Archive for the ‘
Fiction ’ Category
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Did you like Gone Girl? Are you into suspense-thrillers? Here’s a great one for you, The K Street Affair, which was a recent Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick of the Month. I asked author Mari Passananti to tell me more about motherhood and writing. Kudos to Mari for breaking into this male-dominated book genre!
KK: What’s your book about?
MP: The K Street Affair follows one young lawyer who risks everything, including her life and the lives of those closest to her, to try to stop her law firm’s clients from financing and executing a series of large scale terror attacks.
KK: How excited were you to be a BN Pick of the Month?
MP: It’s very exciting to have my second novel singled out for recognition by the country’s largest bookstore chain, especially since I worried, prior to publication, that The K Street Affair might be viewed by some in the book business as too quirky. The novel doesn’t fit into any neat pigeon hole. It’s women’s fiction, by virtue of having a female protagonist, Lena Mancuso. It’s a thriller, since Lena spends most of the book trying to stay alive and one step ahead of the villains. And it’s a political suspense novel, because those villains include a prominent politician, a lobbyist, and several investors in a massive multinational corporation. The K Street Affair poses big questions about the nexus of power and money and about how Washington, D.C. works—not the most customary contemporary women’s fiction fare. But, as bestselling thriller author Joseph Finder said recently, “The world could use more women thriller writers.” I wholeheartedly agree.
KK: How do you juggle writing and motherhood?
MP: My son is three years old, and he goes to preschool four days a week. For now, I do most of my writing during school hours and find myself wishing for a slightly longer work week (though it’s probably not p.c. to say that). When my son was younger, I had a wonderful regular part time sitter, because I could not imagine trying to write anything more complicated than an email while watching him. I think it’s really important to be frank about the work/life juggling question. I know so many women who beat themselves up because they think they should be able to work from home while minding their toddlers. And unfortunately, I know a few who claim to work while watching their kids, when they are actually paying a babysitter. I see no shame in paying for child care as an investment in your career, and I don’t think it’s something we women should hide from one another. I should add that I also know author moms who work while their kids are home, or they write from the sidelines at soccer practice, or in their parked minivans. Their kids are older and out of permanent self-destruct mode.
Categories: Fiction, Mom Must Read, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors | Tags: Barnes and Noble, Gone Girl, law firm, lawyer, Mari Passananti, pick of the month, suspense, The K Street Affair, thriller
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
The book called The Good House by Ann Leary kept popping up on my Facebook feed. I read statuses such as “It’s so awesome!,” “Hildy’s alcoholism makes me feel better about myself,” “That was the most lovable and unreliable main character I’ve ever read.” My friends tend to be rabid readers with excellent taste, so I thought I’d better check it out. Also, it is creeping up the bestseller list.
I listened to The Good House on Audible in two days. (I’m so obsessed with Audible–that’s another story I’ll be writing soon). I highly recommend their version narrated by actress Mary Beth Hurt. However you ingest books, get your hands on this one fast.
Hildy Good does not drink, she tells you at the beginning of the book. Later she sneaks down to her mouse-infested basement to crack open a bottle of wine–just for a sip. She does not have a drinking problem, she insists, even though she’s just come back from rehab, and her grown daughters believe she’s doing great on the wagon. Hildy’s a 60-ish real estate broker in Wendover, Massachusetts. She’s quite sure that she’s the most successful business woman in town, and she loves her girls, her grandson and her dogs. Sometimes, just for fun, she reads people’s minds at get-togethers, but she insists it’s just a party trick. Meanwhile, Hildy is the descendant of a burned-at-the-stake Salem witch, and her aunt was a fortune teller. Oh, and by the way, her mother killed herself when Hildy was 12.
The story unfolds with her real estate business getting squeezed, her daughters being a little annoying and her loneliness building since her husband ran off with a man. Hildy knows everyone and everything in her lifelong hometown. Whether she has ESP or not, she says she can read people more accurately than shrinks just by taking a look inside their homes. Enter a new couple, Rebecca and Brian McAllister. Rebecca–bewitching herself–becomes fast friends with Hildy because they share secrets. Rebecca doesn’t mind if Hildy has a glass of wine, and Hildy know she’s carrying on with the psychiatrist who works from the office upstairs from the real estate agency. Enter Frank, the town fix-it man, who was Hildy’s first when they were teenagers. Blackmail, romance and partying ensue.
Author Ann Leary (more on her in a sec) doesn’t really need a good plot to carry off this hilarious and wry book because of the richness of the characters and the town. I found two aspects of her writing particularly captivating. First, it’s impossible not to relate to Hildy–she’s a mom, a wife, a lover, a snoop–with total abandon. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a 60-year-old protagonist, but age in this book is irrelevant. Second, this is a manifesto on what alcoholism is really like. But it’s not like a waggy finger at all. Instead, it’s authentic and totally, completely funny. Anyone who’s ever had a drink will be enthralled with Hildy’s gritty choices. The wait-what-just-happened plot was the zinger in this book that kept me not pasted, but glued to it.
I didn’t read anything about The Good House until I finished the audio book. Then I found out that Ann Leary is comedian Dennis Leary’s wife, and she’s also written another work of fiction and a memoir. I’m glad I didn’t know that because celebrity-connected books turn me off (getting deals is easy for them). But don’t be fooled by the author’s link to the A-list. Ann Leary writes the pants clear off of this novel. I’m happy to report that she’s hard at work on her next one about a battle over a WASP-Y Connecticut family estate. I’m in. I’m hooked. Please Ann, create someone I love as much as Hildy Good.
Categories: Best Sellers, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books | Tags: alcoholism, Ann Leary, bestseller, Dennis Leary, ESP, Hildy Good, horses, Mary Beth Hurt, Massachusetts, real estate agent, The Good House, witch
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Steamy new novel alert: Indiscretion by Charles Dubow, left, comes out today. It’s the story of a golden couple with a very complex and complicated love life. Publisher’s Weekly calls Indiscretion an “elegant debut.” The author, an editor from BusinessWeek (and former sheepherder!) is also a dad of two who vacations in the Hamptons where his book is set. Indiscretion is on my nightstand, and I’m totally intrigued. Charles was so kind to answer my questions below:
KK: Tell me about the book!
CD: It’s the story of Maddy and Harry, a happily-married couple, and what happens when a beautiful young woman inserts herself in their lives. The books revolves around moral choices and the consequences that follow when we fail to do the right thing.
KK: Tell me about the steamy parts!
CD: HarperCollins has described the book as a mash-up of The Great Gatsby and Fifty Shades of Grey. I suppose that’s because much of the action takes place among attractive people living on Long Island and because there’s a fair bit of sex in the novel. I didn’t set out to write a consciously erotic book but wanted to include certain scenes because they were important to the plot and character development.
KK: Do your kids know what your book is about? Is that ever a wee bit awkward?
CD: As I am finding out, that’s a tricky thing when you’re a parent. My daughter, who is a precocious 11-year-old, is desperate to read the book but, to her disappointment, I have had to tell her that she is too young. But that hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm. She has a copy of the dust jacket pinned to her bulletin board in her room and is quite unreserved in telling all her friends that Daddy has a book coming out. After the team at William Morrow, she’s my second-best publicist! My 14-year-old son, on the other hand, only cares about sports. I am sure he would have been far more impressed if I had made the starting lineup of the New York Knicks, which, given my age and utter lack of talent, is a physical impossibility.
KK: I always ask this question because I struggle with it myself. How do you manage fatherhood, work and writing?
CD: My wife and kids were a tremendous help during the writing of the book, specifically in how they gave me space to work. I had long had the idea of the plot rattling around in my head but it was only about four years ago that I actually committed myself to it. Because I had a family and a job the only time I could work on it was between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., as well as weekends and holidays. My family was very understanding, especially during the holidays, because I would always devote my mornings to writing. And even though there was no guarantee I would ever get published, they humored me. Now that I work from home, where I have commandeered the dining room, they try not to bother me when I am working. Except, of course, they do because I am Daddy first and a writer second. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Categories: Fiction, Mom Must Read, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors | Tags: Business Week, Businessweek, Charles Dubow, erotic writing, hamptons, Indiscretion, sex scenes, steamy novels
Monday, February 4th, 2013
Can you believe it? Amelia Bedelia turns 50 this year. But honestly, she looks exactly the same, as you can see at the left. HarperCollins just released a special edition of the original book by the late Peggy Parish complete with the simply adorable illustrations by the great Fritz Siebel.
I wondered if my kids, ages 5, 7 and 7 (twins), would like Amelia Bedelia, or even get her. So we read her antics last night. I had a blast reliving this childhood favorite that my mother, a first grade teacher, often read to me.
Just a refresher: Amelia Bedelia shows up at Mr. and Mrs. Rogers’ house in her maid uniform, eager to get started on her first day of work. The Rogers’ give her a list of tasks, and then they drive away in their green car. First thing, Amelia Bedelia makes a lemon meringue pie as a sweet surprise. Then she consults her list.
“Change the towels in the green bathroom,” she reads. So, of course, she gets out her scissors and starts cutting them up wondering why Mrs. Rogers would want to change them. My children giggled. “That’s not how you change towels!” my 5-year-old son said. (He added, “That’s not respectable,” but I’m not sure if he knows what that meant.)
We went on to find out that Amelia Bedelia dusted the furniture by putting something like baby powder all over it, and she “dressed” the chicken in nice green boy clothes. “You’re not supposed to do it like that!” my 7-year-old said. “It’s a good thing Amelia Bedelia baked that pie,” she added. Yes! I was elated that the kids understood Amelia Bedelia‘s literal-mindedness, and, even better, they found it just as funny as I did.
“I think Amelia Bedelia is a really good girl, and she’s very nice,” my daughter said. “She’s kind of silly, though!”
This special anniversary edition includes gems of Amelia Bedelia history in the back, including information about Peggy Parish’s inspiration: her third grade students. I liked the timeline on the last page that shows how Amelia Bedelia has been drawn from 1963 to 2013.
Good news: There are new Amelia Bedelias, too. The author’s nephew has been writing the books since Parish died in 1988. This month, Herman Parish released the first chapter books about Amelia Bedelia when she was a child. In Amelia Bedelia Means Business, her ever-patient parents tell her that a new bicycle will cost “an arm and a leg.” Amelia Bedelia decides she doesn’t want to give up her limbs for a new set of wheels, and more chaos ensues. Another similar title Amelia Bedelia Unleased was also released. These books are geared to ages 6 through 10.
If you haven’t checked Amelia Bedelia out in a while, she’s a real treat. Not a piece of candy! I mean she’s just as delightful and fun as ever.
Categories: Best Sellers, Children's Books, Classic Books, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Picture Books, Popular Books | Tags: 50th Anniversary, Amelia Bedelia, Amelia Bedelia Means Business, chapter books, Fritz Siebel, Herman Parish, Peggy Parish, picture books
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Last night I went to a rockin’ book party at my local book store–my cozy and indispensable second home. I was happy to celebrate my friend Jenny Milchman‘s debut suspense novel called Cover of Snow. Jenny is just an all-around cool person. She’s the mom who started the nationally popular Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. She’s also a mom who has struggled for 11 years to get one of her books published. She finally hit the jackpot with Cover of Snow that came out this week. This thriller is about a couple in Upstate New York. Mysteries abound when the wife wakes up to find that her husband, a cop, has hanged himself. But was this really a suicide? Publisher’s Weekly loves the book, writing that “Milchman expertly conveys Nora’s grief in a way that will warm hearts even in the dead of a Wedeskyull winter.” I’m anxious to crack open my copy.
And checkout Jenny Milchman’s guest post below. Find out what she read–and wrote–when she was pregnant. Her love for the suspenseful thriller genrea makes total sense.”
“When I was pregnant, I didn’t read any pregnancy books. As a suspense writer, I have the worst case of medical student’s syndrome ever, and if you so much as breathed the word pre-eclampsia in my direction, I would start actually seeing protein in the little cup they give you at the midwife’s office. No microscope needed here.
So what did I read while I was pregnant? I know this is going to sound weird. Probably even weirder than my extreme suggestibility. I read Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Yes, during my very first pregnancy, when every gas bubble could’ve been a kick, and every kick could’ve been a sign I was going into labor, I read a book about a woman who didn’t realize she was gestating the devil’s spawn.
Books have meant different things to me from the time I was able to read, but when I started the process of becoming a mother, they morphed into something else entirely, and I think this morphing is part of what compelled me to read the classic blueprint for paranoia in pregnancy. (Yes, Rosemary, there really is a coven in the next apartment).
As a pregnant woman, things were becoming very, very real. No more fooling around, this wasn’t just playing house. I was about to become responsible for another human being. Forever. Until I wasn’t on this earth anymore, but a part of the earth.
In fiction, I found respite. Nothing real there. I mean, despite my extreme medical studentitis, I pretty much knew that my husband hadn’t traded my womb for a good role on stage. (He isn’t even an actor). Rosemary’s problems were tantalizingly…unreal.
In addition to being a reader, I’m also a writer, although while I was pregnant, I was an unpublished writer. But I was trying awfully hard to get published by the time I became pregnant.
I’d been trying for about three or four years. To get published, not to conceive; lightning struck pretty fast with the latter, thank goodness. I’d written four novels, and they had all gotten close. I had an agent and editors who wanted to buy my work. In fact, I’d even postponed pregnancy for a while, assuming I would be published soon, and then who would have time for a baby?
But it didn’t happen, and before I get all metaphysical about why, and start writing about the child I feel I was meant to have, let me just get on with things and tell you that I bit the bullet, jumped off the cliff, and while pregnant, also wrote my fifth novel.”