Monday, November 26, 2012

Caroline Leavitt Interview: Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You. Her new novel IS THIS TOMORROW will be published in May by Algonquin Books. She can be reached at

It's very strange that you started out as my student, writing about Apron, and

from the first line, I knew the novel had something special. When did you know?

First of all, thank you for saying that. And second of all, when you told me it did!

In the middle of that first novel class with you, you sent me a note that said, “Your

characters are breathing off the page.” I jumped up and down and cried a little.

And then I did something really smart; I asked if I could work privately with you.

As my mentor, you were my traffic cop. This subplot? Too long. That scene? Not

enough conflict. You treated me like a “real” writer way before I did.


When did you first become a writer, and when did you first feel as if you could

call yourself a writer, and why?

When I was seven years old I was brushing my teeth one day, minding my

own business, when this girl in the mirror pointed at me and said, You’re going

to be a writer. Nope, I said. Writers wore huge glasses, had really frizzy hair and

weren’t famous (it was the 70’s). Plus, I already had big plans to be a singer. But

then in Fourth grade the headmaster of my school read a poem I had written to

the entire student body. That was when I realized it was true; I was doomed to be

a writer. Now I prefer to call it “destined” but back then it was definitely “doomed.”

It took me two years to write Girl Unmoored and eight more to get it

published. I didn’t tell anyone but my family and a few close friends that I was

writing, so when the book came out I had some explaining to do. And that was

when I first allowed myself to be called a writer.


What's your working life as a writer like? Do you plan things out or just follow

your pen?

The blank page is my mortal enemy. We can’t even be in the same

room together. So we’ve worked out a deal: Four pages and I’m out. I’m really

competitive so there’s no way I’m going to let that blank page win. I write when

my kids are in school, which isn’t as many hours as I wish it was. Some days

our oldest one goes to school at 10:00 am and the youngest gets out at 1:30.

On those days it means keeping my laptop close and sneaking in more work at

a daughter’s dance practice or while dinner is cooking. It makes me a little crazy

truthfully but I don’t know how else to do it.

As for the way I write, that makes me crazy too. After I get the blank pages

out of the way, I rewrite and cut, rewrite and cut, rewrite and cut until it’s worthy

of being read by outside eyes. And then I do it all over again for the second draft!

Your road to publishing with Fiction Studio Books is really fascinating. Can you

talk about that process? And what has it been like working with the Fiction Studio


For eight years my book was rejected by just about every credible editor

in New York. A few times it got so close that my husband sent me congratulatory

flowers… but then in the last second for one reason or another it didn’t happen.

So when I sent my book to FSB and a week later the publisher contacted me

with a contract, it was a whole lot of awesomeness all at once. Fiction Studio

Books is a small press so there are unique gifts and challenges that come with it.

I had a big say in my cover art, for instance, but marketing was virtually all up to

me. So I did two things: I hired BooksparksPR and entered my book into every

awards contest I could find. Crystal and Kim at BooksparksPR have done

magical things for me (Entertainment Weekly to name but one) and I have been

floored and so honored by the successes I’ve had with the book awards.

I have also been utterly amazed by the dedicated and insightful book

bloggers out there. For authors who publish with small presses, these bloggers

give us the review opportunities that traditional magazines usually don’t. Megan

at, Mandy at and of course

Jenny (to name but a few) have been so incredibly supportive of me. They tweet,

they review and they give me opportunities like this to be interviewed by you, all

for nothing in return but an advanced copy. Book bloggers are doing God’s work

as Grandma Bramhall would say, and an author like me owes them a debt of



If you had three pieces of advice to give to writers, what would you tell them?

1. Promise your characters you will tell their story. The truth is that not too

many people really care if you ever finish that novel (unless you’re paying

their salaries/mortgage with it.) And it’s bending-a-spoon-with-your-mind

hard to write a book, so there are a bazillion reasons never to do it. But

by promising your character(s) that you will tell their story you have no

excuse not to. You promised.

2. Give yourself permission to write the worst first draft in the history of the

world. Because even if it is so horrible that you wouldn’t read it to a deaf

dust mite, there is still a tiny fragment of a good idea in there somewhere

and you’ll find it in the second draft.

3. Show up at the page. If you don’t show up how do you expect your

characters to?


What's obsessing you now and why?

Right now I’m writing the worst first draft in the history of the world (see above)

and it’s so hard not to hurl my computer through the window. But I made that

dang promise (see above) so I have to. Arrgh.


What are you working on now?

A fairy(ish) tale. Which means that while I’m writing it I’m in a place far, far away

and snapping myself back into reality tends to make my head explode. Dinner?

carpools? bills? None of these exist in my land far away.


What question didn't I ask that I should have?

What does Caroline Leavitt want for Christmas?


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love Anthony: Lisa Genova


Love Anthony: Lisa Genova

In her third fictional novel, Love Anthony, author Lisa Genova examines the themes of autism, marital infidelity, motherhood, and female introspection against the beautiful backdrop of Nantucket, Massachusetts. The novel deviates between the female voices of Olivia, a recently separated mother of an autistic child named Anthony and Beth, a local Nantucket mother of three daughters who has found out that her husband, Jimmy has been unfaithful to her. The novel digresses between the two voices of Beth and Olivia.  Olivia struggles to find meaning in life after losing her beloved son, Anthony, as Beth tries to find a new normal without Jimmy. Beth is drawn finding her former writing voice about a young boy she saw one day on Dead Man’s Beach, a place Olivia has frequented before with Anthony.  Similarly, Olivia begins photographing families on the Nantucket beaches to support her income as a single mother. As the novel progresses, their lives intertwine and the women become immersed in each other’s stories. The novel examines themes of motherhood and maintaining the creative voice that drives our artistic passions.

Lisa Genova has built a following with her fantastic gift of portraying authentic female protagonists in her novels. The voices of these women seem real and readers become quietly immersed in her plot lines. In Love Anthony, Genova has also again brought her expertise as a Harvard trained scholar of neurology to discuss the field of autism. I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of Love Anthony and am happy to report that Ms. Genova’s third book is currently receiving rave reviews.  If you are looking for a wonderful novel to dive into in the cold months, this one will not disappoint. I am waiting with excitement for her fourth book to arrive!