Category Archives: Author Interviews

I couldn’t resist seeing you again.

Miss you IIHey folks. I know I said that the last post was the last post, but I’ve got good reasons for stopping by here again. One, a few readers recently subscribed here, while all the action is happening at the new place over there; and two, a few old subscribers have yet to click on the new site and re-subscribe.

I’m not much of a self-promoter, so really, I wanted to send out this quick post because what you’re missing by not clicking over at the new site is – specifically – an excellent interview with Megan Stielstra, author of Everyone Remain Calm. She’s a writer, the Literary Director and a performer with Chicago’s 2nd Story, a teacher at Columbia College and the University of Chicago, and a mother. All I did was ask a few questions, but what she’s done is share a wealth of writing experience and give readers what feels like a mini-writing workshop.

Really. Go there. Read Part 1 of the interview, where she talks about digital publication and the courage it takes to write – and tell – our stories. Then, study Part 2, because that’s where the mini-workshop happens, where she discusses good days and bad days and what to do with your writer’s block.

I’d hate for you to miss it.

And, if you decide to subscribe to the new site while you’re there, all the more fun!

Welcome Jenna Blum, Bestselling Author of The Stormchasers

Go get him, Karena, he said. You’re the only one who can.

And Karena knew this to be true, from the nights she was the only one who could sing Charles to sleep, the only one who could coax him off the roof, keep him from climbing the water tower, make him stop chanting that song, stop bouncing that ball, stop kicking that door. She ran out into the lot, tasting the dirt in the air, positioning herself…where Charles would either have to stop or run her down….
~ from The Stormchasers

More than once, I’ve fallen victim to the belief that I could save someone: a friend in despair, a parent on the brink, a loved one chasing a false god down a dark road. I’ve set my voice on an uncomfortable high note in hopes that enthusiasm was contagious, played counselor during marathon phone calls,  stood in the way of the inevitable and gotten pinched in the middle. Painful lessons are never pretty.

But in Jenna Blum’s amazing novel, The Stormchasers, we find a story that mixes the agony of mental illness with the beauty of landscape, the power of devotion, and the miracle of unexpected healing. A novel as much about mental illness as it is about storms, The Stormchasers gives readers vivid images of how both phenomena mirror each other in the way danger brews and crescendos, then crashes and leaves a path of destruction.

The main character, Karena Jorge, is driven in her work as a journalist and in her search to save her twin brother, Charles, from himself. She sets out on a stormchasing expedition, one that puts her in danger at times and brings her closer to a different discovery: Charles is not the only one who needs saving.

The Stormchasers, touching and poignant, is a story that I will read again. I’m so honored to host Jenna Blum today for an interview about her novel, about writing, and about karma. At the end of the interview, leave a quick comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy of The Stormchasers. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, August 30th, at high noon.

**UPDATE: Because of Irene’s visit to the East Coast, and subsequent power outages over the weekend, I’m going to postpone the drawing for a copy of Jenna Blum’s novel until Thursday, Sept. 1st.**

CC: In a recent and compelling essay on the website, Style Substance Soul, you talk about a childhood fascination with tornadoes and reasons why you chase storms (even after the novel has been published). Did the idea for THE STORMCHASERS stem from your personal experience on the road with Tempest Tours, or was it your research with them that took root and sealed your strong connection with the chasing community?

JB: That’s a great question! I had the idea for THE STORMCHASERS–a novel about a bipolar young man who chases tornadoes when he’s manic and his twin sister, who basically chases him–long before I started chasing storms with Tempest. In fact, I wrote an abbreviated draft of the novel in my graduate MA program at Boston University, back in 1996.  I didn’t have a stormchasing community before I started chasing with Tempest to research subsequent drafts of the novel, and what I didn’t expect were the lifelong friends I would make chasing.  I chase with the same people every year, my esteemed mentors and friends like me who are still learning, and they are my storm family. THE STORMCHASERS continues to introduce me to new folks in the chasing community, for which I’m profoundly grateful.

CC: All of the characters in your novel are written in such a way – authentic and relatable – that readers will think of them long after they close the cover of your book. Do you have a special technique you use, early on in your writing, for developing characters?

JB: Thank you for the generous comment about my characters!  I suppose they come off as real because to me, they are real.  They just happen to exist in a dimension halfway between the ether and the paper, hovering somewhere above my head.  My first job as a writer is to get them out where others can come to know and love them the same way I do.  I’ve been told that my characters are lovable despite their flaws–or sometimes hateful because of them or sometimes just plain flawed–and I take that as proof I’ve succeeded in getting them down as real people.  Because who among us isn’t flawed?

When I’m first getting to know the characters, I start by writing down everything I know about them, which ranges from macro big-picture stuff–basic family history–to the fact that Charles Hallingdahl, for instance, the brother in THE STORMCHASERS, ate only green food as a child. Not all the details make it into the novels.  But because they’re part of the character, I write them down.  More details reveal themselves as I go along, and the biggest struggle is to remain true to the characters’ characters, to not graft behaviors onto them because it suits the plot or it’s something I myself would do.

CC: In your career, you’ve traveled all over and seen a variety of landscape. Do you have a favorite place that you’d love to call home or visit time and again?

JB: Again, a great question, and one that strikes a poignant chord with me these days, because although I’m proud to say I have a home in Boston and a house in rural Minnesota where my mom and grandmother were born, I’ve been on the road at least 300 of 365 days in the past year.  One night, when I was checking into a hotel in Florida, the desk clerk looked at my MA license and said, “Wow, you’re far from home.” I thought: Yes, I sure am, both literally and metaphorically. I’ve traveled and divided my geography so much that I’m not sure where my central home is.  But I love my writing community and friends in Boston.  And geographically, my heart belongs to the heartland.  The landscape of the Midwest and the High Plains makes sense to me and allows me to breathe freely–all that space and big sky.

CC: What are you reading these days?

JB: Galleys!  I have the privilege of reading books before they’re published to supply authors with quotes for their book jackets (you’re like Ah-ha, *that’s* where those come from). It’s a great kind of sneak preview.  I read Rebecca Rasmussen’s incredible debut THE BIRD SISTERS and Kaira Rouda’s inspiring novel HERE, HOME, HOPE.  Three novels I highly, highly recommend for 2012:  Anna Solomon’s THE LITTLE BRIDE, about a Jewish mail-order bride who ends up in the Dakotas.  Nichole Bernier’s THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D., about a woman discovering her best friend’s secret life after that friend’s death.  And Jami Attenberg’s THE MIDDLESTEINS, which is about food, family, love, life, and loss–all the important stuff–and will tell you why it’s vitally important to include cinnamon in pastry.

CC: What advice do you have for writers on the rise?

JB: Usually I would cite Winston Churchill here:  “Never give in, never give in, never give in.” And that’s still true. But in today’s swiftly changing publishing landscape, it’s also important to be open to new ways of doing things. There’s no room for a lazy writer these days (if there ever was!).  Expect to do your own legwork, your own homework, your own promotion.  Use social media. Reach out to and support as many other writers as you can.  It’s good karma, and that must always come back to help you in the end.

Thanks, Jenna. And, for all you readers out there, don’t forget to drop your name in the comment section for a chance to win a copy of The Stormchasers.

JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and # 1 international bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS.  She is also one of Oprah’s Top Thirty Women Writers. For more information about Jenna Blum and her bestselling novels, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or Like her page on Facebook.

Welcome Sean Keefer, Author of The Trust

“…I don’t specialize. I don’t work for a huge firm with posh offices, and I don’t turn the television on at night hoping to see my latest commercial. I just practice law….” ~ from The Trust

Often, a Lawyer is the last person you want to call, because it means you’re either in trouble or in for a big bill. But, Noah Parks – an attorney and the main character in Sean Keefer’s debut novel The Trust – is an unassuming lawyer, a gentleman, and not really in it for the money.

He’s the perfect man, then, to handle the probate of Leonardo Xavier Cross’ will. However, a simple probate quickly turns into a case of murder, and Noah Parks finds himself sleeping in the same house as the number one suspect. And, she parades through the house in his boxers and tee shirt.

How’s that for a tease?

In real life, Sean Keefer is a practicing attorney in Charleston, South Carolina where he lives with his wife and two Australian Shepherds. Today, he stops by to talk about The Trust, about marketing and promotion, and to offer his key advice for others working toward publication.

Oh. You wanted more on the boxers and tee shirt character? You’ll have to read the book. Better yet, leave a comment after the interview, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a copy of The Trust. Random.org will choose a winner on Tuesday, August 16th.

CC: Writers often debate the pros and cons of using real versus imaginary cities for settings in a novel. The story in your novel takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, your home town. Were there any challenges (or perhaps big perks) you encountered in rooting THE TRUST in such a familiar place?

SK: It was an interesting thing, setting The Trust in Charleston.  I consider Charleston my “adopted” hometown as I am actually from a ways up the SC coast.  That being said I’ve always loved the city.  I had the opportunity to visit several times during my childhood and, in many ways, I feel I was destined to end up here.

Something about this area just motivates me to write and while I discover new things about the city on a daily basis, it felt only natural to set the book here. The most challenging part of the process was taking the time to describe the area and remembering that not everyone knows the area as I do.  Many times I was tempted to simply jump ahead in the plot, but I found it fit the character of Charleston to blend the setting into the story.

CC: Your novel has received some exciting recognition – Honorable Mention in the 2011 Beach Book Festival Awards and The Bronze Medal in the Mystery-Suspense-Thriller category of the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards – which I imagine helps promote your book. As an indie author, what are some other routes of promotion that have helped spread the word about your debut novel?

SK: A writer friend told me something recently – Anyone can write a book, that’s the easy part, it actually can be harder to read a book. The real challenge comes in marketing what has been written. No one told me, or should I say, made me believe the true challenges of book marketing.  Particularly as an indie author.  While I have perhaps a stronger desire to have my book succeed than any marketing professional may have for any book they are marketing, the professionals typically have large bank rolls behind them.  I just have little ol’e me.

I’ve learned that to successfully market a book you have to do it everyday and you can’t get upset at rejections or failures.  I make daily use of a variety of social media, but my most successful efforts have been when I get out and meet people and talk to them about my book.  People don’t get to meet a lot of writers and I’ve been humbled and flattered by the reception I have received (and continue to receive). The more people you talk to, the more people that will perhaps want to read your book. Of course the awards help too.

CC: I’m a believer that life informs writing (and vice versa). Since you are a lawyer in real life, I’m curious as to how that experience translates into your work as an author?

SK: As an attorney I am amazed by the fact that truth is always stranger than fiction.  I find inspiration on a daily basis from what I see in my work.  Many of my characters are amalgamations of people whom I meet in my work.  The struggle is to make sure that my writing doesn’t imitate my work life.

CC: What are you reading these days?

SK: Recently, I read In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long.  I also just finished Iron House by John Hart.  I make sure to read Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, at least once a year.

CC: Do you have any advice for writers on the rise?

SK: My advice for anyone starting out writing is simply to write.  If you don’t write something, you don’t have anything to read or even edit.  My motto when it comes to writing is “Write, Edit, Repeat.”

~

For more information on Sean Keefer and his novel, THE TRUST, visit his website, like his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter. Also, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a free copy of his debut novel. Check back on August 16th for the winner.

Do a little dance, and mark your calendars.

There’s been a slight, but critical correction to this post, an update on that Second place win. Read it here.

Sunset Party Dancing Girl Silhouette

The weather is hot (just how I like it), the sun is out full force (yay for freckles!), and yesterday I found out I placed Second in the Pen Parentis 2011 Writing Fellowship for New Parents.

Second!

When you’re fighting self-doubt with both fists lately, second place feels really great. I was alone, in a quiet house, when I read the announcement, but I didn’t stay quiet for long.

And, there’s more good news — for you. In the month of August, I’ll be hosting three authors here: two for interviews and one for a guest post. Plus, all three events include book giveaways.

Sean Keefer will talk to us about his award-winning novel,
The Trust, on August 10th.

The lovely Jenna Blum stops by on August 24th
to discuss her bestselling novel, The Stormchasers.

And, Caitlin Kelly will be guest posting on August 31st and giving away a copy of her memoir, Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.

Watch for these posts and enter the giveaways. It’ll be easy: all you’ll have to do is leave your name in the comment section. Leave a pseudonym if you want, but don’t miss your chance to enter.

What good news do you have to share? I bet you’ve got something. Big or small, let’s celebrate together.

* photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr

An interview with author, Linda Cassidy Lewis, on her novel, The Brevity of Roses

“It was time to stop looking backward. . . . He opened the new journal and its blankness sent a ripple of fear through him.”
~ from The Brevity of Roses

The middle ground, I’ve been there: hesitant to let go of the past (if I let go, will I forget? And, then what?), unable to embrace the future (so many possibilities…too many possibilities!). It is only when I am completely present in the moment – when I throw caution to  the wind and ignore logic and follow my gut – that I wind up moving in the exact direction meant for me.

Linda Cassidy Lewis spins a tale of redemption from the middle ground for the characters in her debut novel, The Brevity of Roses. Jalal, Meredith, and Renee have little in common, except that each is tethered to the weight of a painful past. Incidental decisions, like a left turn instead of a right, bring the characters together. Unexplained connections urge them forward, to new life and to healing. Linda gives her readers a well-designed book and a story with unforgettable characters.

I’m honored to host Linda here today for an interview, where she talks about turning a short story into a novel and about coincidences in writing and life. At the end of the interview, leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway: a soft-cover copy of The Brevity of Roses. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, July 19th, at noon.

CC: Linda, in your interview with Kasie West, you say that THE BREVITY OF ROSES grew from a short story. As you worked to expand the story into novel length, did the rest of the plot and additional characters unfold with ease?

Linda Cassidy Lewis

LCL: I wrote Brevity in total panster mode. The original short story was a skeletal version of chapters 2-7 in the novel. Before I finished polishing that story, I saw a mental picture of Jalal, despondent and alone in his house. I knew I had to explore that. At the end of writing the second story, I wrote a long letter to Jalal from Kirsten, the younger woman in his story (a character 180 degrees from Renee).

Soon after, I revised that letter into a separate third short-short. At that point, I viewed Brevity as a novella, a trilogy of sequential stories. I set it aside, for later revision, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. Additional scenes for each story played out in my head. Meredith “told” me I had misunderstood her feelings about her first husband. I “heard” Jalal’s father explain the cause of their conflict. Renee appeared, revealing Kirsten as imposter. I started revisions and ended up with a novel.

CC: In your novel, the story of Jalal and Meredith reflects a philosophy that there are no coincidences in life. Chance encounters are often the catalyst for change, if we, like Jalal and Meredith, embrace those moments. Have you experienced coincidences in your own life that later proved to be much more pivotal in your journey?

LCL: I believe we only see “coincidences” in our lives because, most of the time, we live on an underground level, like ants. If our view were from above it all—the Eye of God view—we would see life from beginning to end and recognize the interweaving, the synchronicity of it all. Since you mentioned Kasie West, I’ll share how my “chance encounter” with her has been pivotal to my writing journey. In 2008, I attended my first critique group. That same night, Kasie also attended for the first time. I don’t remember that we spoke directly for the first couple of meetings, but I loved her critique comments to everyone in the group. Eventually, she became my chief go-to person when I needed another pair of eyes. And she became my lead cheerleader. She never let me give up on Brevity—and I wanted to do that many times. In my acknowledgments, I thank her for the “pushes and pulls that took me to the finish line.”

CC: You published this novel on your own (creating the artwork for the cover as well!). Since publication, what has been the best part, and the most challenging aspect, of being an Indie Author?

LCL: The best part, of course, is when a reader tells me they loved the book. That will never get old. The biggest challenge is finding ways to connect with more of those readers … and developing the patience to wait until that happens. Promotion is not something I have a natural affinity for, so the whole process after publication has been a challenge.

CC: What are you reading these days?

LCL: I’m reading Dancing in the Shadows of Love by Judy Croome, a writer from South Africa. It’s beautifully written, poetic, delicious. Next on my list is David Malasarn’s The Wild Grass And Other Stories. I’ve read a couple of excellent stories from it and can’t wait to read more.

CC: What advice would you offer an emerging writer?

LCL: In the past, I’ve glibly said, “Don’t listen to advice.” I apologize. Certainly, there is good writing advice out there. The trick is not to be a slave to it. If you try something, but it doesn’t work, it’s the wrong advice for you. I suppose my best advice is to write from your heart. If you don’t love what you’ve written, neither will anyone else.

~

Linda Cassidy Lewis was born and raised in Indiana and now lives with her husband in California where she writes versions of the stories she only held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. At Out of My Mind, she blogs about her writing experience—typos and all. THE BREVITY OF ROSES is her debut novel. You can follow Linda on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

DON’T FORGET: leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of The Brevity of Roses!

Interview with Author, Kaira Rouda, on Her Debut Novel Here, Home, Hope

Yesterday, I posted a review on Kaira Rouda’s debut novel, Here, Home, Hope. Today, I’m honored to host Kaira on my blog, where she talks about writing the novel, balancing life as Mother and Author, and taking note of the most important tip for success.

After the interview, leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway: a free copy of Here, Home, Hope. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, July 5th, at high noon.

CC: While HERE, HOME, HOPE is your first novel, you were already a successful entrepreneur and published author (your nonfiction book, REAL YOU INCORPORATED, received great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads). How was the process of writing and publishing a novel different from your other endeavors?

Kaira Rouda

KR: Writing a novel is completely different than writing anything else. You’re right!  I think I have written in every type of format from radio and television commercials, to product catalogs, to press releases and web copy, newspaper and magazine pieces and a nonfiction book. Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs was to me a celebration and culmination to an amazing career building a company as a woman entrepreneur. I had so many lessons to share, so many women I had learned from that I wanted to profile. In nonfiction, it’s pretty much that: here’s what I know, here’s how I did it, and here’s what I hope will work for you. Straightforward, but I hope, too, inspiring. The response to that book continues to be amazing and I love hearing from women across the country who have taken that book to heart.

And now, I’ve finally donned my fiction writer hat – a hat I’ve dreamed of wearing since 4th grade. After we sold our company and I became a consultant I said to myself, now is the time.  In Real You Incorporated I had helped other women articulate and go for their dream. I knew what mine was. It was time to try, again. You see, I’ve been trying to be a published novelist, off and on, for 15 years – and that’s a lot of rejection slips, as you can imagine. For me, the process of writing is a pure joy. I love it – and writing books has been my escape for years. I decided to give it one more chance and fortunately, this time, the timing was right.  Seeing my novel on the shelf in a bookstore is one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Truly.

CC: I love the book trailer for HERE, HOME, HOPE! The music is a perfect match for a book that’s upbeat and “genuinely hopeful” (as quoted in Jenna Blum’s blurb). I imagine much of this book was a joy to write. Do you have a favorite scene or chapter?

KR: Thank you! I love the book trailer, too! An old friend, Pete Howland, and his firm Edge Creative produced it for me and it was their first book trailer. His wife, Heidi, is the lovely voice in the trailer and I chose the music! It makes me smile that you enjoyed it. Here, Home, Hope was a joy to write. I had a great time creating the characters and they’re all close to my heart.  So, picking a scene is tough, but I’ll tell you one of the hardest  scenes to write was Chapter 16, Bob and Kelly’s encounter in his empty house. I wanted to capture the tension, the threat, the possibility of violence,  without  going over the edge.  Because, as you and the wonderful Jenna Blum noted, the book is “genuinely hopeful”.

CC: I know you are mother to four teenagers (let me just say — wow). I’m raising two young children, and there are days when two feels like four. How do you balance life and writing?

KR: I learned a long time ago that balance is something you swing through on the way to something else. What we all need to remember, especially us moms, is that what our kids really want is a happy mom. If you’re happy, they’re happy, so we need to define lives and careers that work for us as individuals. My “balance” won’t be the same as yours, or anyone else’s, but if it’s right for me, that’s what’s important. And, we need to value and support each other’s choices. Once we begin to do that, genuinely, as women, we’ll be unstoppable. And I have to say, I do have an amazing partner in my husband, Harley, but no – he is not as perfect as Patrick, Kelly’s husband, in Here, Home, Hope.

CC: What are you reading these days?

KR: I am a voracious reader. At any one time, I’ll have two or more books going. I recently finished VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio (loved it),  was lucky enough to read the ARC for BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook (loved it), and I’m diving into WATER FOR ELEPHANTS right  now (I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet!). This month another special book is released, Amy Hatvany’s touching novel, BEST KEPT SECRET. I had a chance to read it as an ARC, too, and highly recommend it. Do you want me to keep going?

CC: Do you have any advice for writers on the rise?

KR: Aside from writing, I’d recommend reading. Voraciously. The best writers I know are readers. They love books, their own and others’. They celebrate the written word and they see the publishing industry as a world of new possibilities today. Stick up for other authors, too. Be supportive. That’s your job as a part (or hopeful part) of this industry. One of the most amazing outcomes of publishing my first novel has been to become friends with wonderful authors across the country. Women such as Eleanor Brown, Caroline Leavitt, Sarah Pekkanen, Katrina Kittle, Jenna Blum, Amy Hatvany, Claire Cook, Robyn Harding, Talli Roland and many more. These women embraced me, and my dream, and I hope to return the favor. That’s the power of sticking together.

It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and it has been an amazing journey for me. The most important point: don’t give up.

~

You can find more information about Kaira Rouda, her novel and her nonfiction books, on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter or Like her on Facebook. And, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of HERE, HOME, HOPE!

Interview with Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling Author of Pictures of You

“Squinting, she tries to see more than a few feet ahead of her, but the fog’s enveloping her, making her increasingly uneasy. She flicks the parking lights on and off to try to slice through the darkness and then the fog moves again and she sees, almost like pieces of a torn photo, patches of what’s there.”
~from Pictures of You

You know that feeling. The fog is so dense you think your windows are dirty. You flick the windshield wipers onto the highest speed. They cut across and back, again and again, but your vision is still blurred. You use your sleeve to wipe off the inside of the window. Nothing. Then, you panic.

Caroline Leavitt’s first chapter in her bestselling novel, Pictures of You, evokes that same frantic emotion in the reader, from the opening sentence to the last few words. The quote above suggests that fog can be blamed for changing the courses of two families’ lives. But, that moment described, just before the accident, also becomes a metaphor for the rest of the story: how does one recover and reassemble the pieces of a life broken by one event or another?

The book trailer for Pictures of You is haunting like the novel, and I could rave about several fantastic moments in the story. But instead, I’ve invited Caroline to share about her novel, and about writing, and I’m offering a free copy of Pictures of You. Just leave a comment below, and your name will be entered into the drawing.

~

CC: The first line of Chapter One (“There’s a hornet in the car.”) set me on edge immediately. By the end of the chapter, I was deep into that breathless moment when cars collide and lives change. You’ve written an amazing first chapter! Are you a writer who fine tunes chapter one before moving on to the rest of the story? Or, do you plow through a draft and then return to the beginning?

Caroline Leavitt

CL: I fine tune chapter one. It’s my lifeline.  If I have a good first chapter, then I know, when I get to the middle of the novel and I feel like chucking it all and going back to school to be a dentist, that that first chapter will call to me. It will say, “You can’t give up. What about me?” The first chapter is always proof to me that I can do this, that I have to push on. It’s like an act of faith to me. Plus, the first chapter really has the seeds of everything that follows.

CC: One of my favorite scenes in PICTURES OF YOU is when Luke returns home to care for Isabelle after the accident, despite her insistence that he leave her alone. You never once write about how either character feels, but the emotion presents itself through strong, natural dialogue and simple, yet powerful, descriptions. That scene cut right through me. Is there a certain scene or chapter in your novel that was your favorite to write?

CL: Ah, that comes from studying screenwriting, where everything is shown or expressed through dialogue, and not spelled out.  And thank you, so much. (It also comes through 16 drafts!) I loved writing the last chapter, that leap ahead in time. I was so relieved to get everyone out of that time period, and I was so curious to see what everyone would be like so many years in the future. Plus, it was something I’d never done before and I was really happy that it seemed to be working for me. As soon as I made Sam in his thirties, I stopped worrying so hard about him, too, which was quite a relief for me!

CC: On the Reading Group Choices blog, you talk with Heidi Durrow about audience and say, “…if I think about an audience at all, it smothers the work somehow. Readers respond when you’re able to show the dark or hidden places that maybe they have been afraid or unable or unwilling to.” PICTURES OF YOU touches on several core conflicts found in life and in relationships. Has your audience responded to or connected with your story in ways that you anticipated or were surprising to you?

CL: Another great question.It’s always surprising to hear what readers say.  I’ve found that people connect depending on what’s going on in their own lives.  There were a lot of people who were upset at the way the book ended. They had an idea in their mind of how it should go.  Some people were furious with April–I happened to love and understand her, though I certainly wouldn’t want her as a close friend.

CC: What are you reading these days?

CL: Everything I can get my hands on.  I really loved Tayari Jone’s Silver Sparrow. I review for People and the Boston Globe, so there are always books coming into the house and I’m always, always reading.

CC: Do you have any advice for writers on the rise?

CL: Yes.  Never give up.  Pictures of You is my 9th novel, and before this one, I never had any sales to speak of, and it was rejected by my old publisher as not being special enough. With Algonquin, it went on to become a NYT bestseller, a NAIBA bestseller, and it’s now in 4 printings and sold to six countries! You have to sit down and write everyday, and always help other writers. We’re all in this together!

Caroline Leavitt has a host of amazing credits to her name (including nine novels and essays or articles in places like New York Magazine and The Washington Post!), all of which you can learn about by perusing her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter or look her up on Facebook.

Don’t forget to leave a comment, so that you’re entered into the book giveaway. Random.org chooses the winner on Tuesday, June 14th.