BOOKISH PEOPLE!

Hey, hey, two blog posts in less than a week, whaaaaat?! Must be the holiday spirit ;)

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a Bookish People interview, so I’m really excited to let y’all in on this one. If you follow me on Instagram or FB, you saw the cover reveal of my friend Rachel Linden’s third novel, releasing next year, THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF BEES, and today you’ll get a chance to get to know her a little better! I’m excited to officially meet her in person in January when we’ll both be at the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter conference.

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Here’s her interview…

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

I write women’s fiction novels about hope, courage and connection. All my stories feature strong female protagonists facing big life challenges, exotic international or Pacific Northwest settings, and social justice themes woven throughout.

Ascension of Larks is about a documentary photographer who loses the only man she’s ever loved and must embrace an unexpected life on remote San Juan Island. Becoming the Talbot Sisters details estranged twin sisters learning to be every day brave on an unexpected journey across Central Europe as they face issues like infertility, surrogacy and sex trafficking. The Enlightenment of Bees, (available July 2019) is the story of an idealistic Seattle baker. When her carefully planned life crumbles, she embarks on an international humanitarian trip to find her place in the world. It explores the sweet spot in life where our passions meet the world’s great need.

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 studied writing and literature for a semester at Oxford and my tutor Nigel, a brilliant, eccentric poet who wore felt slippers with curled up toes, gave me the best criticism. He told me a piece I wrote was technically adequate, but that he could tell I hadn’t put my heart and soul into it. “Storm yourself!” he urged me. “Stir up those deep passions in your soul and put more of your inner self on the page.” That was the best criticism/advice I’ve ever received! Now I try hard to really engage my own heart and soul in the stories I write. Thanks, Nigel!

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

I totally forgot my grown up nude high heels for my first ever TV interview! I was just wearing some normal brown leather walking flats. I tucked my feet under the couch and hoped the camera couldn’t see them!

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 have a toddler and preschooler, so my process is a bit harried and erratic. I brainstorm while doing normal life stuff –laundry and making mac-n-cheese - then buckle down and write like a fiend when I have a quiet hour or two. I’d describe my current process as a mixture of panic, sheer determination, and brisk efficiency!

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

I’m always fascinated by relational connection versus isolation and how we build a sense of place in the world and a sense of home. I’ve got a new story percolating about the strong bond between a grieving mother and her deceased child and about grace and forgiveness.

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

Oh you name it. Growing up I always had a book or two or four in my bag. Always. Weddings. Church potlucks. A blind date. I learned to wash dishes while reading a book! I am a true book nerd.

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

The Great Alone by fellow Pacific Northwest author Kristin Hannah. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall.

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.

 One of my favorite books this year was The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs. I expected a memoir about a young mother dying of stage 4 breast cancer to be terribly depressing, but Riggs’ philosophical bent, dark humor, and tender observations about life made it a remarkable book about how to live fully. I adored it! Also I finished it sobbing at 1 in the morning on my birthday. So readers, be warned!

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

I love details, those specifics that give a story a sense of place. Since I’ve lived abroad and traveled so much, I struggle if an author doesn’t give a well-rounded and authentic sense of place, especially if it seems like they haven’t been somewhere they’re writing about. I find it hard to really engage with the story. And it’s difficult as an author not to read other books with an editorial eye. If I find I’m editing sentences in a book I usually lay it aside and find a story that fully engages me as a reader and suspends that editorial side of me! I also want the books I read to affirming the value of this life in some way. I want to come away from each book enlightened, encouraged or at least entertained. If not, I feel cheated!

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

I love the tactile nature of real paper pages but since I lived in Europe for years, my faithful old first generation Kindle became my best book buddy! I could download books from the Seattle Public Library and it was my literary lifeline. I love the convenience of Kindle for travel too. As for a calendar…I use a hopelessly messy paper calendar shared by the entire family. Not the most effective method probably!

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?

I’m firmly in the chocolate camp! Preferably dark and European. Vanilla tastes like eating cold air to me, like eating nothing!

12. Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Bubbly water. I lived in Budapest for 5 years and Hungarians LOVE their sparkling water. Now I crave it.

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

I’m finishing up edits for The Enlightenment of Bees and starting to plot book #4. I’m really excited about this one. It’s set on an island in the Pacific Northwest, but there’s a unique twist to the story!

To connect with Rachel, find her on her website, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

 

Release Week! And a Facebook Live Chat!

Hi friends, today is the day-before-the-big-one! Although it's funny to even say that--tomorrow won't necessarily feel like a big day because not much is happening (other than people finding my book (my book!) on their doorstep). I'll take the kids to school, probably go for a walk, and swing by a bookstore to check out HURRICANE SEASON on the shelf. The kids will come home and it'll be business as usual. But I'll have a second book out in the world! The magnitude of that is not lost on me. I still feel like such a new author, like THE HIDEAWAY is still fresh in the world, yet here's another one coming along. I love this story, love these new characters, and I'm so excited for people to be able to read about their world. I really hope you love them as much as I do!

As far as I know, I will be doing a FACEBOOK LIVE event tomorrow night (Tuesday 4/3) at 7pm CST on my author page.  It'll be a chance for us to chat about whatever you want--any questions you have about either THE HIDEAWAY or HURRICANE SEASON, anything about books or writing or publishing or how ready we are for summer! I'll talk more about HURRICANE SEASON, my inspiration for the story, and what got me interested in writing a book set on a dairy farm! I'd love for you to stop in if you can. If you go onto my author page tomorrow at 7, you should be able to see me chatting away!

If you're not following me on Instagram or Facebook, that's where I've been posting a lot of goodies like behind-the-scene Pinterest boards and quotes from the new book. I'll be listing some giveaways soon too! But don't worry, if you're not a social media person, I'll post about giveaways here too. (If you do want to follow me, click the links above or click the FB or IG buttons at the bottom of the page.)

What I'm Reading

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I recently finished two really good books, News of the World and The Hidden Light of Northern Fires. It was interesting to read them back to back. Hidden Light takes place in a small town in New York (actually a town that seceded from the Union, despite being so far North) during the Civil War and News of the World takes place during Reconstruction, although this time in Texas. Both have a type of outlaws--Hidden Light has bounty hunters looking for runaway slaves and News has Indians and a wave of ruthless cowboys in a basically lawless land. I really enjoyed both stories. 

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I stumbled on Anne Morrow Lindbergh's The Gift from the Sea in a used bookstore in Bryson City, NC, on our spring break. I've been wanting the book for a while and was so pleased to find it. Now I have to decide if i'm going to start it now or wait until I'm farther south near the water. 

LAUNCH PARTY

We're putting finishing touches on the launch party for HURRICANE SEASON! It'll be this Saturday, April 7 (also known as TRP's birthday ;) at Little Professor Book Center in downtown Homewood. 6-8pm. If you're anywhere close by, I'd love to see you! 

I'll be updating my EVENTS page very soon with new book signings and appearances (including Page and Palette in June!) so check back in!

Hope to "see" you tomorrow night on FB Live and/or at the party Saturday night! Have a great week!

 

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!

Bookish People--Ella Joy Olsen

It's the second edition of the Bookish People interviews, and today I'm featuring author Ella Joy Olsen. Ella and I were matched as critique partners through WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association). She read The Hideaway for me and I had the privilege of reading her second book that will be published next year. Her debut, Root, Petal, Thorn, is out now (and available here!) Check it out if you love a blend of contemporary and historical fiction and old houses filled with heaps of history. 

 

1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
A quick summary of my debut, Root, Petal, Thorn is: The braided stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century –love, heartbreak, and courage entwine each woman, and each generation, to the next.

My sophomore book Where the Sweet Bird Sings will be published in September 2017. The teaser is: Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt Emma to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Is it blood? Or is it love?

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.
After processing the thoughtful feedback from a critique partner, I realized I have to keep my characters out of their own heads. Sometimes they (meaning I) spend too much time explaining why they are upset, sad, happy (and so on). The reader should be able to figure these things out if the rest of the story is told well.

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
I have a stalker who shows up to all of my events. He’s actually a nice old-ish guy and has a fair amount of time on his hands, apparently, because he goes to the readings of many local authors. The creepy thing is that he tags himself in all of my event photos on Facebook. I’ve had to change my settings.

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?
When I’m actively creating a story I write my best stuff between about 6:00am and 10:00am. After those frenzied hours I can still work on editing, playing with language, and social media because it doesn’t require so much brainpower. I plan the days I’m going to write based on a weekly schedule and try to stick with it.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
Dreaming of new book ideas is one of my favorite things! Every idea at conception is so perfect and lovely. A new one I’m toying with is set in the Gilded Age in NYC when scientific exploration was occurring at a rapid clip via the American Museum of Natural History. Science and conspicuous consumption all in one story.

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
Until I had a Kindle (with backlight) I spent many pre-dawn hours in hotel bathrooms reading. I’m not a great sleeper so on family vacations I’d sneak into the bathroom, flip on the light, and read propped against the bathtub for hours.

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
I’m trying to read as many books as I can by my writing buddies. Last month I finished The Memory of Us by Camille DiMaio, Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White, Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner, Sweet Carolina Morning by Susan Schild, Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti. I am surrounded by talent. I loved them all!

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 book club read In Love and War, a memoir written by Admiral James Stockdale about his time as a POW during Vietnam. It was long, detail jammed, and written in the 1980s, so the style of writing was a little antiquated…but after getting into the story, it was fantastic and illustrated a time/political climate I knew little about. I’d read about the protests during the Vietnam War, of course, but this was written by one of the soldiers who believed solidly in country and duty.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
I’m a pretty forgiving reader and look to find something I love in every book that I read. I guess I’ll give up on a book if the characters act too often in ways that defy logic, meaning their responses are too extreme, or not justified. I also don’t love a bunch of preaching/religion in a book.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
I always have both a print book and an e-reader and an audio book going at the same time. I love the feel of print, the backlighting of an e-reader, the multitasking option of audio. Calendar: paper. Hands down.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?
I feel like I’m not an either/or kind of girl. Both.

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?
Again, both. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.
Currently I am taking time to “fill the well”. My debut published at the beginning of September and right after that I worked long hours on content edits for Sweet Bird. I need a little time to cross a few things off my real-life list, including Christmas prep and planning a family vacation. I’m also taking time to read like crazy. However, my brain is constantly churning through new story ideas. I’ll be eager to write fresh words after the New Year.

You can find Ella on all the major social media hangouts and at her website

Thanks to Ella and to 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.