I'm Still Here!

Friends! Hello from Birmingham! It’s been a minute since I’ve posted here on the blog, and I’m sorry for that.

**I’m going to take a quick minute to suggest you follow me on either Instagram or Facebook—I update those much more regularly than this blog, although I do want to keep you updated here as well. For better or worse, social media tends to be a quick and easy way to get information out and stay connected to everyone. I’d love to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/LaurenKDentonAuthor/

https://www.instagram.com/laurenkdentonbooks/?hl=en


Okay, now, where were we? Oh yes, there’s been a lot going on over here! Glory Road came out in March and I’ve so enjoyed hearing from readers who are really loving the story. As any good parent will say, I love each of my books the same, but this story felt extra special to me. It’s set on the red dirt road in part because my grandparents lived on a similar red dirt road for all of my childhood and it remains in my mind as one of my very favorite places. It felt removed from the rest of the world and I knew I wanted these three ladies to enjoy that same sense of peace and quiet. If you’ve read the story, I hope you enjoyed getting to know these women (and the men that come along with them)—and if you haven’t, I hope you pick it up soon!

Some highlights this spring:

Glory Road was named one of Southern Living’s 25 Beach Reads Perfect for Summer!

I wrote a little essay called Lessons I’ve Learned from my Children…(I Mean My Books)

I had a lovely release party for Glory Road in my hometown of Mobile! My sweet college roommate was the host and it was a blast seeing new and old friends and celebrating Glory Road’s entrance into the world!

My childhood bestfriend Laura, my roommate from Auburn Eleanor, and a good friend from high school Tracy.

My childhood bestfriend Laura, my roommate from Auburn Eleanor, and a good friend from high school Tracy.


I went to Atlanta the week of the release for the SIBA spring show, where booksellers from across the southeast come together to discuss books. I had the absolute pleasure of getting to know Jolina Petersheim while we tooled around Atlanta visiting bookstores and had a signing at Foxtale in Woodstock. She’s in a similar stage of life as me, although her children are younger than mine. We talked a lot about how we make writing work with our family lives and how we want our daughters to see us as moms who love them and also love writing stories.


Jolina’s newest book, Where the Light Gets In, came out just before mine did. It’s her 5th book!

Jolina’s newest book, Where the Light Gets In, came out just before mine did. It’s her 5th book!

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A beautiful crowd at Foxtale Book Shoppe!

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I’ve been meeting with local book clubs too, and Skyping (or FB chatting) with those who aren’t local. If you have a book club and you’re interested in reading one of my books and discussing it, let me know and I’ll try to make it (in person or online) if the schedule allows! I really love book clubs!

WHAT I’M READING:

I recently finished an early copy of Rachel Linden’s next novel, The Enlightenment of Bees. Rachel is another Thomas Nelson author, and I got to meet her in Seattle in January at the ALA Midwinter conference. If you like strong female protagonists, descriptions of luscious food and drink, and international stories, you need to snag this one.

I’m reading Susan Meissner’s A Fall of Marigolds and really enjoying it a lot. It’s set on Ellis Island in the early 1900s, and I’m loving seeing the inside workings of the hospitals there that helped incoming immigrants. She has several more books, including the recently released The Last Year of the War.

Over the winter and early spring I read the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. This was a case where I’d never heard of the book or the author but the cover jumped out at me. I started reading despite the fact that the subject matter—medieval Russia, in the middle of winter, with fairies, forest spirits, and winter demons—was not what I’d normally want to read. But I LOVED it. I mean, really loved it. The main female character is so strong and brave and flawed, and Arden’s writing is such a joy. Talk about flawless.

WHAT I’M WRITING

One month from today I turn in my manuscript for BOOK 4!

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention—I signed a three-book contract with Thomas Nelson, so I’ll be sticking around for a while ;)

Back to book 4. It’s set in the Bon Secour area of Gulf Shores, Alabama, in an active living community for seniors called Safe Harbor Village. Lily, a young woman whose husband has walked out, takes a hairdressing job in the Village, throwing her into the lives of the people in the community, including Rose, the cranky owner of the Village. The book is complete, but I’m still working on revisions before I turn it into my editor. Then I’ll take a mental break for the summer, then jump back in in August with book 5! Life goes on.

ODDS AND ENDS

Wednesday, April 24, I’ll be taking over the Bloom Facebook page all day, with some fun giveaways and lots of good conversation. I’d love for you to join us! You have to be a member of Bloom to participate, but don’t worry—all you have to do is click to join. it’s FREE. Areyouinbloom.com

If you’re in Birmingham or close by, I’m having a book signing at Homewood’s Little Professor, Thursday May 9, 6:00-8:00pm. I’d love to see you if you can swing by!

I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying these beautiful spring days. I’ll be back as soon as I can to let you know of new events and happenings in our world.

Love,
Lauren

*GIVEAWAY ALERT!* My Favorite Christmassy Things!

********Giveaway of GLORY ROAD advance copy is CLOSED—the WINNER is Erin, who was the very last to comment! Erin, please send your mailing address to Lauren(at)LaurenKDenton.com. Congrats!! And thank you to all those who left comments—boy, some of you have had some wild Christmas experiences! Thank you for sharing such sweet and funny stories. Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Love,

Lauren

Hi Friends! Welcome to My Christmassy Things, where twelve authors share our favorite Christmas memories and stories and YOU, dear reader, have a chance to win one of several gift cards or the *grand prize* of 12 print books—one from each of us! (And pssssst…at the very end of this post, you’ll find a separate giveaway for an advance copy of my novel GLORY ROAD that releases March 19!!)

Today is my day to share…

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Disaster isn’t exactly synonymous with the word “favorite,” is it? It’s hard to call a disaster your favorite anything (favorite terrible moment, maybe?) but in the spirit of My Favorite Christmasy Things, I’m going to tell you about my most memorable, if not favorite, Christmas disaster.

Decorating my own Christmas tree was something I was always really excited to do once I got married and had my own home. I imagined warm twinkle lights, hot chocolate, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire coming from the speakers. Maybe some snow drifting down outside. (Ha! We live in Alabama!) My husband and I lovingly hanging ornaments side by side.

And it was that way for a few (childless) years.

Well, not exactly that way. There were twinkle lights, and ornaments, and my husband was usually around somewhere. But mostly it was me hanging ornaments on the tree while watching Christmas Vacation. But still, there was always the moment when the tree and mantel were all decorated, everything sparkling and colorful. I loved seeing the ornaments we’d both accumulated over the years—crafty things we made in preschool, ornaments picked up on vacations over the years, a yellow tennis ball my childhood best friend gave me when I was ten or so, the key that Matt’s parents gave him when he bought his first home after college. Everything hanging on our tree was somehow a part of who we’d been and who were were going forward.

Once we had kids, the decorating of the Christmas tree changed. Our first child, Kate, was born in November, so that first Christmas with her remained pretty much the same as it always had been. She slept in her rocker while we/I decorated. Going forward though, and especially after her sister Sela came, decorating became a game of keep-away. Let the girls have fun and experience the joy of Christmas, but for the love, keep them away from all things breakable and covered in glitter.

Several years ago, when Sela was about two and Kate was five, I attempted to decorate the whole tree while Sela was napping and Kate was having quiet time in her room. Matt helped me wrap the tree in lights then I started in on the decorating. Box after box of childhood ornaments and a host of paper/popsicle stick/cotton ball/candy cane ornaments the girls had made. All of it out of hiding and hanging on our tree. When I was putting on the finishing touches—hanging those last awkward ornaments that didn’t have a hanger, looking for a sturdy branch for the heavy jingle bell—the tree fell over.

That’s right. Fell. Over. On the floor. Needles and sap and ornaments everywhere. I did what most people would do in that situation—I cried. Yelled. My husband came running down the stairs, wondering what in the world had happened. He lifted the tree and got it standing again and I began to assess the damage. Somehow, the painted sand dollar ornament Matt’s grandparents gave him in 1981 survived but his tiny two-year-old handprint in pottery didn’t. I think we still have that little broken hand in a drawer somewhere. I lost several ornaments I’d gotten at an annual ornament-swap party I used to go to, along with a gold star I’d always loved for no particular reason.

Once I picked up the broken pieces and attempted to hide the bent and twisted branches, I realized what had happened. As I’d been hanging ornaments, I only hung them on the three sides facing out into the room, because why put ornaments where no one will see them? It’s easy to think ornaments don’t weigh very much until you hang a tree’s worth of them on basically one half of the tree. Do that and you’ll soon have a big mess on your hands.

It’s been several years since that debacle and we’ve accumulated many more of those paper/popsicle stick/cotton ball/candy cane ornaments, as well as several more I’ve bought for the girls’ collection and a few I’ve picked up just for fun. We have plenty. But I still think about Matt’s little hand print and those fragile snowflakes that lost their arms.

Oh and we now secure the tree to the wall behind it. Pull on it and it won’t come down. No more toppling trees for us.

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Now, back to the MY FAVORITE CHRISTMASY THINGS GIVEAWAY

Be sure to visit each stop so you don’t miss the fabulous daily giveaways!

Dec 13: Ronie Kendig – My Favorite Christmas Movie

Dec 14: Jody Hedlund – My Favorite Christmas Food

Dec 15: Elizabeth Byler Younts – My Favorite Christmas Ornament

Dec 16: Beth K. Vogt – My Favorite Christmas Decoration

Dec 17: Rachel Linden – My Favorite Christmas Service

Dec 18: Courtney Walsh – My Favorite Christmas Memory

Dec 19: Rachel Hauck – My Favorite Christmas Book

Dec 20: Susan Meissner – My Favorite Christmas Vacation

Dec 21: Catherine J. West – My Favorite Christmas Gift

Enter by midnight on 12/21/18 USA Eastern time! Winners will be drawn on 12/22/18 and posted on Catherine West’s site.

Draw open to US addresses ONLY, with apologies to our international readers.

Major Prizes:

1st: All 12 Print Novels
2nd: $50 Amazon gift card and $20 Starbucks Gift Card
3rd: $50 Amazon gift card

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Now, for the GLORY ROAD ADVANCE COPY GIVEAWAY!!



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To be entered to win an ARC of GLORY ROAD, just leave a comment here on the blog and tell me YOUR favorite Christmas (or Hanukkah!) disaster. Or if you’re lucky enough to have not had any kind of holiday disaster, tell me your favorite holiday tradition. This contest ends at midnight EST on 12/23/18. (US residents only.) I’ll post the winner here!

Good luck on both contests!

Love,

Lauren

Bookish People: Colleen Oakley **Plus a Giveaway!!**

Contest closed--winner is Robin Ruiz!

This month's Bookish People interview features Colleen Oakley, author of Before I Go and Close Enough to Touch.

 

I was lucky to meet her a few months ago at The Book Exchange in Marietta, GA. She has a kindergartener and a second grader, like I do, so I'd imagine we're on the same page as far as trying to fit writing/editing/promotion in around the edges of parenting and life!

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**GIVEAWAY ALERT: To celebrate this week's paperback release of her most recent book, Close Enough to Touch, Colleen has generously offered one lucky reader a copy of the book! See details about the giveaway after her interview!**

Welcome Colleen!

1. Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

My debut, Before I Go, is about a young woman dying of breast cancer, who decides, in the time she has left, to find a new wife for her husband to take care of him after she’s gone.

My latest, Close Enough to Touch is about a woman with a rare and potentially deadly medical condition—she’s allergic to other people.

2. What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback?

Tough question! Hardest criticism is pretty much any review that pans your book in a mean way. A blogger once wrote a one-word review: “Don’t”. I understand that not every book is for everybody, but after working so hard on something, it still stings!

3. Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

I love enthusiastic fans! The best moments are always the people who are excited to meet you and love your work—it’s such a great feeling to see that something you’ve written has had such an impact on someone.

4. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

Definitely something in between. On deadline I write every day, but there’s nothing organized about me or my writing. I’m an OCD person’s worst nightmare.

5. Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?

There are so many! I have a list of book ideas that I can’t wait to tackle. As far as setting, I’d love to do a book set in Italy, just so I have the excuse to go there.

6. What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

The carpool lane picking my kids up from school. I know I’m meant to be paying attention to make sure I don’t accidentally take out any children, but it’s a long line and a book helps pass the time.

7. Tell us a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter, Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

8. Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I LOVE Taylor Jenkins Reid, but this book was a step out of her typical genre and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it when I started reading, but then I literally couldn’t put it down. It’s such a great page-turner with a fascinating— and multi-faceted— main character.

9. What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

I don’t like clichés, predictable endings or boring dialogue—three things I work really hard as a writer to try and avoid (even though I don’t always succeed!)

10. Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

Books— always print. Calendar— electronic

11. Chocolate or vanilla?

Both!

12. Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Coffee! And vodka.

13. Tell us what you’re working on now.

I’m halfway done with a book about dream telepathy— and whether true love is fated or a choice.

**To enter the giveaway for Colleen's book Close Enough to Touch, leave a comment here and tell us what you're reading now! Contest ends at 7pm CST Tuesday 8/15.

Thanks for reading and thanks Colleen for the interview and for the giveaway!

 

 

Back to School (aka the most bittersweet day of the year)

Hi friends! It's been a while. First, a little housekeeping:

It feels pretty self-serving to direct you to my Facebook page, but since you're here to see what's going on in my world, I guess it's not too much of a stretch to think you might be interested to know I post more frequently (but hopefully not enough to be annoying ;) on my author Facebook page. If you haven't stopped by there, feel free--find it here.  You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, if you're so inclined. 

What's going on with me:

My babies went back to school today!

 

As expected, I feel both relief and sorrow in equal measures. I loooove summer and really enjoyed the freedom of this summer--not having to get up and get going any any certain time, letting the kids stay up late, loose schedules, etc. But there was also the bickering. And the "I'm bored"s. So going back to school is a relief because my kids (especially my 7 year old Kate who LOVES to know the EXACT plan for the day) will have a schedule for their days and I will have time on my own. . . but I really will miss them. And my baby Sela (just turned 5 in July) is in kindergarten now, sniff sniff. I could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say, I'm a little heartbroken. 

However, my time opens up so much now--from 8 until 2:45 I am on my own, which feels like a ridiculously long amount of time, though I fear I could waste a bunch of that time if I'm not careful. I had to be so careful with my four hours a day of preschool last year, and I know i need to be on my guard to not think, "Oh, I have pleeeeenty of time for writing. I can do that later". . . and find myself at 2:45 picking the kids up with nothing to show for it. I want to make the most of my time and do the things I need/want to do, so that when I pick the kids up, I'm not still thinking of all the things I didn't do. I feel like that happened a lot last year and I was always operating with a tiny bit of frustration in the afternoons because my writing/alone time for the day was over and I left things unfinished. Sending *both* my kiddos off to big school makes me more than ever think I don't want to waste time with them feeling frustrated by things I need to do. As everyone says, kids won't notice a dirty floor or unfolded laundry (or an unfinished chapter), but they will notice a totally distracted mama. 

Speaking of writing:

Hurricane Season is mostly wrapped up and edited. Soon, I will receive page proofs--essentially the book all laid out nice and pretty for one more read-through before it goes into production. It's crazy to think I'll be doing this whole shebang again next April! (April 3, 2018! And shameless plug, you can preorder it anywhere you buy books! Here's the link to Amazon.)

After I get over the shock of this quiet house and my brain settles down, I will be hitting book 3 hard! I have a very rough draft of it already written, but it needs a lot of work. I'm excited about it but also slightly terrified. There's this feeling of, "I know I've done this before (twice now) but what if I just can't make it happen again?!" But I trust that I can. 

Events coming up:

I am meeting with various book clubs this fall--some in person, some over Skype--to discuss The Hideaway. I'll also be in Greenville, SC, on August 28 at M. Judson Booksellers. I'm part of their event called Page Pairings, which pairs books with wine--not sure how they do that, but I'm all for it! I know of one author who's going to be there, Joy Callaway, and I'm so excited to finally meet her in person. 

I'll also be in Baton Rouge, LA, October 28 for the Louisiana Book Festival. There are a ton of awesome authors coming, so if you're anywhere near Baton Rouge, come check it out. 

What I'm reading:

First Frost is the sequel to Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, Garden Spells. If you've never read anything in the magical realism genre, this is it. It's not super magical, a la Harry Potter, but it's our normal, everyday world with small touches of magic/mystery thrown in. I love it. And I'm loving this book. It's delicious. 

On my list to read next (ish):

Ann Kidd Taylor is the daughter of Sue Monk Kidd, also known as the author of one of my very favorite books, The Secret Life of Bees, which was the book that made me think, "Maybe I want to try my hand at this fiction writing thing." I admit I checked the book out just because of who her mom is, but the story is really intriguing and I'm hearing good things about it. 

This is another WWII novel, but different in that it's not set in Europe. A woman learns her Jewish father was a sergeant in charge of a platoon of black soldiers in 1940s Alabama. 

 

That's about it from me. I'm going to keep myself busy for the next hour before I run out the door and dash down the street to meet my kiddos at school pick-up. Never have I wanted 3:00 to get here more than today! After today, I probably won't feel as out of sorts (and that fresh new Word document will start calling my name) but today I can't wait to see their faces!

Good luck with school if that's your thing. If not, enjoy the rest of your summer!

Lauren

Bookish People: M.O. Walsh

Y'all, forgive me. It's been a while since I've posted a Bookish People interview, but I'm back with a good one! 

Those of you who know my husband know he's a runner. In the last several years, he's concentrated his running on mountains and trails, which makes me happy because there are no cars or angry drivers to deal with. A few years ago, I traveled with him to the far reaches of Tennessee for a weekend stage-race at a horse farm. Not being a runner, I came supplied with a good book and my computer with the idea that I'd get some writing done. However, I didn't even crack the computer open because I spent the entire weekend sitting in a fold-out chair with my nose in M.O. Walsh's debut novel My Sunshine Away. It wasn't an easy breezy read--it was gritty and dark and at times painful, but it also had a strong sense of nostalgia for easier days of childhood, plus unexpected sweetness and love. Walsh is so skilled with words and creating a sense of place--so much so that it carried me away from the heat and the strange bugs and the scary little roadside motel we stayed in. I really enjoyed it, so consider this my endorsement. (*Note if you're a sensitive reader--like I said, there are some gritty, painful parts.)

I'm really excited to feature M.O. on Bookish People! And his is a fantastic interview. I laughed and nodded as I read through his answers. (It always makes authors feel better about themselves to hear another author talk about his or her struggles with writing! It's self-serving, but it's the truth. Or maybe it's just my truth.) Anyway, I hope you enjoy the interview then check out his books. I'm already excited about his next one. 

 

1. Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

My first book is a collection of short stories called The Prospect of Magic, which is about what happens when a travelling carnival goes bust in a small Louisiana town and the carnival workers decide to make a home there.  The stories are kind of strange, halfway split between realism and a type of magical realism. As a note, I consider the story about a family of bat people to be realism. My most recent book is a novel entitled My Sunshine Away, which is a sort of coming of age literary suspense set in suburban Baton Rouge, mainly in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

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2. What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback?

I had a 6th grade teacher once send me an email to tell me that she loved my novel but she thought I should go back to sixth grade before I ever wrote another one.  She was of the opinion that I (and all my editors and copyeditors, I suppose) don’t understand proper grammar.  I think the fact the novel is written in first person, and follows more colloquial speech patterns, was an unsatisfactory answer to a person who has spent their life teaching the rules. I get that. Plus, I never take that sort of criticism too seriously. After all, no one could be as harsh to me in an email as I am to myself on a daily basis.

The best criticism has come from the dozens of teachers and peers I’ve had throughout my many years of schooling and writing.  This advice typically tends to be about clarity, about making sure that readers can see the simple things you are describing before worrying about being pretty or smart. It’s important to remember that and I sometimes need to be reminded. Clarity. Clarity. Clarity.

3. Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

I had a reading at book festival where I walked in and saw about 10 people already there waiting (which is a great number!). I was pretty psyched. Plus, my family had come with me so all in all there were about 15 people.  Then, when I got introduced, the people who had been waiting started to look confused. They shuffled around to find their programs and all, simultaneously, it seemed, realized they were in the wrong room. After they politely filed out, one by one, I realized it was just me and my family in there. Since they had all heard me read from that same book many times, I begged them to let me take them to lunch instead.  However, like the loving family they are, they asked me to continue.  I think they were hoping more people would show up, which they did not. I don’t know. I couldn’t help feeling guilty that they’d gotten out of their pj’s for that.   

The best moments are typically those in which anybody shows up at all, in which you meet other writers and booksellers, perhaps see an old friend who now lives in that town you’ve travelled to.  A store called Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas once made a gumbo dinner for my reading, which was awesome.  When I read at Lemuria in Jackson, where my grandparents used to live before they passed away, one of my grandmother’s dearest friends showed up and gave me a photo album full of pictures of them with my grandparents. Playing golf. Smiling. Being together in life. That sort of thing, any unexpected moment of connection, is hard to beat.

4. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

I write best in the early mornings, before I’ve let the real world bat me around.  However, these days, with a family and young kids and a full-time job, I pretty much have to steal my writing time. I don’t have any rituals or superstitions about it.  I typically just look at the screen and think, why is this not as good as I want it to be?  

5. Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?

My first two books are set in Louisiana, as is the one I’m working on now. I think my next one, if I’m lucky enough to write it, will be, as well.  I’ve lived here for most of my life and feel, when you’re writing fiction, it’s sometimes best to play to your strengths. I know what the houses look like here. I know which trees dot the medians.  I know the heat.  That helps.

6. What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

Does the bathroom count?

7. Tell us a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

I think Miss Jane, by Brad Watson, is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read in years.  I also really enjoyed Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.  That book was a lot of fun. I also thought Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was incredible and I learned a great deal about slow burning suspense from Megan Abbott’s novel You Will Know Me. As far as older books I finally got around to reading, the ones that most blew me away were The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I can also remember finishing Jess Walter’s novel Beautiful Ruins and thinking, damn, I wish I could write like that.

8. Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

I liked The Martian by Andy Weir a good deal more than I thought I would.  I don’t read a ton of sci fi, but that wasn’t what surprised me about it.  What surprised me was the great pleasure I get, as a reader, out of watching problem-solving in novels.  That book has a new problem every page, it seems, that we witness the narrator solve in surprising and inventive ways.  I think that’s what all fiction ultimately does, present problems and try to solve them unexpectedly, but this book was like dosing that feeling with steroids. 

9. What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

I have way too many to list.  The verb “pad” instead of walk. Errors in agency, like when a person’s hands feel greedy or jealous (which hands obviously can’t do).  Eyes flashing. Mouths gaping. People having “frames” instead of bodies. I think most writers have these sort of pet peeves.  They are the by-product of the hundreds of hours we spend berating ourselves about out our own prose. It doesn’t mean the other person’s writing is bad.  It means that we have convinced ourselves that we are bad writers when we write that way.  So, to see other people do it and get away with it just sets off a sort of petty sounding bell in our ear.

10. Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

Books: print or audio.  Calendar: about 5 different ones on 5 different platforms that are inevitable un-synched.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?

Swirl.

12. Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Coffee if writing. Bourbon if not.

13. Tell us what you’re working on now.

I am working on a novel about what happens to a fictional town in Louisiana when a machine shows up at the grocery store that is able to predict, through the science of DNA, what people are truly capable of achieving.  It is called The Big Door Prize and is slated for publication by Putnam in 2021. I imagine that seems like a long time from now to anyone who doesn’t actually have to finish the novel.  To me, it feels like it is due tomorrow.

You can find M.O. on Twitter, Facebook, or on his website

Thank you M.O. and thank you for reading!

Bookish People--Judy Fogarty

I'm so excited to have Judy Fogarty here for this month's (late--sorry!) Bookish People interview. If you remember, she wrote the book Breaking and Holding that I reviewed a few weeks ago and loved so much. It has a great mix of heavy and light--dysfunctional marriage, addiction, secrets, and abuse plus a sweet romance, friendship, longing and hope. And some tennis! 

 

Judy was kind enough to do the Q&A with us, despite a nasty bout of pneumonia and her own deadlines and time commitments. Thanks Judy!

1. Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

Set in 1978, Breaking and Holding is a story of deception, betrayal and love that can't let go. It begins when Patricia Curren, searching for the courage to end her desolate marriage to a controlling husband, spends a summer alone on Kiawah Island. There she takes a tennis lesson from collegiate player Terry Sloan and a physical attraction begins a slow burn to obsession. What gives the novel its edge is the presence and perspective of career-driven Lynn Hewitt. As Patricia's closest friend and her husband's assistant, Lynn is trapped in the middle, trying to protect everyone from life-shattering consequences.

 

2. What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback? 

Throughout countless revisions, my writing group posed one elemental question I had trouble answering: Whose story is this? I had Patricia and Terry and their story of unshakeable love, but I also had first-person narrator, Lynn, in a Nick Carraway role. I wrote 15 beginnings trying to clarify her role before finding the simple lines that open the novel today. The final line, which now seems equally obvious, didn't come to me until the proofreading stage and barely made it into print.

3. Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

At my launch party in my native Savannah, Georgia, people I hadn't seen in years turned out to buy my novel. Many, I'm sure, didn't know its elements: an illicit love affair, a hot steamy summer at the beach, and the Me Decade of the 1970s ("If it feels good, do it!") At one point, I looked up from my table and saw a contingent of octogenarians, including my elementary school librarian, my childhood ballet teacher, and my sweet neighbor hobbling on two canes to buy ten copies. All of them are dear to my heart. And I'm still wondering what each of them thought!

4. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

I'm an orderly lark, at my best in the morning. I wake daily at 4:00 without an alarm and write until life demands otherwise or I hit the wall. I love the quiet of the morning, the darkness outside and the moment when the first bird sings. Apart from schedule though, I'm a total mess, with an office, desk, bulletin board and countless laptop files to prove it.

5. Is there a topic/theme/setting you're particularly interested in that you'd like to write about in a future book?

Breaking and Holding was somewhat dark. My second novel is darker. So, craving something light and aspiring high, I'd like to discover my Nora Ephron side.

6. What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

Never to church or a sports event, but to every other place you can think of.

7. Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

Paulette Giles had me at page one of News of the World, and held me all the way with her poetic prose, voice, scene setting, dialogue, meticulous but unobtrusive historical detail, and most of all, with her story. I didn't read. I rode with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and ten-year-old Johanna, from Wichita Falls to San Antonio. I would say much the same thing of Elizabeth Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton. I didn't read. I listened to Lucy, lying in a hospital bed, conversing with her mother for the first time in years about their relationship and her childhood of poverty, abuse, shame and separateness. I loved Lucy's wisdom and her exuberant appreciation of small kindnesses, all related in her distinctive voice and Strout's spare, resonant prose.

8. Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

My go-to genre is literary fiction, but I'm trying to read more of what I write: commercial women's fiction with a literary bent. I wasn't expecting to love Big Little Lies, my first Liane Moriarty novel, but I did, for its wittiness, edge and brisk pace coupled with important issues of domestic abuse, bullying and facets of marriage, parenting, and divorce.

9. What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

Pedestrian prose or voice, even in a well-plotted page-turner. If the prose isn't rich, quirky or original, or if the voice is flat, I have a hard time going on.

10. Books: print or e-reader?

Both. I like the feel of a book in my hand and the sight of books on my shelves or in one of many stacks you'll find around my house. They're like art—colorful, meaningful, valuable. But I love the immediacy of downloading to my Kindle when I hear about a new book and just can't wait.

11. Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

Electronic only, though I do have a wall calendar with inspiring daily quotes.

12. Chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate. Especially dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.

13. Coffee or tea?

Starbucks Sumatra, always with half and half.

14. Tell us what you’re working on now.

A novel that takes place over 30 days, between two full moons, the second of which is a blood moon. Set in present-day on the Isle of Hope in Savannah, it's a relationship story with strong elements of suspense. The widowed protagonist's son, four-year-old Zach, is an absolute joy to write.

You can find Judy on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.  

Thanks Judy and thank you for reading!

Bookish People--Emily Carpenter

It's been a while, guys! I'll update on life and books very soon, but today is the next installment of the Bookish People interviews. I'm excited to feature Emily Carpenter, author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls (available here!), a Southern Gothic romp full of suspense, secrets, and mysteries. Much of the book takes place in the Mobile area and Birmingham, my two homes, so it was especially fun for me!

1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls is a southern gothic suspense novel set in Alabama and The Weight of Lies is…a southern gothic suspense novel set in Georgia. They don’t sound different but I promise they actually are!

2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.
Somebody called Honeysuckle Girls misogynistic and said I must hate men, because the villains happened to be men. That stung because I was trying to tell a very particular story that did involve abuse—and trying to be unflinching about it. I never thought someone would think I approved of the abuse, so that was disappointing. But it’s part of being an author. Sometimes you’re misunderstood.

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
This isn’t funny really, but it is the best. For my launch party, my sister made all the food. And she did this incredible centerpiece modeled after something from the book—an old cigar box with all these clues passed down from generations that Althea uses to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. It was fabulous. Made me cry.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
It’s generally pretty orderly. I’m a creature of routine, and I typically like to write while my kids are in school, after I’ve done some sort of exercise. But I do love those moments at home, over the weekend, when I happen to have some time and everybody is otherwise occupied, and I can just hang out on the sofa and pound out some words. Those have ended up being some of my most productive times.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
I’d really love to do a ghost story one day. Really, really, really. Set in a spooky house. I’m obsessed with spooky houses.

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
I think I probably smuggled a book into church a time or two when I was a kid.

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
Kate Moretti’s The Vanishing Year and Becky Albertalli’s forthcoming The Upside of Unrequited. Two books that are vastly different but both fantastic.

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.
I had no idea I was going to love the Twilight books the way I did. I mean, I don’t consider myself a literary snob or anything, but a YA vampire book? I thought I was going to be hate-reading it or something, you know, like oh, this silly book that everybody likes…. As it turned out, I was ridiculously into every one of them. I cried on a plane reading one of them because apparently obsessive love really speaks to me. Also, gorgeous, self-sacrificing vampires.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
In his craft book Thrill Me, Benjamin Percy calls it “feckless pondering.” In his words, “momentum killing emotional fuss.” Readers absolutely need to understand adequate backstory and some of the main character’s inner thoughts, but it has to be employed strategically. If there’s too much stopping so the main character can ponder, I can’t get into the swing of the story, and I’ll put the book down. I’m getting more conscious of it in my own writing too. I think it takes a lot of skill to boil down the necessary information that a reader needs to just the right amount. It’s much easier to go on for paragraphs, explaining how everybody thinks and feels. But it’s deadly.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
I prefer print book, but I do read a lot of e-books. They’re just so convenient, easy to access in a pinch. I’m back to a paper calendar and I love it.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate all the way.

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?
Grande two-pump mocha no-whip from Starbucks. Dark roast Community coffee on my Keurig at home.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.
Another southern gothic suspense novel, this one set at a couples’ therapy retreat up in the north Georgia mountains where nothing is as it seems. 

You can find Emily on all the usual social media spots and on her website here

Thanks Emily for playing and thank YOU for reading!

My first Bookish People interview!

I told you I wanted to try something new, and today's the day! This will be a series of interviews, hopefully coming about once a month. I've come up with a list of questions I think are interesting, but if you have an idea of something you'd like to ask the featured writers and readers, feel free to let me know in the comments. (Which are turned on now, by the way. Just in case you've tried to comment in the past and haven't been able to.) I'm calling the series "Bookish People" because they won't all be writers, but likely all will be readers, and I think "bookish" covers everyone pretty nicely!

So, without further explanation, please meet my first featured guest, author *and* reader Carla Jean Whitley! 

1. Give us a quick overview of the books you've written.
I'm the author of "Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City" and "Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How the Swampers Changed American Music." In other words, I'm interested in history unlike that you've seen in your textbooks! 

2. What's the hardest or best criticism you've received, either after your books were published or as you were editing, revising, and getting feedback.
Even a very good editor needs an editor. A reader noticed I wrote "Buffalo Springsteen" instead of "Buffalo Springfield" in my first book. Oops. Don't worry, I requested a correction in subsequent printings.

3. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night gimme-a-piece-of-paper-now? Or something in between?
When I'm in the midst of a book project, I have to set aside daily time or else I won't meet my deadline. I typically wrote an hour or two each evening and seven hours a day on weekends. I work a full-time and several part-time jobs, as well, so this meant lots of planning! Typically, I would take an hour away from any screens or work obligations when I got home from the day's activities. That would leave me at least partly refreshed and ready to write.

4. From what I understand, your publisher came to you and asked you to write your first two books. If you could choose the topic of your next book, what would you most like to write about?
That's true, but I had some say in both cases. Beer and music are both topics I've written about a lot in the past, and so it was fun to delve into them more deeply through these projects.
However, you're also right to think I might do something a little different next time. My passion is telling people's stories. Both of these histories touched on that, but each individual's role was portrayed in necessarily short glimpses. I'd like to dive deeply into a single person's compelling narrative.

5. Because I know you are a *major* reader, what's the strangest/most inappropriate place you've ever brought a book? (For example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc)
Are there inappropriate places to read? Really?! Growing up, my sisters and I were often allowed to bring books to restaurants. I am all too acquainted with the act of reading in the bathroom. But perhaps the incident most people found surprising was when I read John Green's "Paper Towns" during a Stevie Wonder concert. (You can find the full story at carlajeanwhitley.com.)

6. Tell me a few recent books you've read that you really liked.
Have you read any of Brad Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World series? I encountered these while researching children's books that deal with Alabama history, and I adore them. Meltzer, who also writes adult thrillers, profiles historical characters and emphasizes how we all can make a difference. The books are easy to read, accessible and include resources for additional learning. I want them all! 

7. Can you name a book you liked that you didn't think you would--maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn't think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren't used to reading.
Short story collections rarely resonate with me, but I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Ellis' "American Housewife." The collection started with a series of tweets, and the resulting stories are hilarious.

8. What are your pet peeve as a reader--something you read in books that really bugs you? (For example, one of my reading pet peeves is when someone misspells y'all. Especially if it's a southern author!)
I'm with you on the incorrect punctuation of y'all--it leaves me batty! I have put down books before when author misused semicolons. I'm not kidding; I feel strongly about this punctuation mark, and I recently got it tattooed on my right wrist. There are several layers of meaning, but for me, it started with this pet peeve.
My latest pet peeve, though, is an overuse of -ing words. My students and I have discussed this at length this semester, and I'm guilty. Now I can't help but see the same in others' writing!

9. Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
Today I updated my e-reader with a couple of library books. But truly, I'm a print person; today I also bought seven books at my favorite used bookstore, McKay in Nashville. As a professional, I'm platform agnostic, but personally, print please. The same goes for calendars. I tried going digital for a few years, but it never felt right.

10. Chocolate or vanilla? 
Vanilla. 100 percent.

11. Coffee or tea? Or something else?
I'm a coffee addict! But many people are surprised that I average a cup-and-a-half a day. I guess I express my feelings so strongly that people expect I drink pots at a time. I also love herbal tea, though, and could go for a cup right now.

12. Tell me what you're working on now. 
Besides the aforementioned cup of tea? I'm not in the midst of a big writing project. Rather, I'm trying to create wider margins so I might be better attuned when the next big story comes along. Because I keep so many balls in the air and I'm a people pleaser, I'm prone to focusing on obligations rather than my dreams. I want to not only dream more, but also chase those pursuits.

You can find Carla Jean on all of the major social media hangouts and her website

Thanks Carla Jean and thank you for reading! 

 

Going to try something new...

I used to read a lot of blogs. I mean, A LOT. It was back when I worked full-time, and now that I think about it, it's kind of funny to me that I had WAY more time to read blogs when I had a full-time job than when I lost my job and came home. I had a list of blogs as long as my arm and checked each of them daily. Once I had kids and stayed home, not to mention started this book-writing thing, my time to read blogs spiraled downwards. These days, my "downtime" is limited so I have to be careful about the ones I do read. And I choose blogs that are either extra funny, entertaining, encouraging, or informative. I wonder how my little blog ranks on those criteria??? 

I've been thinking about what to do with this blog--how to make it worth your while to come here and check things out. One thing I love on other blogs I read is when the blogger interviews other people. Most of the blogs I read are reading or writing related, so those interviews tend to be with authors and readers. And if you're reading this blog, it likely means you know I have a book coming out soon (April! And another one coming the next April!) and you are probably at least somewhat interested in books and writers. (Or maybe you're just interested in me, and that's okay too!) 

My point is, I'm thinking of including some interviews with bookish/writerly people here. I love interesting questions, not just the run-of-the-mill "When did you start writing?" and "How did you come up with your idea?" If you'd be interested in interviews/highlights like this, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Or if there are specific questions you'd like me to ask future interviewees, let me know that too. 

I think this could be fun! 

Hope y'all have a great weekend.