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.

Connect with Katherine:

To celebrate the release of her new novel, we are giving away a copy of Single, Carefree, Mellow! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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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.

Q&A with Cynthia Swanson – Plus, a Giveaway!

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted but I guess life just gets in the way sometimes and unfortunately, my blogging has suffered. However, I am happy to report that I am back and have plenty of wonderful reviews and Q&As lined up for the next few weeks. And to kick it off, I’m starting with a Q&A session with author Cynthia Swanson, whose debut novel The Bookseller hit stores back in March.

22635858Thank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for The Bookseller?

I started playing around with the ideas of: “How did I get here? How did my life change so quickly, in such a short amount of time?” For me personally, that meant going from being single, living alone, having a successful technical/marketing writing career, to being the married mother of three, struggling to find time to write, do some design work on the side, and take care of my family. All that happened very quickly for me.

The Bookseller is not autobiographical, but the seed of the idea came from thinking about my own “What if?” moments, and speculation about how my life might have been different if I’d chosen another path.

How long did it take you to write The Bookseller?

It took six months to write a first draft. Many revisions followed; it was eighteen months after I finished the first draft when I felt I had a manuscript that was ready for “agent eyes.” So about two years total.

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

I love when readers say they can relate to Kitty/Katharyn. Such a sentiment indicates that the struggle to “have it all” is still very real. As 21st century women, we have more choices than our mothers and grandmothers did – but I think that means we also put more pressure on ourselves to achieve perfection in all we do. Thanks in large part to social media, we’re often left with the impression that everyone else has somehow achieved the perfect balance we seek. Reading a story like Kitty/Katharyn’s – and talking about it with friends – helps us realize we’re not alone in this struggle.

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

I don’t write an outline. I get an idea and go with my instincts. While writing a first draft, I do very little research. I get the basic story down, allowing myself to leave holes and take lots of notes. I work to fill in those holes in subsequent drafts.

I do write every day, at least for a short while. When I’m not writing, I’m generally still problem-solving or stirring ideas around in my head. I count that as time spent working on a book, too.

8333761I love the cover of The Bookseller! Who designed it and how many different ones did you go through until you found the right one? 

It was designed by Jarrod Taylor, a freelance graphic designer who works with HarperCollins. We had a different cover originally (also designed by Jarrod) that showed the “two sides” of the main character in a single design. We decided to go with this final image instead; we all agree it’s really striking.

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

Don’t give up. Write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Join a local writers’ community. Attend writers’ conferences. It’s good to be around like-minded souls.

As for inspiring books and/or authors, there are too many to name. I’ve been a reader and a writer my entire life, so it would be difficult to pinpoint a small group of authors or books that inspired me. I find inspiration in just about everything I read. I’m not saying it’s all positive – sometimes inspiration comes in the form of: “Wow, I’ll remember not to do this.” I count that as inspiration, too.

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

Yes, I’m working on a new novel. Same time period – early sixties – but very different characters and setting.

Connect with Cynthia:

To celebrate the success of her debut novel, the team at Tandem Literary have provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of The Bookseller for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below:

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Author Q&A with Rachael Herron – Plus, a Giveaway!

I fell in love with Rachael’s writing last year when I read Pack Up the Moon so I was thrilled when she agreed to participate in a Q&A session with Karen’s Korner! To celebrate the release of her new novel Splinters of Light (which just came out last week), we sat down with Rachael and asked her questions about her books, writing and even what she has coming up next. We are so excited to have Rachael on the blog today – plus, we are giving away a copy of her new book!

51fWw3Yq3XL__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 Splinters of Light? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

Thanks for having me! The inspiration for Splinters of Light actually came from, of all places, a People magazine! (You’d be surprised how many writers use this trick of finding inspiration in current magazines.)

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

I write every day, at least a little bit. I like to get up, drive to my favorite local café where I know everyone and they know me, and then I get down to business. I normally start with an outline, and then all those plans go out the window, which is hard because then I have to drag my characters back in line later on.

How do you feel your writing has changed since your first novel?

I think my writing has gotten deeper. I’m definitely willing to go further into a character’s soul, to mine the really rich, difficult subject matter that I was scared of ten years ago. I find it super rewarding to find out what scares a character most and then make it happen to them (and then fix them later, because books should always end with hope—at least mine, anyway).

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

Great question! I’ve heard that my books help scared readers get through difficult time in hospitals, while they’re either recovering or waiting for a loved one to recover from something. I can’t think of higher praise than that.

I love the covers of Splinters of Light and Pack Up the Moon! Who designs your book covers and how involved are you in the process?

Oh, I’m not involved in that at all, and I feel like I won the cover lottery for both. I give my ideas of what could go on the cover (for example, for Splinters of Light, lemons were a theme, so I suggested that) and then the talented designers at Penguin do the rest of their magic.

If you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

I would be a 911 fire/medical dispatcher. (Wait! I am one! I have two full-time jobs, and I love both of them.)

zdNkp9FbWhat writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Write the worst stuff you can possibly write. It will be bad (all first drafts are terrible). You can fix it later. Don’t be scared. Revision is the BEST part of writing—most writers learn this truth well into their career.

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

Lately I’ve been loving Tana French’s dark thrillers which are set in Ireland. I read all over the map! But when I was growing up no one influenced me more than Anne of Green Gables. I think I’m a writer because of her.

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

Yep, I’m working on the next book for Penguin, Taking Care, which is about a woman who, when she learns her deceased husband hid a whole family from her, determines to make that family her own. It’s still in early second draft, but I love this feeling of being so deep in the writing. I’m crazy about these characters.

Thank you so much for having me!

Connect with Rachael:

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

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Author Q&A with Deborah Moggach

To celebrate the release of her new novel Heartbreak Hotel (which just came out this week), we interviewed Deborah Moggach and asked her questions about her writing, her career, and even what she has coming up next. I loved getting to know more about Deborah (who wrote the bestselling novel turned movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and I hope that you will too!

T514PvdDJ22Lhank you so much for sitting down with Karen’s Korner for a Q&A session. What was your inspiration for Heartbreak Hotel? How do you come up with your ideas for books?

I fell in love with somebody who lives in a small town in Wales, and moved there. And I wanted to write another novel with Buffy as its hero – he’d already featured in an earlier novel and I had grown so fond of him I wanted to give him another story.

How do you feel your writing has changed since your first novel?

It hasn’t changed – each novel is different, and with each I feel I’m starting out afresh. Terrifying!

What has been the best compliment you’ve received about any of your books?

They make people recognize themselves in them.

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

I write every morning from 9-1, every single day. And yes, I have an outline but the novel changes as I write it.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Be truthful to your characters, let them get under your skin before you begin to write.

hbh_deborah_moggach_authorIf you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

God knows. Maybe a landscape gardener, I love heaving earth around and planting flowerbeds.

What has been the best moment so far in your writing career?

Seeing several of my novels being made into films, with actors re-creating my characters. And I love going on set. I’m usually an extra, too!

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

I’ve just finished a novel called “Something to Hide”, set in China, Texas and West Africa – so it’s a broader canvas than this one, with big global themes.

Connect with Deborah:

About the Novel:

HEARTBREAK HOTEL follows a retired actor as he moves from the hustle and bustle of London to a run-down B&B that leans more towards shabby than chic. Realizing he needs to fill the B&B’s beds quickly—and tidy up the garden while he’s at it!—Buffy comes up with a brilliant plan to kill two birds with one stone: a class that teaches the newly divorced how to perform the everyday tasks previously done by their other halves, like the gardening…

Enter a motley crew of guests: Harold, whose wife has run off with a younger woman, Amy, who’s been unexpectedly dumped by her boyfriend, and Andy, the hypochondriac postman whose girlfriend is too much for him to handle. But under Buffy’s watchful eye, this disparate group of strangers finds that they have more in common than perhaps they first thought.

Author Q&A with Christopher Noxon – Plus, a Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of his debut new novel Plus One (which came out this January) we interviewed Christopher Noxon and asked him questions about his novel, writing and even what he has coming up next. We are thrilled to have Christopher on our blog today and I have loved getting to know him – 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 Plus One and how long did it take you to write?

PlusOneCvr1_FinalA few years ago, I came to a crossroads in my career and creative life. I’d published a book, had a piece in the New Yorker, appeared on The Colbert Show and pretty much satisfied pretty much every journalistic ambition I’d ever had. Meanwhile my wife Jenji’s career had taken off and the income I brought in as a journalist was no longer a real factor for our family.

And so I did what many partners of successful spouses do: I got domestic. I handled carpools and home repairs and travel plans. I helped out at school and got serious about diet and exercise. I spent many blissful mornings at a coffee place with a small and exotic cohort of men married to women whose success, income and public recognition surpasses their own.

I was having fun and enjoying my time with the kids, but I found myself dogged by insecurities. I felt embarrassed that my wife bore the burden to support our family. I got twitchy and defensive when people asked what I “did.” I was prone to odd outbursts of aggression – peeling out in the minivan at carpool, mowing down kids at a Lasertag birthday party, getting whiplash after leaping off a rooftop into a swimming pool.

And so I started writing again. And for the first time in my life I wrote without an assignment or editor, without any idea if what I was writing would be published. I just knew there were funny, true and deep stories to be told about men learning how to hold a house, women who win the bread, what it’s like to be arm candy at the Emmys and how it feels to ease off the professional pedal and settle into a support role. I wrote about men who cook and caretake and sing backup for their front-and-center provider wives.

Along the way, I returned again and again to the question: how do men act out against the societal and even biological pressures that can feel conspired against them?

About 18 months later, I had a draft. Then came the rewrites and submissions and all the rest of it. All told it was two and a half years between when I started and when the book was done.

I love the cover of Plus One – who was the designer?

Robert Russell designed the cover. He’s an artist and designer and fellow Plus One — he’s married to the actress Lisa Edelstein. I loved that he was able to use one of my drawings — I drew the guy in the tuxedo holding the purse.

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

With three school-age kids and a wife who often works long hours, I’m a between-dropoff-and-pickup writer, starting at 8:30 and finishing before 2 for bus pickup. I write all over LA, in coffee shops and restaurants and libraries – anywhere but home (where I’m often interrupted by dogs, deliveries or the telephone). I love the ornate Mediterranean reading rooms at the Pasadena Central Library and the sunny modern stacks at the West Hollywood Library and have even written sitting on park benches and in my car while waiting for pickup at school.

Do you have a favorite author and what would be your top 5 all-time favorite books?

I love funny, unhinged domestic stories that entertain and shed hard-earned truth on the lives of their characters. I guess you could say I’m a solidly middlebrow reader. I can’t say who my favorite author is or even my five all-time favorite books… but when thinking about Plus One, I closely read the following books for tone, structure and overall awesomeness:

  • Tom Perrotta’s Little Children
  • Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing
  • Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife
  • Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You
  • Nora Ephron’s Heartburn

What are you currently reading?

Just finished Patton Oswalt’s Silver Screen Fiend, a super smart and sweet addiction memoir about cinema and comedy and LA in the mid-90s. Loved it. Next up excited to read Julie Buxbaum’s “After You” — she Tweeted at me when “Plus One” was published and she seems terrific.

CN-headshotWhat writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Boy that’s tough. Everyone is different; some people need encouragement while others need tough love. I guess I’d defer to books of advice I go to in moments of despair: Anne Lammott’s “Bird by Bird,” Stephen King’s “On Writing” and “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg and Lamott are way more spiritual and woo-woo than King, but all these geniuses say the biggest predictor of success is persistence. Keep writing. Treat it like exercise: do it every day and keep the muscles moving. The writers who succeed are the writers who keep at it.

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

I wrote a pilot script for a half-hour comedy based on the novel for ABC. I just heard this week that they passed on the pilot, meaning that for now the TV adaptation is dead. I’m bummed, but I remember that my wife Jenji wrote 12 pilots before one got made and while I was happy to take a crack at it, I never saw this book as a multicam ABC half hour sitcom. Hoping the book is adapted in some form in the future — I’d love to see the movie!

Meanwhile I’ve started work on another book about another family; this one is told through the viewpoints of multiple characters, one of whom is a 12-year-old foster kid named Milo. I’m excited about using more drawing and art in narrative and moving further afield from my own experience. The new book is still set in LA though. And there’s a 50-year-old guy who may or may not be a projection of myself (or Alex) in some imagined and not-terribly-complimentary future. In the end I can’t seem to escape myself.

Connect with Christopher:

To celebrate the release of his debut novel, the team at Tandem Literary have graciously provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of Plus One for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US entries only):

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