Behind the Book: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Editor’s Note: Kate Morton is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lake House. Her newest book The Clockmaker’s Daughter is the rich, spellbinding new novel that tells the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadows across generations, set in England from the 1860s until the present day. Special thanks to Sara Rattaro for this insight into what went in to the writing of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

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 How did you manage to intertwine different narrative plans with such ease and without any flaws? How do you write and develop your novels?
I wrote The Clockmaker’s Daughter differently from my other novels. In the past, I have written each chapter in the same order that it appears in the published book; this time, however, I wanted the structure of the novel to support the thematic exploration of time. It was important to me from the start to show the way different layers of time had transpired within a single place. I knew up front that the novel would contain a number of short vignettes – snapshots into the lives of various residents of Birchwood Manor, the house at the novel’s heart – linked together by an over-arching first-person narrative. I wrote the historical vignettes first so that when it came time to write Birdie Bell’s story, I – like she – was privy to the experiences of all of the other characters across time. Because I wrote the past interludes simultaneously, I was better able to glimpse the silvery threads that tied them together.

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Behind the Book: Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Editor’s Note: For Elizabeth, stories provide both an escape from trouble times and an answer to problems. Her latest novel, Night of Miracles, reflects her desire to remind people of the good things in life. Read on to discover Elizabeth’s take on what has inspired her novels.

When I was nine years old, I wrote and submitted my first poem to American Girl magazine. It was called “Dawn,” and it was a stinker of a poem, even by the most lenient of standards, but it did two things. One was that it got me on the path of buying my father a Cadillac—for I thought surely the poem would be published and I would receive somewhere around a million dollars. Unfortunately, my poem was rejected, and should have been, and I did not get a million dollars, or even the pittance that the real payment must have been. But I got something else. Writing that poem showed me the pleasure of getting what I was feeling inside, out. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook by Mark Sisson

Editor’s Note: Mark Sisson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet, the groundbreaking ketogenic diet plan that helps to reset your metabolism in 21 days. His newest book, The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook, contains 150 keto-aligned recipes to help you slim down, get healthy and go keto the right way. We had the opportunity to catch up with Mark recently. Read on to discover his thoughts on the Keto craze and what led him to write The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook! Plus, get a sneak peek into some delicious Keto recipes! 

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Confession: Even though I consider myself to be plugged into what’s happening on the cutting edge of nutrition, health and fitness, I was caught off guard by the “keto explosion”— the surge of interest in the ketogenic diet these past few years. The general public and scientific circles can’t stop talking about keto. On the plus side, this has shined a light on the many benefits of a low-carb, real-food way of eating like the one I’ve been writing about for years. On the other hand, it seems like keto came out of nowhere to become the hottest thing around, so it’s being labeled (unfairly) as a fad. Continue reading

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

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: 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: 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