Guest Post: Running Away From Home To Write by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite authors…if you haven’t read anything by her before, I highly suggest picking up a few copies – they make for the perfect summer reads. We are thrilled to have MKA on the blog today and I hope you enjoy her guest post as much as we did!

RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME TO WRITE by Mary Kay Andrews

There’s no place like home . . . unless you’re knee-deep in a stalled manuscript.

NEWmarykayandrewsThat’s why, years ago, I started running away from home to work on a book.

You’d think I could write anywhere. I cut my writing teeth working in daily newspaper journalism, crafting stories under the gun of a looming daily deadline—in a newsroom full of clattering typewriters and chattering reporters. When I was a reporter, I prided myself on the fact that I could and did write anywhere—in the backseat of a cab, on the side of a country road, even in an abandoned pasture during one memorable assignment covering a hostile prison take-over in a rural Georgia county.

Ironically, when I first left journalism a couple decades ago, my children were school-aged, so I could and did write whenever I had free moments. I would arrive at their school an hour before pick-up time, roll down my car windows and scribble away on a yellow legal pad.

But somewhere along the way, I began to crave solitude and quiet once I was deep into the writing process of a manuscript in progress.

I began to understand the need for isolation, so that I could immerse myself in the world of the book.

Every work of fiction has its own world. Mine is inhabited by imaginary people—but if my storytelling is to succeed, I have to be able to utterly believe in their existence—and understand the world around them. Turns out that’s not easy to do if you’re worrying about afternoon carpool or that night’s dinner menu.

I was still writing an Atlanta-set mystery series when I startled my husband by announcing that I planned to run away from home to work on the new book. At first I think he thought I planned a permanent furlough. But after I explained what I wanted, he graciously acquiesced.

A newspaper colleague had written a story about a cozy mom-and-pop motel in Destin, Florida, which seemed like just what the doctor ordered. It was within a day’s drive, dirt cheap, and situated right on the Gulf of Mexico.

I ran away to The Murmuring Surf motel, and it was pure magic. I bought a week’s worth of groceries and a tiny disposable charcoal grill—and a big bottle of cheap chardonnay, and the words seemed to flow non-stop. My story pulled together, and I’d discovered a cure for an ailing manuscript.

In subsequent years I sometimes took myself off to the physical location of the book. One memorable time I was working on a mystery whose denouement would occur at the sprawling Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. To my husband’s concern, I checked myself into a cheesy budget motel for a long weekend. He was worried about my safety, but the only danger I encountered was the fact that my room’s amenities didn’t include a corkscrew for that all-important cheap chardonnay.

Later on, I borrowed friend’s mountain cabins and beachside bungalows. My family grew grateful for my pilgrimages. Nobody wants to be around a writer who is freaking out about an impending deadline.

The turning point of my travels occurred the summer I began writing my first novel under the Mary Kay Andrews pseudonym. SAVANNAH BLUES was set in Savannah, not Atlanta, and besides, our vintage 1926 Craftsman bungalow was literally under siege of a horde of construction workers who were remodeling and building a new kitchen addition.

I removed myself to Savannah for the summer, renting a basement apartment in a historic downtown townhouse, not just because it was quiet and sane—unlike my own home, but to insert myself into the fictional world of my protagonist, Weezie Foley.

BeachTownGradually, I began to walk in Weezie’s footsteps, to attend dinner parties she would attend, ride my bike around the route she would drive. The getaway informed my plotting—and saved my sanity.

Since then, I’ve run away from home with every new book. Last year, when I was writing BEACH TOWN, I went on a crusade to find the perfect, old school Florida beach town, in the same way Greer Hennessy, the protagonist of the book does. Eventually, Greer and I found ourselves in the real Gulf coast town of Cedar Key. I settled into a cheap motel room—which later inspired the Silver Sands Motel of the book, and later into a rented cottage.

Riding a golf cart around Cedar Key, strolling to a late night dinner at the town’s best restaurant, and taking a boat tour of the surrounding waters, I began to feel the tension of deadline ebbing. I found myself in the world of the book. My mind got quiet, and my fingers found themselves tapping a happy tattoo on my laptop keyboard.

Ahhh. I’m already planning my next runaway adventure.

Connect with Mary Kay Andrews:

To celebrate the release of her new novel, the wonderful team at Tandem Literary have provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of Beach Town for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US Entries Only):

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Author Q&A with Emily Liebert – Plus, a Giveaway!

I’ve been a huge fan of Emily Liebert since I read her first novel You Knew Me When (to see my full review, click here) and loved her second novel When We Fall even more! Plus, not only is her writing spectacular but Emily is so sweet to her readers – I personally have loved getting to know her through social media.

When I heard she was coming out with a new novel, I knew I had to host a Q&A session with her so that everyone could see how wonderful she is and hear a little bit about more about her writing process. We are thrilled to have Emily on the blog today – plus, we are giving away a copy of her new book Those Secrets We Keep, which just hits stores on June 2nd!

23398926Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Those Secrets We Keep? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

I’ve always been fascinated by secrets. I think everyone has at least one—sometimes a really juicy one! I wanted to explore issues of trust between girlfriends and within romantic relationships—both spousal and otherwise. I also wanted dig deep into the zeitgeist of a culture that’s become so obsessed with sharing everything through social media. What’s real and what’s not? What’s underneath he perfect façade? My ideas typically come from my own life. This is not to say that every book I write is about me! However, a family member or friend might relay a story to me and that will trigger a larger idea.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

When I’m writing a first draft, I typically write five days a week (sometimes four) for about four hours a day. If I get a half chapter written each day, I’m happy! And, yes, I always outline before I dive in. That said, I typically change 75% of what I outline as the story and characters develop.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your books so far?

A woman who was in the hospital dying from terminal cancer reached out to me to say that my books brightened her week. What could be better than that?

I love the covers of all your books! Who designs them and how involved are you in the process?

The fabulous design team at Penguin Random House creates my covers! I’m VERY involved. I always have a clear idea of how the book should look, so I have no problem contributing my two cents!

Do you have a favorite author and what authors or books have inspired you to write? I can never pick one!

So a few favorites: Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, Sarah Pekkanen, Sarah Healy, Shari Arnold, Lauren Weisberger, and Meg Mitchell Moore. The author who has most inspired me is Judy Blume. Hands down. Her book Summer Sisters in the reason I’m an author.

2012_02_20_Emily Liebert_ 10704_v2With an author as a mother, do your children love to read? What are some of their favorite books?

My children DO love to read, specifically my older son, Jaxsyn, who’s almost six. Jaxsyn’s favorite book is A House is A House for Me. My almost five year old, Hugo, loves anything Dr. Seuss.

Do you have any fun plans for the summer?

We have no travel plans, but we lives close to the beach. And I plan to log a lot of hours there with my kids this summer!

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

Yes! I just finished writing my fifth book, Some Women, which will publish on April 5, 2016. And I’m currently dreaming up an idea for book number six!

Connect with Emily:

To celebrate the release, Emily and her team have provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of her new book for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Anita Hughes – Plus, a Giveaway!

I fell in love with Anita Hughes’ writing when I picked up her novel Lake Como back in 2013 (to see my full review, click here) and I was thrilled when I heard she was coming out with a new book this year. To celebrate the release of her new novel French Coast, which hit stores in April, we sat down with Anita for an author Q&A session and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing, and what she has coming up next.

We are thrilled to have Anita on the blog today and we hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we did!

Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for French Coast? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

FrenchCoast_Final Cover 1.28My inspiration for FRENCH COAST was the Carlton-Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes. I’ve always thought it was incredibly glamorous since I watched HOW TO CATCH A THIEF with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly years ago, It is such a gorgeous setting with its pink and white marble lobby and stone turrets. I thought it would be the perfect location to set my new novel.  I usually get my ideas from past experiences or little snippets of conversation I hear.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

I do outline but I find the story almost always takes on a life of its own with new characters and plot twists. But it is nice to know to have a point of reference. I write every day, usually about 1000 words. Once I have written them, I spend the rest of the day revising until I am completely happy.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your books so far?

I love it when people say my books take them away and they feel like they are on Lake Como or the French Riviera and can taste the food and see the beautiful locations.

I love the covers of all your books especially Lake Como and French Coast! Who designs them and how involved are you in the process?

Thank you, I adore my covers! I haven’t too much input because they are all perfect when I see them for the first time. St. Martin’s has gifted cover designers and I feel very fortunate.

All of your books make me instantly want to take a vacation – what has been your favorite location to write about?

That’s a difficult question, because I love all my locations too. I really love Cannes – where FRENCH COAST is set. The Boulevard de la Croisette is full of wonderful boutiques and cafes. I love the harbor and the proximity to Monte Carlo and Nice.

20101121_FFF_0023-EditcIf you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

I would work in a bookstore! I have always loved books and I worked in a bookstore when I was right out of college and loved every minute of it.

Do you have a favorite author and what authors or books have inspired you to write?

I read nonstop but I actually do have a favorite author – Penny Vincenzi. She is a British author who writes thick books full of wonderful characters. My favorite non-living author is Somerset Maugham. I have read all his books and I think you can learn everything you need to know by reading him.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I am very excited because ROME IN LOVE – set in Rome and about an actress who gets the Audrey Hepburn role in the remake of Roman Holiday – comes out on August 4th.

Connect with Anita:

To celebrate the release, Anita and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of French Coast for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Splinters of Light by Rachael Herron

51fWw3Yq3XL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: From the acclaimed author of Pack Up the Moon comes a poignant and beautiful novel about love, loss, and the unbreakable bonds of family—particularly those between mothers, daughters, and sisters.

Ten years ago, Nora Glass started writing essays about being a single mother of a six-year-old daughter. Her weekly column made her a household name, and over the years, her fans have watched Ellie grow from a toddler to a teenager.

But now Nora is facing a problem that can’t be overcome. Diagnosed with a devastating disease that will eventually take away who she is, she is scared for herself, but even more frightened about what this will mean for her sixteen-year-old daughter.

Now Nora has no choice but to let go of her hard-won image as a competent, self-assured woman, and turn to the one person who has always relied on her: her twin sister, Mariana. Nora and Mariana couldn’t be more different from one another, and they’ve always had a complicated relationship. But now the two sisters will have to summon the strength to help them all get through a future none of them could have ever imagined, while uncovering the joy and beauty that was always underneath. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: My grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s not too long ago so I knew this book would be hard for me to read but I figured, it’s written by Rachael Herron so I have to read it because I love all of her novels. I must admit that this book did take me a while to read but that was only because of how close it hit home; there were multiple times I would become extremely emotional reading it and would have to take a step back. The Splinters of Light is a remarkable and heartbreaking story about the bonds of family and the terrible effects of Alzheimer’s disease (in this case, early-onset) – this book will have your reaching for tissues so have some handy.

The story focuses on the three Glass women: Nora (an author who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s), her twin Marianna (the sister who cannot seem to get anything right) and Nora’s daughter Ellie (a high school student struggling with romance, college prep and ‘what to do with her life’). All three women in the novel were intriguing and very relatable – I felt like I was reading about my family or friends. Also, I loved diving into the relationships between all three women and it was incredible to read about the love they have for one another while coping with tragedy.

zdNkp9FbOne of the things I loved most in this book was how Herron didn’t just write from one perspective – as the reader, we were able to see how each of the women were feeling throughout the book. My grandmother and I were extremely close and when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it was very hard for me – I was in college when she first forgot who I was. I could relate to every thought and emotion Marianna and Ellie were feeling and Herron was spot on describing the impact Alzheimer’s has on the family. Also, I don’t think I ever fully understood the frustration and fear my grandmother and anyone diagnosed must have gone through until reading this book. It’s one thing to read about the symptoms but another to hear about it from the perspective of someone with Alzheimer’s, something that my grandmother was never fully open about.

Reading through some of the similarities between Nora and my grandmother (getting lost while driving and not knowing where you are), my heart was literally aching and I felt like I had to stop every few chapters to recover. What was incredibly shocking to me was to read about early-onset Alzheimer’s, something I’ve never known that much about until hearing about the novel Still Alice (a book I still haven’t read) and reading this book. To think that something this awful could happen to someone so young is terrifying and I’m glad this book opened my eyes to something I didn’t know a lot about.

The Splinters of Light is a beautifully written and extremely emotional read that will stick with me for a long time – I highly recommend picking up a copy of this. Whether you have somehow been personally touched by this awful disease or not, I think it’s important for everyone to read this novel. Bravo Rachael – you’ve done it again!

To read more about Rachael’s inspiration for this book, her writing and what she has coming up next, click here to see the full author Q&A we held with her back in March!

Author Q&A with Kathryn Craft – Plus, a Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of her new novel The Far End of Happy which came out earlier this month, we interviewed author Kathryn Craft and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing and much more. We are thrilled to have Kathryn on the blog today and hope you love getting to know her as much as we did!

Cover - The Far End of HappyThank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for The Far End of Happy?

Thanks for having me Karen! My inspiration was the true event on which the novel is based: my first husband’s 1997 suicide standoff against a massive police response. Already a 15-year dance critic at the time, I knew I’d one day write about it. At first I did so in the form of memoir essays. But there was no way I could look back on earlier events in my marriage without the knowledge of what was to come. The suicide colored everything. I ultimately decided the most honest way to convey that was to constrain the story action to the twelve hours. My further decision to use three point-of-view characters, to better evoke suicide’s deviling questions, pushed the project firmly into the realm of fiction.

How long did it take you to write The Far End of Happy?

From the moment I got the book deal to my first turn-in date was ten and a half months. Just slightly different from the eight years I spent writing my debut.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your books so far?

Book blogger Mallory Heart Reviews wrote, “THE FAR END OF HAPPY is an extraordinarily compelling book, founded in an extraordinary comprehension of human nature, addiction, denial—and love, familial bonds, and character strength and integrity.” One wants to write a compelling book, of course. But I have been a student of human nature my whole life, only intensifying my efforts to move beyond my husband’s death, so that second part was quite meaningful to me.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

Since I always know the ending before I begin, I list a series of emotional turning points my main character must go through to get from the beginning to the end. As I write, I aim toward them. This approach gives me guiderails yet also allows for the flexibility I need to drive the creative process. Once I have a draft, I fix story problems at the synopsis level before revising.

I love the cover of The Far End of Happy. Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one?

Isn’t this cover amazing? It’s the brainchild of Eileen Carey, the same Sourcebooks designer that came up with the wonderful cover for The Art of Falling. Because I have no talent for this kind of visual work, I had no idea what direction they might take. This cover was the first presented to me—and the last. I instantly fell in love.

Photo - Kathryn CraftDo you have a favorite author and what authors have inspired you to write?

I couldn’t possibly narrow my choices to one author—it’s the full palette that inspires! But there are a few authors whose new works I’d purchase without even reading the back cover copy. They include Ann Patchett, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Janet Fitch, and Margot Livesey.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

One of the things that will distinguish your fiction is an interesting perspective through which we can view story events. In THE ART OF FALLING, my first-person narrator tells the story of pursuing a dance career while battling a body image disorder that implodes her relationships. I could have gone with the obvious in THE FAR END OF HAPPY and have the point-of-view wife mourn the loss of her dearly beloved, but instead she mourns the loss of the man she was determined to leave, raising more complex questions. It is through shared perspective that fiction can stretch our worldview and make us more empathetic people.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

THE FAR END OF HAPPY completes an important seventeen-year arc in my life. I decided to devote my energy to seeing this title through its launch sequence before diverting my attention. Right now my plan is to relocate to my summer home in June, collapse on the lakeside hammock, and dream new dreams.

About the Author:

Kathryn Craft is the author of The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania literary scene, she loves any event that brings together readers, books, food and drink, and mentors other writers through workshops and writing retreats. A former dance critic, she has a bachelor’s in biology education and a master’s in health and physical education from Miami University in Ohio. She lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and spends her summers lakeside in northern New York State.

Connect with Kathryn:

For PR inquires, please reach out to Suzy Missirlian at @Suzy4PR.

To celebrate the release, Kathryn and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of The Far End of Happy for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

41Iku1FL6bL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Summary: After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything…but she can barely take care of herself.

The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget…and a second chance has never felt so much like first love. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:  Beth Kendrick’s novels are one of my guilty pleasures and every time she comes out with a new one, I know I will be hooked from the very beginning. When I heard Beth was taking readers back to Black Dog Bay, I was thrilled especially after falling in love with the town in Cure for the Common Breakup last summer. New Uses for Old Boyfriends is another fun and witty novel that is perfect to take with you on your summer travels!

Kendrick headshotThe story centers on Lila, a woman who grew up in Black Dog Bay and has just returned to her hometown after splitting with her husband and losing her job. After living her entire life never having to worry about money, Lila is close to broke and after coming home, discovers that her always-comfortable family is now broke as well which her mother still refuses to admit. The book follows Lila as she tries to piece her life back together and takes a second chance on both love and her job – also, getting to read about all the different vintage clothes and accessories was an added plus!

I love the humor, the characters and the storytelling in this book (as I do with all of Beth’s novels) – it will keep you captivated throughout. Plus, as someone who is very close to their own mother, I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth banter between Lila and her mom and watching the two women face their fears and overcome obstacles together.

New Uses for Old Boyfriends is a breath of fresh air and should be on everyone’s ‘to-read’ list for the summer. I loved visiting Black Dog Bay again and getting an update on some of the characters that were introduced in Cure for the Common Breakup – don’t forget to pre-order Beth’s new novel Put a Ring On It, another Black Dog Bay novel which hits stores in November!

Connect with the Author:

Save the Date & Summer Rental Goody Bag Giveaway

You probably already know by now based on my previous blog posts that Mary Kay Andrews is one of favorite authors. I love the way she tells a story and every time she comes out with a new book, I spend every waking hour reading it until I’ve come to the last page. Therefore, I am thrilled to announce that we giving away some MKA books and fun swag!

Here’s a list of what all will be in the fabulous goody bag:

  • Copy of SAVE THE DATE in trade paperback
  • Copy of SUMMER RENTAL in mass market paperback
  • Two different Mary Kay Andrews bookmarks
  • Set of 3 SAVE THE DATE recipe cards
  • SAVE THE DATE magnet
  • MKA Summer Rental sticker
  • BEACH TOWN lip balm with SPF 15

MKAPrizePack

A huge thank you to MKA and the team at Tandem Literary for allowing Karen’s Korner to participate in this amazing giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Brenda Janowitz – Plus, a Giveaway!

I fell in love with Brenda’s writing when I read Recipe for a Happy Life early last year and have been following her work and chatting with her on social media ever since. Brenda is such a sweet and talented author and we are thrilled to have her on the blog today.

To celebrate the paperback release of The Lonely Hearts Club (which hit stores back in March), we interviewed Brenda and asked her questions about her new novel, her writing process and even what she has coming up next. This was such a fun interview and I loved getting to know Brenda even more – I hope you will too!

Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for The Lonely Hearts Club? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

8jailLLtRsr3dr5bXUwl_LONELY%20HEARTS%20coverThank you for having me!

I came up with the idea for THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB back when I was single, living in New York City.  I love NYC’s downtown music scene, and I always wanted to be a part of it.  Only problem is, I’ve got no musical talent.  You know that expression: those who can’t do, teach?  I guess for me, it would be: those who can’t do, write about it.

As for what inspires me to come up with ideas for my books? Everything! Be it a perfect summer day, a horribly rainy day, overhearing a conversation on the checkout line at the drug store.  I think the better question would be: what doesn’t inspire me?

I’ve always got tons of stories running through my head.  It’s usually just a matter of writing them down, figuring out which stories merit a whole book.

Who are some of your favorite musicians and do you have any favorite songs?

I love music. All different types, too. Just like I read across every genre, I listen to music across every genre.

For THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, I relied on my love of early punk music. The bands I grew up on: Blondie, The Clash, The Ramones.

Each chapter title is actually a song title. I created a Spotify playlist from the song titles, so that gives a good sense of what I’m obsessed with, and what I was into while I was writing the book:

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline and do you write every day?

Short answer: I just do it.

Long answer: I’ve done it all. I’ve outlined, sometimes I just free write, and other times I do a combination of the two. What I’ve found is that the most important thing is to just write. Put hands to keyboard and do it. So, I do whatever works in the moment.

I write whenever I have the time. Usually I set aside blocks of time when the kids are in school. And when I’m on deadline, I just write in any spaces between I can find.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your books so far?

I love it when people tell me that reading my book made them miss their subway stop. That’s a good one for me.

And readers will often send me pics of my books in exotic locales—on the beach, in a foreign country—and that’s pretty exciting, too.

Do you have a favorite author and what authors or books have inspired you to write?

My favorite authors are: Marian Keyes, Emily Giffin, Allison Winn Scotch, Dani Shapiro, Elinor Lipman, Jennifer Weiner, Julie Buxbaum, Meg Cabot, Ayelet Waldman, Laura Dave, Jane Green, Susan Isaacs, Alice Hoffman, Sarah Pekkanen…. The list could go on and on!

Reading Watermelon by Marian Keyes inspired me to write. That book spoke to me in my language and it was the first time I thought: that dream of writing a book? Maybe I should give it a try.

Brenda%20Janowitz%20official%20headshotDo your children love to read and do you read with them a lot?

My kids love reading! We read constantly. And now that they are a bit bigger, we also make up stories together. We’ll sit in a circle and each say a sentence and create a fun story.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I just handed in the final version of my fifth novel. It’s called THE LAST SUPPER, and St. Martin’s will be publishing it next year. It’s a bit different than what I’ve done in the past, but hopefully readers will find that to be a very good thing.

I’ve also been really focused on personal essays. It’s a new writing muscle for me to flex, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

I published an essay in the New York Times about how a kitchen fire left me unable to cook for over a year. It was my son who helped me to get back to cooking, one grilled cheese at a time:

http://nyti.ms/18o6alB

And on Salon, I talked about a relationship I had in college and how abuse doesn’t have to be physical:

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/19/he_never_hit_me_but_i_could_no_longer_take_his_abuse/

Thank you so much for having me here!  This was a blast!

Connect with Brenda:

To celebrate the paperback release, Brenda and her team have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of The Lonely Hearts Club for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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Author Q&A with Katherine Heiny – Plus, a Giveaway!

To celebrate the success of her debut novel Single, Carefree, Mellow (which hit stores back in February,) we sat down with author Katherine Heiny and asked her questions about her new book, her writing, and even what she has coming up next. We are so excited to have Katherine on the blog today and hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we (and Oprah) did!

517Hh1JlElL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Single, Carefree, Mellow and how long did it take you to write?

Well, the oldest story in the collection is almost 25 years old, but most of them were written in the last six years or so. There was so specific inspiration, unless you count my youngest child going to first grade.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about your book so far?

Kirkus called me “louche.” It doesn’t get better than that.

I love the cover of Single, Carefree, Mellow – who was the artist? 

Samantha French. My editor suggested her work for the cover and I absolutely fell in love with it. Even though no one swims in the book, it suggests a mind-body disconnect that a lot of the characters feel.

What is your writing process like? Do you write an outline before you write and do you write every day? 

I try to write in the morning because I’m easily distracted and anything that doesn’t get done in the morning is in grave danger of not getting done at all. I used to make outlines but now I just make really scratchy notes – I can’t always decipher them so I’m not sure how helpful they are. Usually when I’m working on a story, it’s all there in my head and I just have to get it out as fast as possible.

1507265_915567105134344_278502101269958776_oWhat writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors and what books/authors inspired you to write?

Bridget Jones and High Fidelity were big inspirations for me. They are both brilliant comic novels that deal with the characters’ internal lives and much as the plot – a revelation to me at the time. As far as writing advice, I don’t know. It took me 22 years to publish my first book so I may not be the best one to ask.

If you’re allowed to tell us, what can your readers expect next? Are you currently working on anything new?

I’m just finishing a novel that will be published next year. It’s very different from the collection – the protagonist is a man in his late fifties. But it’s his wife who fascinates me.

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A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az8ey+zMCzTb0OF4sfMxKIA+WsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuSummary: In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart. (Excerpt from Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I’ve never read anything by Hazel Gaynor before even after hearing so many great things about The Girl Who Came Home which came out last year. However, when I read the summary of A Memory of Violets and saw that it was going on tour with Tasty Book Tours, I knew I had to bump this up on my list – and I am so glad that I did! A Memory of Violets is such an emotional story and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This story touches on the bonds of sisterhood and is about never giving up, regardless of your circumstance or misfortune.

The story goes back and forth between the past and present focusing on two particular characters. Tilly, a young woman who just left her home to become a housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls, a place where girls who are orphaned or crippled can come to live and make beautiful fake flowers. And then there’s Florrie, a flower girl who lived at the same house (and even in the same room as Tilly) and passed away years after being separated from her sister Rosie. The two stories connect when Tilly, after just arriving to the home finds Florrie’s diary and is enthralled by Florrie and Rosie’s story. I loved reading from both perspectives and seeing how the two storylines intersected; it added a lot more to the story and made the book even more enjoyable to read.

hazel-gaynor1Gaynor’s storytelling is so powerful and I loved the author’s writing in this book. When she described the intricacies of the flowers that the girls made, I felt like I was there in London taking in and enjoying their beauty. And when Gaynor described the extremely filthy and shocking situations the girls grew up in, I felt like I was there in the streets watching and aching for them to have a better life. However, the characters are what made the story so special for me; the women and children at Mr. Shaw’s Home were remarkable and showed unimaginable strength and courage.

A Memory of Violets is a beautiful story about second chances and loving people for who they truly are. This book gave me chills and had me bawling like a baby throughout; make sure you have the tissues handy. I received this book as part of a book tour but I ended up buying two copies and giving them out as gifts because I loved the story so much. I can’t wait to go back and read Gaynor’s first novel; I’m sure I will love it as much as I did this one.

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