve of this year’s celebration, mystery and romance will enter her life in an unexpected way. She will collide—body and heart—with a quiet teacher named Tom Grace, a man who has lost all belief in life’s magic—until he happens upon Tess working in her studio.

THE MERMAID COLLECTOR is a story of the power of legends to shape our worlds, and the power of love to see the truths we don’t always want to see in our own hearts.

Do you believe in magic?

High Tides

Hello, summer! Can we offer you a glass of ice water–or fifty?

As I sit here applying melted chapstick in Charlotte, it’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was standing in ocean waters on a beach in Maine that were chilly enough to numb my calves. As always, returning to see family and friends in the state where I was raised is a gift and one I can’t wait to open every time the school year comes to a close.

Outside the auditorium after the presentation. Take note: crazy prints hide armpit sweat stains.

This trip was particularly special as I had the chance to do some promotion for LITTLE GALE GUMBO, and my upcoming release THE MERMAID COLLECTOR (which, like GUMBO, is also set in coastal Maine–and even bears an iconic Maine lighthouse on it’s cover that I swear I had nothing to do with–how cool is that?)

Not only did I get to attend a book club meeting that included several friends from high school, but I also shared the room with my high school English teacher who is not only a published author in her own right, but someone who was pivotal in my understanding of story structure and prose and the layering of themes. It was, as you can imagine, a very touching event for me.

There was also the chance the participate in the Portland Public Library’s wonderful series, Brown Bag Lunches, where authors get to present their work to readers. (In full fan-girl disclosure, I was there presenting LITTLE GALE GUMBO the week after Richard Ford and the week before Richard Russo–I know! Swoon, right? I melted just a little at that podium. Okay, I melted a lot. )

I also had the absolute pleasure of (finally!) getting to meet the wickedly witty and talented writer, Julia Munroe Martin, whose blog wordsxo many of you are already familiar with. We met for coffee and chatted like old friends for what seemed like ten minutes only to realize two hours later (!) that we’d only covered a fraction of all the things we meant to talk about.

In other news, I’ve started a Facebook page for THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, and I’m looking forward to it being a place where everyone can share their thoughts on the mystique and appeal of mermaids–as well as photos of them in our every day lives. (I’m looking to you, dear Josey! Didn’t you mention mermaid sculptures to me once?) I hope you all will come on over to the page and share in the fun.

Okay, enough goodies from me–How are you all keeping cool, on and off the page?

Who’s writing? Who’s reading? Who’s my hero and managing to do BOTH??

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