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: 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: 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

Meet the Teachers: Highlighting Educators in the Community

Educators hold a special place in our hearts at Half Price Books. Earlier this year, we introduced you to a pair of teachers who are true HPB booklovers. Adriana and Jeffery Sifford visited every HPB in the Houston, TX area (there are nine for anyone who’s counting) in a single day and tweeted about their adventure along the way. In this Q&A, we get to know Adriana and Jeff, and discover more about their choice to pursue a career in education.

Why did you become an educator?
Adriana – When I was a reporter, I covered education and I loved going to teachers’ classrooms and watching them teach. Students were engaged, teachers were having fun. I watched how students were learning from the teachers, and I always wanted to be a part of that.
Jeffrey – This may sound so cliché, but to make a difference. I always enjoyed learning and that’s something I wanted to pass on.

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What do teachers do when their kids are at lunch? Take selfies in the classroom! Looking good, Adriana.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Adriana – My favorite teacher was Ms. Martinez. She was my 9th grade English teacher. She was nice, patient and was there for us when we needed her. She was also my debate coach. She made learning fun!
Jeffrey – My favorite teacher was my 4th grade English teacher, Mrs. Zaskoda. She made reading come alive and I looked forward to going to her class every day. 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

Behind the Book: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

As a lover of psychological thrillers, when I first heard the plot of The Perfect Mother I was intrigued. It’s the story of a mother’s group and one of the babies goes missing. Seems simple enough. But place this mother’s group in the middle of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and add the fact that the baby goes missing while the moms are out partying together and things start to get more interesting. As the police hunt for the baby, the reader sees the lives of each of the mothers in the group put on full display. Marriages and friendships are put to the test as secrets are revealed about each character. This thriller definitely delivers the thrills – and Kerry Washington agrees. She’s already signed up to both produce and star in the movie! We procured this Q&A with author Aimee Molloy to tell us a little more about the book.

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WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE PERFECT MOTHER?
After my first daughter was born in 2013, I signed up for September Babies, a new moms group in Brooklyn. I was a little skeptical about this initially, but the skepticism dissolved almost immediately. I had no family around to help and very little experience with infants. September Babies became my lifeline. Though some members met in person, most of our interaction was via a list serve—a place where people asked questions (Is this normal . . . ? Should I be worried . . . ? Will they ever sleep through the night?). I was blown away by the generosity and encouragement the members showed one another. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but I envisioned us—a relative group of strangers—as a tribe of women who had banded together, and the question occurred to me: what if, God forbid, one of our babies went missing? I could see the members of the group, black war paint under our eyes, torches in hand, combing the streets until the baby was found. I remember I was riding the subway, my daughter strapped to my chest, and I pulled out a notebook, jotting down notes on this idea. A few years later, those notes became The Perfect Mother.

Continue reading

Exclusive Interview with David Sax, author of The Revenge of Analog

“A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We’ve begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog. David Sax has uncovered story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners and even big corporations who’ve found a market selling not apps or virtual solutions but real, tangible things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music allegedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade. Even the offices of tech giants like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on pen and paper to drive their brightest ideas.”

06booksax-blog427David Sax, business and culture writer and author of The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, just released his book November 2016. And in a fitting nod to the whole notion behind the book, nearly all the 20,000 first-run printed copies have sold out in the first month and it’s difficult to find the few that remain on bookstore shelves. Pop in your local HPB and grab a copy before they all disappear!

When I heard David speak on KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd, there was no mistaking his passion for the printed word. And I knew right away I needed to reach out to him firsthand. David is a champion of analog and an advocate for local bookstores. His love for tangible things is palpable. Things like 35mm film, old-fashioned bookbindery, vinyl records and brick-and-mortar shopping. I had the pleasure of getting to know David and learn more about the inspiration behind his latest book.

Q: What drew you to write about this topic?

A: Two things that sort of happened at the same time, a decade back.  1. Everyone I knew started getting smartphones (Blackberries…remember those?), and suddenly people’s behavior changed overnight.  2. I got back into records again, and those two things sparked a conversation about the nature of analog v. digital that eventually led to the book as the market caught up with it, too. Continue reading

Q&A w/ Allison Amend: Inside Enchanted Islands

In Enchanted Islands, we have the immense pleasure of meeting Frances Conway, a smart, independent and endearing woman. Frances tells her story from many stages of life – like when she was a child to when she was a teenager on the run with her best friend, Rosalie. All of that leads up to the most fascinating time of her life, when she is in her 50s and moves to the Galápagos Islands for a very unique reason. It’s so interesting to read about her life on the islands and how she survived with very little. Throughout the story, it begins to feel like Frances is your best friend telling you the story of her life. It’s charming and funny at times, while still resonating the seriousness of the situation – a world on the brink of World War II. I highly recommend this book for fellow lovers of historical fiction.

Can’t wait to read Enchanted Islands? Pick up a copy at your local HPB. Plus, enter to win our Chatterbox giveaway featuring Enchanted Islands, sweet summer swag and a $25 HPB Gift Card over on Twitter.

Allison Amend, author of Enchanted Islands, shared her thoughts and experiences while writing her new novel.

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What brought you to Frances Conway’s voice, and how did you discover her?
I was doing some reading on the Galápagos Islands with the idea of possibly setting a book there (mostly because I wanted to visit the islands), and I came across Frances’ memoirs in a list of first-person historical accounts. They’re out of print; I had to order them off the Internet. I immediately fell in love with Fanny’s voice. She’s funny and self-deprecating, witty and an excellent writer. But she also left a lot out of her memoirs, such as any convincing explanation of why she came to the islands, or what her life was like before this journey, which had me wondering what she was hiding. Of course the gaps that history leaves is fertile ground for fiction. From there, my imagination took over, and her voice was imprinted on my mind so that she simply continued speaking on the page. Continue reading