Current Giveaways!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon Giveaway!

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This is my first time to participate in the 24 Hour Read-a-thon, this Saturday! I am very excited and have already selected my read: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman.  It’s a book that I’m reviewing for Book-alicious Mama, and I haven’t been able to read it until now.  I love the cover and title, and the synopsis is equally as great! I have read great reviews for it and look forward to reading it this Saturday.

I’m also very excited to offer my first International Giveaway!!  If you don’t live in the US or Canada, then you will want to participate in this giveaway!

 

My gift is:Click on the picture for synopsis.

This book will be part of the hourly giveaways, so you won’t want to miss it! For a list of the giveaways, click here.

I hope you will stop by and post comments here to encourage me on my reading.  I won’t be able to read for the full 24 hours, as I already committed to spending the day with my daughter and her friend.  My daughter and I will be taking some pictures that morning, in a pumpkin patch.  Then, we are going to a quaint tearoom for lunch, followed by watching a ballet!! We are seeing Sleeping Beauty, and we can’t wait!!

Don’t forget, I have a giveaway this month that is for US residents! Click here for more information.

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Win an Autographed Copy of John Searles’ Book: Help for the Haunted

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Every once in awhile, I read a book that is so powerful and electrifying, that I have to tell everyone about it.  Last year, it was Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker. I could not get enough of Robert’s book, that I scoured the internet for days to search for anything related to the case.  I still follow the case pretty closely, and stay updated on FB pages of the victim’s family.  It’s a powerful book, and Robert does a fantastic job of putting together a storyline with fragments of information he has.  He also did an extensive amount of research, interviewing people related to the case, and is a book that I always recommend to readers.

This year, the book that has been most impactful and had a profound effect on me, is John Searles’ book: Help for the Haunted.  I wrote a review about the book, back in July, for TLC Book Tours.  You can read my review here.  Since then, John Searles and I have tweeted back and forth, and emailed one another.  He is a really great guy, behind a fantastic book, and wanted to share some love with all of you!! He gave me 2 autographed books for you all, one of which I plan to give this month! I’m holding on to the other autographed book for a big hop I will join, along with other bloggers, at the end of the year.  So, be on the look out for that one, as you can sign up for a whole lot of giveaways at my blog and others, too.

So, why do I love this book so much? I get asked that a lot!  I even recommended this book to my oldest son, who is studying Creative Writing at his university.  So, yes, I get asked…”why this one?”.  I rarely recommend a book to son because of our different tastes in genres.  However, what I love most about this book is it’s ability to transcend over many genres.  While it’s listed as Contemporary Fiction, it can easily be considered YA (the main character is a young girl), Mystery/Thriller (because there are lots of scary moments in it), Historical Fiction (lots of references to a different era), and even Christian fiction (because of the religious themes throughout the book).

I laughed during parts of this book, cried a lot, and there were times I was quite scared!  It’s a book that will definitely take you on a roller coaster!!  Some people may get offended by the book, but I hope that people will see the silver linings throughout the storyline.  I know I did.

Follow John Searles

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Giveaway Details:

+In the comment section below, include your name, email address, which format you are following John Searles and your username (each way you follow earns you an extra entry).

+Also, answer the following question:

                              What interests you most about Help for the Haunted?

+One random winner will be chosen.

+Due to postage costs, only US entries accepted.

+The winner will be contacted via email, and will have 24 hours to respond.

+If the winner doesn’t respond, another winner will be selected.

Giveaway ends: October 31, 2014.

In the comment section below

Where Are You?

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This is the question that I have been asked the most, by my fellow blogger friends and online followers: Where are you???

I know….I should have checked in.  Reading is my passion and blogging is a natural extension of what I love.  However, my teenage sons are quite adamant that I keep their personal lives away from my blog and social media.  Although, I do post little snippets of them on FB ;)

So, how do I balance maintaining their privacy and keeping my blog relevant to what my life encompasses, besides books?

I’ve thought of having more book giveaways, as a thank you to all of you for following my humble, small blog.  I’ve also thought of having a “Topic” day post throughout the week, but I don’t want my first love to become second: blogging before books.

I’ve even thought of just following some of the great blogs I follow and piggy backing off their topic days, too.

On top of what to do with my blog, it is quite difficult managing all the different social media platforms, supporting my fellow bloggers and authors I love, being relevant, and promoting books that I love!  I realize I can’t do it all, and mind you-this is a “hobby blog”, meaning I don’t get paid and I certainly don’t receive revenues on any links or ads.

I primarily cross-post on Twitter and FB, but do use Pinterest, Bloglovin’, Google+, etc.  However, many of those have taken a back seat.  I just can’t manage that all, with the amount of time I have.

BUT- I LOVE BOOKS!!  The reason why I created this blog was because I wanted a place to share great books with readers, and connect authors with readers.  I  love and follow many blogs,  have met wonderful bloggers (who have become great friends), and I enjoy reading about their daily adventures, their non-bookish topics, and anything else they want to share: especially giveaways! I’m a follower of blogs, just like you!! Yes, I love free books, too!!

So, I have decided to keep this blog as I first intended: book reviews, books listed by genres (on my side bar) so that readers can click on a genre they love and choose their next great read, and continue to promote authors and their work.

I’ll leave all the other great topics and ideas to my fellow bloggers, who are already doing a great job!  One more blogger doing the same or choosing not to, won’t alter the universe, won’t make my blog any less relevant, and all will be okay!

To give you a huge thanks for following my little blog, I am offering a book giveaway!  Thanks for understanding that when I’m not posting a book review, giveaway, or author/book promotion, it’s because I’m just being a mom of 3 and taking care of my household.  You can follow me on Twitter or FB to see some of my family pics and read some of my crazy comments and posts that are not always book related, or my FB page, where I love to post free Nook books-because let’s face it…Kindle and Amazon get lots of attention already!

Just know…even when I’m not visible on my blog, I am still reading!

 Simply enter your name, email address, and answer this question:

What’s one non-book thing you enjoy doing?

Giveaway ends: June 20, 2014.

One random winner will be selected.

US & Canada entries accepted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

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ISBN: 9780399166235
Pages: 432
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: NetGalley& Publisher

Synopsis:

A beautiful princess lies in a sleep so deep it is close to death. Was Sleeping Beauty revived by a prince’s kiss? What really happened in that tower so long ago?

While Beauty Slept re-imagines the legend through the lens of historical fiction, telling the story as if it really happened. A Gothic tale of suspense and ambition, love and loss, it interweaves the story of a royal family and the servants who see behind the glamorous facade, following the journey of a young woman as she lives out a destiny that leads her to the brink of death.

My Review:

Out of all the Disney princess movies, Sleeping Beauty, was one of my least favorites.  So, I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but I am glad did read it!

I love the way Elizabeth Blackwell takes a treasured children’s story, and expands on it in such a creative and genius way!  Even if you have not read Sleeping Beauty or seen the movie, like me, you will understand this story and appreciate the direction that Elizabeth takes this book.

With Elise’s point of view, readers gain an insider’s view to the Queen, Maleficent, and even Princess Aurora.  The story truly reads as if it is based on an actual historical event, or at least a real place, which is what makes this book so special.  Regardless of a “fantasy” place, readers will genuinely love the relationship Elise develops with different palace workers, the Queen, and her own love story, that is weaved in.  Overall, a beautiful story and one that will delight readers!

*This book was provided by NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Click on the book titles below!

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Early LibraryThing Book Review & Giveaway: Starter House by Sonja Condit

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Publisher:  William Morrow

Release Date:  December 31, 2013

Pages:  384

ISBN: 0062283057

Source: Publisher & LibraryThing

Genre:  Mystery

Summary:

Promising talent Sonja Condit makes her debut with Starter House, an eerie and mesmerizing tale about a young couple whose new house holds deadly secrets from the past, sure to appeal to fans of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale.

From the moment Lacey sees the house with the beautiful wood staircase, she knows she’s found her dream home. Growing up rootless with her flighty mother, Ella Dane, a self-proclaimed psychic, Lacey is determined to give her unborn baby the stability she never had.

But shortly after she and her husband, Eric, move in, the warm and welcoming house becomes cold and dark. There is something malevolent within these walls that wants to hurt her unborn child—a terrifying presence that only she can sense. And there is Drew, a demanding and temperamental little boy who mysteriously appears when Lacey is alone.

To protect her unborn child and save her family, Lacy must discover the truth about her dream house and the troubled Drew—a decades-old mystery involving secrets, violence, and guilt—and confront an evil that has lingered in wait for years.

My Review:

I loved the cover! It’s the window of the “starter house”, and gives the impression that someone is looking out the window…guarding the house.  In order to give my review, I need to include 2 disclosures.

First, I absolutely HATE, yes, hate, when books are compared to other masterpieces.  I can understand there are books that may be similar, evoke the same emotions, and possibly have a similar storyline….but unless the book is a rewrite-it should be a stand-alone and not compared to other books. Period.

Secondly, when I read a book, I don’t like to guess what will come next or poke holes in a storyline.  Sure, some books may be a little obvious, while others may be a little too hokey and simply unrealistic.  However, that is the beauty of books: they are a great escape.  It’s not 48 Hours, the TV show.

With my two disclosures not shared: I can honestly say that I LOVED this book!  I’m a big scaredy cat and definitely will not read any demonic stories.  While it’s not a demonic storyline, it’s definitely creepy and kept me reading through the very last page.

If you’ve read my posts about e-readers, then you know that I prefer any kind of e-reader device over a paperback.  I typically read at bedtime, so finding the “perfect” book light hasn’t happened for me yet.  However, I managed to read this book at night, took it everywhere with me, and enjoyed the book to the very end!

It has all the elements of a great mystery: flawed characters, who are disconnected, so that they don’t share what they know until the very end (when it’s almost too late), an old house with a history of murders, a neighbor that knows more than he’s willing to share, a realtor that doesn’t want to sell the house but gives in because of a hefty commission, and a mom tuned into the supernatural….as well as the daughter (wife and homeowner).

Don’t rush through the book, realize it’s not Amityville House of Horrors (although it comes close), and know that everything will unfold as it needs to-leading up to a great ending!

Without giving too much away, I will answer these questions:

Why does Lacey seem intent to stay in a home that is obviously haunted?  First, she is wanting to give her unborn child what she never had: roots.  Also, by the time she realizes she needs to get out, she learns that where she goes-the ghost does too.

Why doesn’t Eric leave?  Because he’s mounted high in debt and doesn’t want to disappoint his wife, and he also doesn’t want to believe that there is any truth to what is presented to him by Lacey and others.

I enjoyed this book and loved how each chapter had a picture of the book cover…..just to remind you that someone is always watching!  The only suggestion I have is for the author: please be more visible on FB & Twitter, as well as amping up the website.

It’s such a fantastic book, that I’ve decided to offer this book as a giveaway!

A huge thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read and review the book!

Scroll down to get the info!

About the Author:

Sonja Condit received her MFA from Converse College, where she studied with Robert Olmstead, Leslie Pietrzyk, R. T. Smith, and Marlin Barton. Her short fiction has appeared in Shenandoah magazine, among other publications. She plays principal bassoon in the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium. She teaches at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.

Book Details:

Enter your name, email, and answer this question in the comment section:

What’s the name of the scariest movie you’ve seen?

Giveaway ends: March 30, 2014.

(US entries only).

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Book Giveaway: The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

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THE COMFORT OF LIES

by Randy Susan Meyers

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 My Review:

This is a FANTASTIC book to read!! It makes for the PERFECT book club book to discuss, too! Oh, the many topics you could chat with amongst book members and the points of view each of the member would support/not support. I would love to be a fly on a wall to hear what everyone has to say.

This is also a fantastic s we all know someone that has had an affair at one time or another. This is a very raw and emotionally charged book.  The author really did her homework and truly left no stone uncovered with the emotional, physical, and relational m not talking about the pregnancy/baby.

Even before the baby, just having the affair really left everyone involved vulnerable and the author addresses every s point of view is also explored, through her so her questions are going to be more basic than those of the adults, which I loved.   t saturate the little girl with so much complexities and thoughts that are really beyond a child so young. She kept each character as realistic and vulnerable as possible, while showing the good/bad parts to each relationship and how they all move past the affair.

I could not put this book down and thought this was a perfect book for anyone that loves contemporary fiction. Their is mystery, drama, and such an authentic realness, that it almost read like a non-fiction book. It is easily the best book for me of 2012…although it won’t be available until February 2013.

*I reviewed this book back in 2012.  This is the post I wrote on LibraryThing, and wanted to add it here, because I ABSOLUTELY view this book as a must read, an awesome read for a book club or group discussion, and a book that will leave you with hard to forget characters!

Scroll further down for the giveaway details!

“Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny…Meyers writes beautifully about a formerly good marriage.”

The Boston Globe

“Meyers’ complex characters feel familiar yet flawed, and this sharply woven tale demonstrates her uncanny ability to explore and illuminate the nuances of life’s most thorny dilemmas.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

 “Meyers’ carefully told story is a satisfying examination of the imperfect paths we all walk.”

BookPage

 

“The characters crackle with both intelligence and wit…Meyers’ women resonate as strong, complicated and conflicted, and the writing flows effortlessly in this sweet yet sassy novel about love, women and motherhood.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Meyers has crafted an absorbing and layered drama that explores the complexities of infidelity, forgiveness, and family”

Booklist

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Since the release of her debut The Murderer’s Daughters in 2010, international bestselling author Randy Susan Meyers has earned glowing critical praise, award nominations, and a devoted readership around the globe for her thought-provoking, emotionally-resonant novels.

Now available in an affordable paperback format, Meyers returns with her bestselling second novel, THE COMFORT OF LIES (Washington Square Press/Atria Books; On-sale: January 28, 2014; $16.00), a richly textured story that explores the complications of love and collateral damage of infidelity, as well as universal themes of motherhood, identity, trust, and forgiveness.

Told in alternating points of view, THE COMFORT OF LIES reveals the darkest and most private thoughts of three very different women all connected to a five-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. The year their lives collide, the women must confront their choices while discovering sobering truths about their relationships and most importantly, themselves.

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. A married man and a father, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared and Tia gave the baby up for adoption. Five years later, she struggles with the decision and yearns to connect with her daughter—and her former lover.

Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, had always been a bit ambivalent about motherhood, much preferring the freedom of her childless, work-addicted lifestyle, but attempting to please her husband, she agreed to adopt, hoping her misgivings would disappear. However after five years, she’s questioning whether or not she’s really cut out for a domestic life.

Juliette thought she had it all—a loving husband, two healthy sons, and a successful business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again and she trusted him. Five years later, when Juliette intercepts a letter meant for Nathan containing photos of his daughter, her world crumbles, again. How could he keep this from her? What else is he hiding? Most importantly, how could he deny his daughter?

Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. Her quest leads her first to Caroline, then Tia, and before long, the women are on a collision course with consequences none of them could have predicted.

THE COMFORT OF LIES: A Novel

By Randy Susan Meyers

Washington Square Press/Atria Books || January 28, 2014 || $16.00 || Paperback

ISBN: 978-1-45-167302-9

Photo credit, Jill Meyers.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, where I quickly moved from playing with dolls to incessantly reading, spending most of my time at the Kensington Branch Library. Early on I developed a penchant for books rooted in social issues, my early favorites being Karen and The Family Nobody Wanted. Shortly I moved onto Jubilee and The Diary of Anne Frank.

My dreams of justice simmered at the fantastically broadminded Camp Mikan, where I went from camper to counselor, culminating in a high point when (with the help of my strongly Brooklyn-accented singing voice), I landed the role of Adelaide in the staff production of Guys and Dolls.

Soon I was ready to change the world, starting with my protests at Tilden High and City College of New York . . .. . .  until I left to pursue the dream in Berkeley, California, where I supported myself by selling candy, nuts, and ice cream in Bartons of San Francisco. Then, world weary at too tender an age, I returned to New York, married, and traded demonstrations for diapers.

While raising two daughters, I tended bar, co-authored a nonfiction book on parenting, ran a summer camp, and (in my all-time favorite job, other than writing) helped resurrect and run a community center.

Follow Randy Susan Meyers

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Giveaway Details:

Enter your name & email address in the comment section.

Answer the following question: What interests you most about this book?

1 random winner will be selected and notified.

The book will be mailed directly to the winner by the publisher.  US entries only. Sorry!!

Giveaway ends: February 14, 2014.

It’s Time to Clear My Book Shelf Out!! 13 Books to 1 Winner!!!

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This hop features books that need a new home!   

The best part about being a book blogger is receiving books from publishers and tour hosts.  The second best part is giving them away!

A new year means cleaning my book shelf.  I have 13 books that will be given to 1 winner.  If the winner doesn’t like a particular book, the winner can then decide to give it to a friend, donate it, or even turn around and  offer a giveaway on their own blog (this hop isn’t limited to just bloggers).

All of these books are ARCs or finished copies, given to me this past year.  Some books have been read, others I didn’t get a chance to read or weren’t in the genres I typically read.

book giveaway

Giveaway Details:

Fill out the form, between January 4-10. 

A winner will be randomly selected and the books will be mailed. 

Due to the high cost of postage, only U.S. entries are eligible.

*Click here to follow the other blog hops participating!

Book Winner Announced & Giveaway!

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Have you missed me???

It seems since Thanksgiving, I’ve either been sick or caught up in massive paperwork!!! With my son graduating this year, I have been so busy with filling out college applications, going on campus tours, notarizing forms, getting paperwork ready, and the list just goes on.  I’ve also been busy finding and applying for scholarships for my son, so books have definitely been on the back burner for me.

Last month, I held a book giveaway for Justin Kramon’s, The Preservationist.  It’s an excellent book and I absolutely loved the interview he gave us!  Anne, from New Mexico, was randomly selected to receive the book! Congratulations, Anne!!

Don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! Click on Joshilyn Jackson’s book, above, and fill out the comment form.  Giveaway ends December 28, 2013.

Have a great weekend!!

She Reads November Book Month Pick: Review & Giveaway-Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

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Goodreads.com Synopsis:

At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.

Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.

My Review:

This is definitely an unusual love story-not because the love is unusual or the people, but because of how they all figure out where they each belong.  I can’t imagine what Shandi, a single mom, experienced being held at gunpoint.  However, I imagine with any life/death situation, one quickly prioritizes what is most important, who is most important, and figures out how to answer some of the difficult questions she has.

While Shandi has her own life to figure out, William has a heart break to work through.  I cannot imagine the loss of a child, in the way he experienced it.  It truly moves him into a deep pit of despair and the only one brave enough to climb down to him is his best friend, Paula…until Shandi comes along with a mission.

This story is somber, a little depressing at times, simply because that is who the characters are.  The way Joshilyn writes will make readers go deep inside each character and have you sit in some of the crummy parts…because it is in those dark places that beauty is found.

I enjoyed the book, which has some surprise twists at the end.  P.S. Shandi is not the Virgin Mary.  She is simply a young girl trying to make the events fit in her brain in a way that won’t cause her to have an emotional breakdown.

*A huge thanks to the publisher for mailing me the book, and to She Reads, for letting me join them on this fantastic book club of the month!

Giveaway Details:

Fill out the comment form. One random winner will be selected.

Giveaway ends: December 28, 2013.

 

Books in the Burbs Current Giveaway:

 

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

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I had the opportunity read and review this book for TLC Book Tours. Justin was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions that readers will love knowing more about: Justin’s writing and how the story and characters were created.  Before we dive into his questions/answers, take a look at his book trailer for, The Preservationist.

Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRVHM9ZG4oo

Scroll Down for Book Giveaway Details!

Author Bio:  Justin Kramon is the author of the novels Finny (Random House, 2010) and The Preservationist (Pegasus, 2013). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers’ Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation. He lives in Philadelphia.

 

Interview Questions:

1.  As a mom   of a young writer, I know the importance of being a supporter to my   son’s dream.  Who has been your greatest supporter and encourager?   How are you most supported?

That’s great that you’re  supportive of your son’s writing.  It makes a huge difference,  and I imagine it must be scary for a parent to know that your child  wants to be a writer.  It’s like telling your parents that you  dream of being a professional hula-hoop twirler, in that there’s a very  small and specific market for what you’re doing, and you hope and have  faith it’ll stick around, but you never really know.  So I admire  parents who take that leap of faith.

I’ve been lucky to have  a family who has supported my writing — my wife, parents, sister, others.   That helps a lot.  Teachers and other writers have encouraged me,  and that has made a huge difference at certain times.  I probably  wouldn’t still be writing if not for certain of these people, my wife  in particular.

But the other thing about  writing is that, ultimately, you’re alone.  At some point, you  close the door and no one is in front of the computer but you.   And if you don’t want to do it, no one is making you.  The world  doesn’t care that much whether you do it or not.  So something  has to come from within you, some pushback against all the pressures  not to do it.  I’m not sure where that comes from, but I feel lucky  when it happens.

2. Do you have a favorite  book that you’ve most identified with or had the most impact?

Maybe not a favorite  book, but the first writer who really spoke to me was Alice Munro.   I started reading her in college, and I remember reading one of her  very early stories, “Thanks for the Ride,” a story I’m guessing  she wouldn’t think very much of anymore, but reading it was the first  time I started thinking seriously about writing.  It wasn’t that  I thought I could ever write like Alice Munro, but that I wasn’t aware  until then that there was a place in books for the types of feelings  and small moments she writes about.  I just couldn’t believe that  these ideas were in a book.

Then, later on, I started  reading those bigger, wilder, insanely wise and beautiful stories from  the middle of her career — books like Open Secrets, The Progress of Love, Friend of my Youth — and again she blew me away, particularly  by how she handled time, which I think is such an important part of  writing.  I was very affected by how she moved backward and forward  in time, which was something I hadn’t seen before, and it made me realize  the potential stories had to capture time passing, which is a very moving  thing, I think.

3.  I’ve always  heard the saying, “write what you know”.  So, with that in  mind- was there a character or experience you most identified with in The Preservationist?

I’ve heard that saying  a lot also, and it’s always made me nervous.  I just don’t feel  like I know very much.  I’m good at ducking out of the way whenever  anyone asks a factual question.  I always took that saying to mean  that because of your life experience, you have this collection of facts  and details that you can and should draw from, but steer clear of the  stuff you don’t know about.  The problem is, I think one of the  big reasons people write fiction is precisely to get to the stuff they  don’t know about.  So it’s a little bit of a dilemma.

I’ve come to take that  idea — “Write what you know” — in a very broad sense, which  is that there’s a set of universal feelings we all tap into in our lives,  and everyone comes to know at least some of them in the course of a  life, and the ones you know are the ones you try to write about.   They’re the things that people relate to in your writing.

In The Preservationist, even though it’s a thriller, the underlying  feelings all the characters are dealing with relate to loss.  Each  of the three main characters — Sam, Julia, Marcus — has a different  approach to loss, and it seems to keep their heads above water, but  then in the course of the novel they find themselves starting to go  under.  Everyone in the world experiences loss — it’s the fundamental  thing about being in the world — so I was interested in exploring some  of the feelings and ideas I had about that.  What’s great about  a novel is that you can give those sets of thoughts to characters who  might take them to a much greater and more destructive extreme than  you ever would.

4. A huge part of the  storyline is taking the reader inside the mind of a serial killer.   How did you balance writing the vulnerable side to a mad man, while  also showing the madness and scary side? Was he based on any particular  real life person? If so, who and how was that person helpful in the  creation of that character?

This was one of the big  draws and most interesting parts of writing the book.  I was influenced  by books like The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Collector, and Felicia’s Journey.  Those books present the criminal or  violent mind on level ground with all the other characters in the story.   In other words, the book itself doesn’t tell you who is the “good  guy” or the “bad guy,” but presents each character’s  world with equal intensity and detail, and allows a murderer to think  of things like what he’ll have for lunch, and how nice his childhood  house used to be.

That was what I really  wanted to do in The Preservationist, to present all the characters with equal  sympathy.  The fact that one is a killer creates an interesting  tension for a reader, hopefully, because you’re curious to know more  about this person whom you normally wouldn’t get within a mile of, and  you might even start to feel for him a little bit.  That’s the  strange magic a book can work, and that discomfort is a thing that can  be fun to experience as a reader.

I didn’t base the killer  on any real person.  I just tried to think hard about what kind  of cocktail of genes and experiences in the world would create a mindset  where killing was possible or even acceptable.  But I always wanted  those violent impulses to grow out of gentler, more sympathetic, more  human ones.

5. One of the most identifiable  characters in the story was Julia.  Perhaps because everyone has  either been a loner at one time or another, or knew of the school loner  on campus.  What do you think made her so vulnerable and kept her  in situations that were at times, quite dangerous?

It’s interesting that  you mention this, because I’m not sure if all my readers identify most  with Julia.  She’s a difficult person, in a lot of ways, and I’m  not sure she’s that likeable immediately.  Although she had a kind  of quirky sense of humor I enjoyed working with in the book.  But  I’m really glad to hear that you felt for her, and for her loneliness,  because that’s something I hoped would come through — even though it  was tough, because Julia works hard to shield her emotions from everyone,  including herself.

My sense of her is that  there’s a chaos under the surface.  Maybe that’s often true with  people who seem very reserved, that there’s a fear about what would  happen if they lose that reserve.  Because of the tragedy Julia  faced shortly before the book starts, as well as her insecurity and  a lot of childhood stuff she’s carrying around, I get the sense that  she’s barely, barely functional, that underneath her quick jokes her  thoughts are creating a huge and frightening mess.  To my mind,  that’s why her judgment is very poor at times.  Through a lot of  the book, it’s almost like she’s looking for a place to hide, or a place  where she can erase herself.

6. Computer or paper?   When writing, do you use the good ole’ fashioned notepad or do you  use modern technology and use the computer?

I spend a lot of time  first writing in a notebook about the characters, with no story or plot  in mind, just trying to get to know them.  Then I move to the computer  once I want to start forming the plot, but I use all the weird stuff  I write in the notebooks as a kind of basis for everything the characters  do or say.  There’s a ton of material in the notebooks that never  gets into the novel, but my hope is that the novel will feel like the  tip of the iceberg, with a very substantial portion just below the surface.

7. What advice or suggestions  would you give to a student wanting to pursue writing?

I think everyone forges  her or his own path through it, so my first suggestion would be to not  take too much advice, and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.   You gather that stuff over the years, from teachers or other writers  or things you read.  For me, reading was and is the most important  teacher.  It familiarizes you with the landscape of fiction, of  what’s out there and what’s possible.  And it also helps build  the techniques you have to tell the stories you want to tell.   Reading a great book is the most inspiring thing to me, as far as writing  goes.

I guess one other thing  I’d mention, maybe because your son is so interested in writing, is  that it helps to take the long view, as much as is possible.  For  most of the writers I’ve met who have created truly outstanding books,  there was a lot of struggling, a lot of doubt, and a certain amount  of failure that came before the book they wanted to write.  But  those difficulties actually became part of the process of creating that  book, and in fact the book couldn’t have been created without the difficulty.   So it seems that the easy or immediate success isn’t necessarily the  best thing for a writer, and that the writers who keep writing find  something to love in the process, not just the end result.

A HUGE thank-you to Justin for taking the time to answer my questions! I absolutely loved you sharing advice that I can pass on to my son, who is graduating high school this year!! It is my belief that everyone will be able to learn something new or gain a new perspective in the world of writing, while also getting some interesting tidbits, in the making of some fantastic characters.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

As a thank-you to all my blog readers: Justin’s book, The Preservationist, is being offered as a giveaway!

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