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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!

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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.

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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

 

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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

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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