Behind the Book: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

Editor’s Note: We were fortunate enough to have debut author Laura E. Weymouth write an incredible, exclusive work about how stories affect us all. For Laura, stories provided an outlet and helped to inspire her debut novel, The Light Between Worlds. Read on to discover Laura’s take on the beautiful and revelatory magic of stories.

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Early on in life, I learned that storytelling has a peculiar sort of magic to it—not just the magic of creation, of making something out of nothing, of spinning new worlds and new people and new plots into being, but the magic of revelation. Because in telling a story, you invariably learn something about yourself. And in listening to a story told, you learn more of who you are as well.

As a teen who wrote constantly, fiction and poetry were both my oracle and my catharsis. They showed me what I most struggled with, and then helped me to deal with those things in the safe and secure haven of text on a page. I learned through fiction how the uprootedness of my family background had profoundly impacted my ways of thinking, even when it seemed to have little bearing on day to day life. I learned through poetry how heavily the unkindness of humans to one another and the fate of our fragile planet hung on my young shoulders. I wrote with other voices, giving my words to invented characters, telling stories that were not my own, and in doing so, I uncovered truths about myself.

I learned as a reader, too, that stories are a revelatory experience. In A Ring of Endless Light, I found that I believe hope always overcomes darkness. In Surprised by Joy, I found my faith. In The Lumatere Chronicles, I found, quite simply, myself and my family.

When it came time to write The Light Between Worlds, I knew I’d learn deeply personal things in the process. But I also wanted to show on the page how the stories we tell about others are always, in some way, about ourselves. So I decided to write from two points of view. Two very different sisters, separated by time and space, telling stories about one another, and in doing so, telling readers about who they themselves are. Continue reading

Behind the Book: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

When the Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel centered on the truly inspiring story of a high school teacher who surprises everyone when she breaks with tradition to become the first female high school football coach in Texas. Set during WWII, Tylene Wilson faces extreme opposition but shows what courage really means. This inspiring story has won hearts everywhere and was chosen as our Book Club selection for October and November. We had the opportunity to discuss the book with Marjorie Herrera Lewis, which you can read about below.

This is your debut novel- what did you learn about the process of crafting a book?
The biggest lesson I learned about the process of crafting a book is that it’s hard; it’s really hard. It takes discipline, passion, skill and a willingness to learn something new almost every day.

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What first interested you in Tylene Wilson’s story?
The story resonated with me the instant I was told what Tylene had done. I am a career sports journalist, and to discover that a woman had coached football in the 1940s took my breath away. I also felt connected to her in a way because I was the first woman assigned to the Dallas Cowboys beat in the 1980s. I knew firsthand what it was like to work in a male-dominated field. I was drawn to what I imagined she had endured. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

As mentioned in our Cozy Fall Book List, Markus Zusak, bestselling author of The Book Thief, is back after a 13-year break with Bridge of Clay an incredible, sweeping family saga. This is the kind of emotional, moving book you find yourself reading and re-reading. Zusak’s breathtaking story centers around the five Dunbar brothers, who are beholden to only themselves after the death of their mother and abandonment by their father. The brothers are living—fighting, loving and grieving—in the perfect chaos of a house without grown-ups. Then, the father who left them walks right back in with a surprising request: Who will build a bridge with him? It is Clay, a boy tormented by a long-buried secret, who accepts. But why is Clay so broken? And why must he fulfill this extraordinary challenge? Read on to discover Zusak’s thoughts on his triumphant return.

ON WRITING BRIDGE OF CLAY

bridgeofclayHow do we sum up a decade of our lives going by, and all that happened in between? For me, the one thing that made things hardest over the last ten years is also what makes the answer to that question pretty easy: I poured a decade into Bridge of Clay.

I originally got the idea more than two decades ago; I was nineteen, or twenty. I stumbled over the thought of a boy building a bridge—but I had a lot of growing up to do, both as a person and a writer—before I was able to write it. I tried, of course. I even finished a version of Bridge of Clay that I didn’t send off to attempt publication. I was a long way from having anything published at that stage—but I knew even then that the version I’d written wasn’t the right one. . . I didn’t know it would be another twenty-three years before I’d get there. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

The Girl They Left Behind is a breathtaking novel set in war-torn Bucharest that follows the life of Natalia, a child abandoned by her parents who had hopes that her abandonment would mean she would have a better life. It is a tale of unrelenting love and sacrifice, of what defines a family and how to come to terms with one’s past. We recently talked to Veletzos about her incredible debut.

Congratulations on your debut novel! Have you always wanted to be a writer or is this a new development in your life?
Thank you so much! Writing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think I fell in love with it when I was about seven or eight, and my first story was entered in a children’s writing competition in my native Bucharest. Ever since I’ve written and read constantly, and in the early years of my family’s move to California, it brought me such solace. Eventually this led to a degree in journalism and work as a copywriter and editor—but it wasn’t until 2010, after bracing some health challenges with my youngest son and my father’s unexpected passing, that my dream of crafting a novel began to take shape. One night during that challenging period, I came across on my hard drive something I’d written three, maybe four years earlier, and it was as if someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. It turns out that those pages became the opening chapter of The Girl They Left Behind, which I then went on to complete in less than two years.

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What initially drew you to write a story set in Bucharest during World War II?
I have to say, several factors. Most importantly, my family’s story of survival during the war and the years of Soviet occupation was nothing short of fascinating and harrowing, giving me rich material to work with. Secondly, Romania’s history in that time has so seldomly been covered in modern literature, and I wanted to bring some of it to light through the eyes and experiences of my characters. Thirdly, I suppose it was simply nostalgia for my native city—and a desire to reconnect to it on some level. In fact, many of the piazzas and streets that I describe in my novel come directly from my recollections as a child. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell

Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician is a time-traveling romp of epic proportions. Fans everywhere found themselves panicking over the cliff-hanger and will soon be snatching up copies of the sequel, The Devil’s Thief. In this book, the cast carries on trying to save magic by trying to find four elemental stones scattered across the continent. This spellbinding sequel is sure to delight fans, and we’re delighted that Lisa answered our questions in this Behind the Book post!

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What inspired you to write a series about saving magic in a world that has almost lost it completely?
Strangely enough, when I first pitched the idea of a magical thief to a former editor, the book wasn’t necessarily about saving magic. But the editor was nervous about the idea because she said, “America isn’t really a magical place.” Which got me to thinking… She was kind of right. America doesn’t have the same cohesive and deeply magical mythologies that somewhere like Great Britain has. There are a lot of reasons for why that’s the case, and I decided that I wanted the series to play with that history and create a backstory to explain some of those reasons…and maybe dream of a different future. Continue reading

Behind the Book: When We Were Young by Karen Kingsbury

Editor’s Note: Karen Kingsbury has captivated thousands with her Baxter Family series. No one is more invested in a single family than Kingsbury fans. Her award-winning books center on realistic storylines and emotional writing keep bringing fans back for more and more. In her latest novel, When We Were Young, she focuses on second chances and the way back to each other. We had the opportunity to catch up with Karen recently, and she was kind enough to provide us with answers to our questions.

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When We Were Young focuses on second chances. What inspired you to write about this?
My son, Tyler, showed me a new John Mayer song – Never on the Day You Leave. The message was haunting. My take away question was this: What if you could know today what would happen if you really walked out that door tomorrow? From that point, the novel came to life. Like all my books, very soon God had given me a movie in my head and heart. I loved everything about writing this book. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Faerie Knitting by Alice Hoffman & Lisa Hoffman

Editor’s Note: Faerie Knitting melds two concepts—knitting and storytelling— into one incredible book. This magical combination comes from a pair of cousins, New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman and master knitter Lisa Hoffman. The two collaborated to create an entrancing collection of stories of love, loss, trust and perseverance, with magical knits accompanying each story. We had a chance to catch up with the pair recently. Below are their answers to our questions.

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Faerie Knitting is such an adorable, unique concept for a book. What inspired the two of you to team up and meld your talents into one incredible work?
Alice: We had always wanted to work on a project together and began this book by writing a column for Faerie Magazine. That was so much fun we decided to expand the collaboration into a book.
Lisa: When we discussed what we could do together, we realized that Alice’s love of and talent to write original fairy tales would be a perfect way to include knitting into short stories in a magical way.

How did you end up pairing the knits and stories? Did you match all of the knits to the stories or write the stories to match the knits?
Alice: We began by making a list of titles that inspired us both. In a way, the ideas for stories and knits were organically created together.
Lisa: Together we paired titles with possible knits. After Alice wrote the stories, I designed the knits choosing the fiber and colors from her descriptions.

Have either of you taken to wearing one of the patterns more than the other?
Lisa: I knit a “Blue Heron” Shawl that I wear and always get great compliments, and the “Seventh Sister” Capelet is a favorite for a light layer in spring and fall weather.

What do you think it is about fairy tales that enthralls readers?
Alice: There’s a deep, timeless truth in fairy tales that speak both to children and to adults. A reader can take the story at face value or can read at a psychological level.
Lisa: They stretch your imagination, taking you to a magical place where fantastic events can happen.

Which one of the fairy tales in Faerie Knitting is your favorite? Why?
Alice: “Blue Heron,” because it was our first collaboration.
Lisa: I love them all, but since I recently became a grandmother, I am drawn to “Thorn,” a story of a baby blanket with a protection charm.

The women in these fairytales seem to feel trapped before the knitted pieces give them a chance to escape. Do you think women feel trapped in today’s society?
Alice: It’s true, the women in these stories often knit themselves out of a bad situation and find strength in the garments and fates they create.
Lisa: I agree, and I am constantly amazed by the power and strength of women, individually and in groups, who rise up to accomplish great things when faced with difficult circumstances.

Any advice for beginning knitters? Or aspiring authors?
Alice: For both knitters and writers, the more you do it, the better the result will be. And of course, nothing is perfect. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Lisa: I tell my students to keep trying new techniques without fear, learn something new with each project and enjoy the process.

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Photo Credit: Deborah Feingold

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Marriage of OppositesPractical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on EarthThe Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Her short fiction and nonfiction works have appeared in the New York TimesBoston Globe MagazineKenyon ReviewRedbookArchitectural DigestGourmetSelf and others. Her novel Practical Magic was made into a major motion picture starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman; her young adult novel Aquamarine was made into a movie in 2006. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Copies of Faerie Knitting available at HPB.com and in Half Price Book stores while supplies last.

Lisa Hoffman_credit Alyssa Peek at PeekPhotography.com

Photo Credit: Alyssa Pee

Lisa Hoffman, a knitwear designer and knitting teacher, lives in New York City with her husband, Andrew. She has three grown children living near and far. Lisa Hoffman’s designs have been published in Vogue KnittingInterweave Knits and Knitwear Magazines. She has designed projects for Artyarns, Be Sweet, Blue Sky

Behind the Book: Handcrafted by Clint Harp

Editor’s Note: Spanning Clint Harp’s remarkable journey—from a childhood learning carpentry and hard work at his grandfather’s knee, through his struggles to balance pursuing his dreams with supporting his family, to his partnership with Chip and Joanna Gaines and the many adventures and misadventures of filming Fixer Upper—Handcrafted is part memoir and part manual for dreamers. Clint recently answered questions we had about his past, Fixer Upper and his book. Check them out below!

What was your favorite carpentry lesson from your grandfather?
“Do it right the first time, so you don’t have to go back and do it again.” It’s definitely one of those “easier said than done” rules, and I certainly haven’t always achieved that standard, but that rule is always on my mind. It’s like an angel on my shoulder in every situation. When my grandad said those words to me for the first time, he wasn’t even necessarily talking about building furniture. It was really something to be applied across the board. But as it turns out, doing it right the first time when building something is truly the best way to do it. It’s a good way to save yourself from a lot of heartache. And, it just happens to be useful in every other one of life’s moments as well.

Do you try to pass along similar lessons to your children?
Absolutely. In fact, I’ve probably said that “do it right the first time” line to my children so much at this point that they’re probably rolling their eyes on the inside whenever they get the “dad lecture.” In the end, if they can adopt that into their lives, I guess I’ll feel like I’ve done at least one thing right the first time as a parent.

What inspired you to write Handcrafted? Handcrafted cover
I believe in the power of sharing stories. I’ve experienced the magic firsthand that happens when we find ourselves in someone else’s story, and we realize that we have a lot more in common than we probably expected. In a world where we’re connected more than ever, it seems as though loneliness and isolation are more prevalent than ever before. I believe if we are vulnerable with, we’ll learn from each other and push the human race forward. We have a lot of issues facing us, whether it be on a personal, city, state, country or worldwide level, and I don’t know how to solve them all. But I know that there are people out there who to do something positive and contribute to this earth in a way that only they can. The thing I decided I could offer was a table and a hope that people would sit around it, be themselves and find common ground. But before I could make that decision to jump off a cliff and answer that urging inside my heart to build tables for a living, I had to be inspired. And I was. By songs, movies, conversations and books. I wrote this book because I hoped that someone else out there, who’s inching toward what they see as impossible, might read it and realize they’re not alone, find commonality in my story and be pushed closer to realizing their own dreams of changing the world for good. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

Editor’s Note: The incomparable Rena Rossner brings to life a richly detailed story of Jewish identity and sisterhood in The Sisters of the Winter Wood. The fairy tale is both captivating and imaginative, wrapping around two sisters who have distinctly different personalities. Rossner weaves their lives in and out of one another and creates a story that is deeply connected to identity, faith, sisterhood and the magic of stories. Rena recently revealed to us the inspiration behind behind her latest novel.

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The Goldene Medina – Of Fairy Tales and Dreams

When I first got the idea for The Sisters of the Winter Wood, I had no intention of writing a Jewish fantasy novel. In fact, I was trying to distance myself from that part of my identity. The previous books I’d worked on had been so Jewish that I started wondering if my work was too Jewish. So I decided to work on a fairy tale retelling of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” poem. I loved that it was a tale of sisterly love and that both sisters end up saving each other. I decided to set my book in a forest in France near an (invented) town called “Blest.” But when I finished a draft of the book and re-read it, everything felt wrong. I woke my husband up in the middle of the night and said: “my book doesn’t have a soul” – to which he responded: “Rena, go back to sleep.”

But I realized that I needed to set this re-telling somewhere that meant something to me. So I borrowed some of my parents’ genealogy binders – the results of hours of research by family members containing pages of testimony, family history and long lists of names. The interesting bits were the stories about the different towns researched—Bender, Riga, Kupel, and Dubossary – that my family came from before they made their way to America. I started to look for a town by a river with a forest or an orchard, a place with lush fruit trees. And that was when I found a poem written by a man from the town of Dubossary describing exactly what I was looking for. My heart started to race. I knew that I had found my novel’s heart, its location. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Editor’s Note: Best known for Gothic horror and dark young adult mystery novels, April Genevieve Tucholke is taking a dive into the previously unexplored with The Boneless Mercies. This novel is a gorgeously written standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of glory. Throughout the novel, Tucholke portrays fierce women warriors in unapologetic friendship who refuse to quit their quest for glory. We had a chance to catch up with April recently and she was kind enough to answer some burning questions for us.

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Your previous books, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue SeaBetween the Spark and the Burn, and Wink Poppy Midnight are very different books from The Boneless Mercies. What made you want to write a more historical piece?
Fantasy is my first love. The words “sword and sorcery” still make my heart skip a beat. Fantasy is what I read when I want to truly escape into a fictional world. Spring and summer are for Jerome K. Jerome and PG Wodehouse or mysteries like Miss Marple or Brother Cadfael—but fall and winter are for fantasy, a retreat into something darker and grander and nobler than the world I know. It was my favorite genre as a kid and is still my favorite today. Continue reading