Behind the Book: Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler

Inspired by historical events and a follow-up to the bestselling Calling Me Home, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls follows the deep friendship between two women at an early 20th-century rehabilitation home for cast-out single mothers and the reclusive librarian who discovers their story a century later. Read on to discover author Julie Kibler’s recommendations, inspirations and influences as we go Behind the Book. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Editor’s Note: Having started her first novel for a bet in 1996, Lisa Jewell has grown into one of the UK’s most beloved and popular fiction authors. Jewell’s writing is addictive, her characters fleshed out and her storylines original. We were thrilled she agreed to write this piece about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Watching You. Read on to discover how this book came to be!
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The first glimmer of the genesis of Watching You was a feeling that there seemed to be an awful lot of news stories about very suburban people in very suburban love triangles committing murder. Either the mistress would kill the wife, or the husband would kill the wife, or the wife would kill the mistress or some other combination of the three.

So, if I was to write about suburban love triangles then I needed a suburb, and that was when the book really started to take form in my head; there is a suburb of Bristol in the UK called Clifton which is famous for its high set rows of brightly painted houses. It used to be a rough area, but has become increasingly gentrified over recent years and is now so “chi chi” that it has its own branch of the Ivy (an upscale restaurant chain in the UK). Continue reading

Behind the Book: Queen of Air & Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Editor’s Note: From the master of young adult fiction comes the final novel in the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling The Dark Artifices trilogy, Queen of Air and Darkness. This magnificent conclusion to a spellbinding series involves dark secrets and forbidden love, which threaten the very survival of the Shadowhunters. We had the opportunity to catch up with Cassandra Clare and ask her some questions about the series and Shadowhunters.

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What first inspired you to write about Shadowhunters?
The idea came to me one afternoon in the East Village. A good friend of mine was taking me to see the tattoo shop where she used to work. She wanted to show me that her footprints were on the ceiling in black paint — in fact the footprints of everyone who’d worked there were on the ceiling, crisscrossing each other and making patterns. To me it looked like some fabulous supernatural battle had been fought there by beings who’d left their footprints behind. I started thinking about a magical battle in a New York tattoo shop and the idea of a secret society of demon hunters whose magic was based on an elaborate system of tattooed runes just sprang into my mind. When I sat down to sketch out the book, I wanted to write something that would combine elements of traditional high fantasy — an epic battle between good and evil, terrible monsters, brave heroes, enchanted swords — and recast it through a modern, urban lens. So you have the Shadowhunters, who are these very classic warriors following their millennia-old traditions, but in these urban, modern spaces: skyscrapers, warehouses, abandoned hotels, rock concerts, thrift stores. In fairy tales, it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger. I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest — where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries and strange beauty. It’s just that only Shadowhunters and Downworlders can see them as they really are. Continue reading

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

Editor’s Note: 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: 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: 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

Behind the Book: The Dark Between Stars by Atticus

Editor’s Note: Atticus is the internationally bestselling author of Love Her Wild, his first collection of poetry. In The Dark Between Stars, Atticus delves into the dualities of life experiences and the connections between life’s highs and lows. In this poignant collection, he captures the need for both beauty and pain, for light-heartedness and deep revelations. This collection is a glimpse into the human soul, full of tragedy and promise. We had the opportunity to catch up with Atticus recently. Read on to discover his answers to our questions!

When did you first start writing poetry? What was your inspiration?
I began about 5 years ago. I was in Paris at the time and was moved by the way the city looked after it rained. I took out my phone and started writing. I decided to post what I had written on Instagram, but I knew that I wanted to do it anonymously so I could always remember to write what I feel and tell the truth.

Do you have any recommendations for people who are just starting to write poetry for the first time?
Bukowski said, “don’t try,” which, to me, means: don’t set out to write the best poem. Just write something, period, and the good will come. I believe that.

Do you have any rituals or anything special that you do while writing to get into the right mindset?
I have a little back-house/writing shack filled with things that inspire me: old books, typewriters, candles, photos, records, tobacco pipes, anything that gets me in the headspace to write.  Sometimes I go back there and don’t even write, I just sit and look at pictures and read. For me, half of writing is sitting, staring at a candle, watching the flame dance, and waiting for it to tell me something profound. Continue reading

Books Authors Read with Craig Johnson

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Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome author Craig Johnson to our Northwest Highway location in Dallas on Wednesday, May 17 at 7p.m. to discuss his new novella, The Highwayman. We hope to see you there! In the meantime, we asked Craig to share some of his favorite books with us as part of our Books Authors Read blog series – enjoy!

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When asked to make a list of my top-ten books, I thought Westerns, and then I thought I better thin the herd a bit and decided to limit my list to modern Westerns with 20th century environs. That cut it quite a bit, but then I thought I’d narrow things down even more by only including authors I’ve actually met. Now some of these folks I’ve only met once, while others are downright friends. So, here we go…

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
I met Mr. McMurtry when he was given the True West Magazine life achievement award and stood aside, not wanting to bother him. After a while I noticed him standing around by himself at the buffet table and figured I might as well go over and say something nice. “I think The Last Picture Show is one of the finest novels ever written.”

He clutched my arm. “Thank you, but don’t leave.”

“Okay…”

“I just don’t want to have to talk about Lonesome Dove for a while.” Continue reading