Monday, July 24, 2017

FROM ROCKAWAY was one of my favorite books, and now Jill Eisenstadt has a new one out, SWELL, about family, being haunted, and of course, the beach at Rockaway, Queens.

 I'm so excited to host Jill Eisenstadt, the author of the novels FROM ROCKAWAY (Knopf, 1987/Vintage Contemporaries, 1988, Back Bay Books, 2017), KISS OUT (Knopf, 1991) and SWELL, (Little, Brown & Co). Her essays, articles and short fiction have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Mademoiselle, Seventeen, Vogue, Elle, Bomb, and more.

Swell, her newest novel, is set against the shoreline of Rockaway Beach, Queens, and it takes on a darkly comic look at family, a haunted house, secrets and of course, surprises. It's a wonderful novel, and thank you again, Jill, for being here!

I so remember From Rockaway, your first novel. I so loved that book. Do you feel like a different writer now? And if so, how so?

Thank you!

 Naturally life experience has deepened and broadened my understanding but my sensibility and connection to writing remains the same.  It took quite a bit of work on Swell for me to realize that the former firefighter from whose perspective I’d been writing was actually Tim from From Rockaway, only older. Time had changed the character too but it was still his voice and point of view.

 What was the “why now, why this book” moment for Swell? I always want to know, too, if the finished novel was anything like the initial idea?

I had no “why now, why this book” moment. For years I’d resisted writing fiction about Rockaway or even the outer boroughs again.  But I remained obsessed with the place and kept notes. Something cracked when I was asked to contribute a Rockaway story to the anthology Queens Noir (Akasic Books). I immediately knew what I’d write and was so engaged in doing so that I absolutely had to continue. The finished novel resembles the general initial idea but  a great many specifics changed along the way.

I loved the haunted house. Ever been in one?

It’s thrilling to read about haunted houses [see Shirley Jackson] and I want to believe they exist but for me, it’s difficult.
 Swell aims to point to the ways people and places continue to haunt us long after they’re gone. Even our own younger selves seem to hover around us like ghosts. A swell is a system of ocean waves that aren’t created by local winds but in some former, stormy place, in the past.  This is why you can go to the beach on a beautiful, still sunny day and find big, rough water. 

What kind of writer are you? Do you write things out on sheets of paper, use Scrivenor, fly by the seat of your pen? 
I’m an everything writer --- blank books, computer, scraps of paper, the Notes function on my Iphone — whatever is handy.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

History. Time capsules. Back when From Rockaway was still in galleys (1986 or 7), I added it to a time capsule that was being a buried in Rockaway. Recently, I noticed that there is no marker at the spot and began a small investigation.  A newspaper account at the time named the library as the capsule’s custodian. But nobody in the Queens library system seems to know anything about it or care. It got me thinking about local history, about centuries of buried stories and about the idea that a book itself is a form of time capsule. 

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?
Would you like to have a drink sometime?

Come on, who doesn't want to read about NYC in the 1970s, when it was the most dangerous city in the world? Janet Capron is here to talk about it and her "mostly true" account of the downtown scene--and her place in it-- in the ever fabulous, Blue Money

photo by Maggie Berkvist

 I've always adored New York City, and I got here in the early 80s, when it was still dangerous to walk up 8th Avenue to my apartment (I had to ask couples to walk me home), when AIDS was claiming way too many lives, drugs were rampant, and it was scary. And exhilarating.  So, of course, I love Janet Capron's debut novel/memoir, BLUE MONEY. And I am so, so thrilled to have her here. Really, you want to buy six copies of this because every page is a memory that's startling, shocking and yeah--amazing, too.  Thank you so much, Janet, for being here!

And I'm not the only one who is going nuts for this book.
Blue Money came out on June 20 and was TheNational Book Review’s #1 pick of that week:

Playboy interviewed her on June 14 and excerpted a chapter of Blue Money:

Tell us about the “why now, why this book” moment when you started Blue Money:
Back when I was an undergrad at Columbia, having returned to college after a long hiatus in the street, the head of the Adult Creative Writing Program, J.R. Humphries, seized on a story I wrote for his workshop. It was about a post-doc physicist, a nerd, and the massage parlor hooker he falls for—a contemporary take on “Blue Angel”. I forget how Humphries knew it came out of my experience, but he did, and he said I should be mining that material. I was reluctant at first because I was enjoying my new-found respectability, but Humphreys said something else that stayed with me: “You’ll always remember your childhood, and of course, you’ll always be able to draw on your current life, but the twenties you’ll forget, so don’t put off writing about those years indefinitely, because they could get away from you.”
A few years and many short stories later, after attending the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Columbia, I was finally ready to start writing a book. I remembered what Humphries told me and decided the hell with it, I was going to write a book about my twenties, which eventually became Blue Money.

New York City in the 70s and Avenue C—I got to Manhattan in 1980, but even then it was still dangerous, so I can imagine the allure—and the terror, both. What did it feel like to go back into those memories? What do you miss about that time?
Maybe we’re hardwired to forget fear in the same way we forget pain, but I don’t remember being scared very much at all. I do remember running wild through a much rougher Tompkins Square Park at 4:00 AM looking for my junky boyfriend, and it seems to me now that the muggers were the ones who were afraid. However, there is one big exception—an experience so traumatic that I didn’t want to go near it. My mother, God bless her, told me I had to include the climatic, explicit scene that comes at the end of Blue Money. I won’t divulge it here. She said, “If you’re going to write about your years in the street, don’t make it sound like it was all fun and games—tell the whole story, tell the truth. “ She shamed me into it. I couldn’t sleep while I was writing that scene.
 I miss the counter-culture just about every day. I miss the fighting in the streets. I miss that last clarion call—the music especially—before 1984 descended on all of us.

What kind of writer are you? Do you outline, stop and start?
I would love to write an open-ended novel in which the characters take me wherever they want to go. What a luxury! After I had finished the first 150 pages of Blue Money, Ed Burlingame, who had been the head of trade at Harper & Row and then gone on to have his own imprint at HarperCollins, made an offer based on those first 150 pages and an outline of the rest of the book, which he requested. My then agent thought there was going to be a bidding war and tried to stall him. I didn’t know what to think, but by the time I told her to take it, Burlingame had changed his mind. Nevertheless, I stuck pretty close to that original outline, although of course in later drafts it changed some. For instance, a smart writer friend suggested I move back the live sex show chapter, give the reader a little more time to ease into it, which I did.
 The book I’m currently working on, a novel called Harem, has an outline, which I’m following to the T so far. The third planned book, also a novel called The Hot Stove, already has a synopsis. (I’m writing now to beat the clock—got to make up for lost time—all the years spent in pharmaceutical advertising churning out bulleted copy and captions for charts and graphs.) Funny, until you asked, I never thought of myself as a writer who works with an outline, but I guess I am.

What's obsessing you now and why?
That’s such a great question to ask an obsessive.

Right now promoting Blue Money, which just came out a month ago. I’m not kidding—it’s bordering on obsession.

Before promoting Blue Money took over my every waking moment, one of the themes that run through the book continued to haunt me: Female sexuality, including genuine satisfaction (which is the subject of Harem, the book I’m working on now). I read The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer when it came out in the U.S. in 1970, and it has informed my thinking on the subject ever since. I just reread that book and its sequel, The Whole Woman, in preparation for an essay I recently wrote, “The Truth About Hooking”. The essay is about the rebellious politics of sex work in the 70s, but more about how little has changed and maybe even gotten worse in terms of our understanding of the true nature of female sexuality. Something is universally wrong.
Another subject that preoccupies me is the colonization of black people in this county—and around the world. I see our empire as being propped up by endless wars abroad and domestic terrorism here at home. During the past ten years, I’ve moved quite far to the left and no longer believe the system can be reformed. This has been a wrenching, even agonizing process. I was raised in the temple of liberalism—my grandfather, the newspaper publisher J. David Stern, was an advisor to Roosevelt and one of the authors of the New Deal. So breaking with what amounted to a religion growing up, that of progressive reform, has been difficult—not undertaken lightly.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?
How does it feel to finally be able to call yourself a writer, a published writer?
Divine! Even better than I thought!

Culinary Historian Laura Shapiro talks about What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories, including why Helen Gurley Brown loved gelatin.

Laura Shapiro is a culinary historian--isn't that the most wonderful thing you've ever read? 

She was a columnist at The Real Paper (Boston) before beginning a 16-year run at Newsweek, where she covered food, women’s issues and the arts and won several journalism awards. Her essays, reviews and features have also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Gourmet, Gastronomica, Slate and many other publications. Her first book was Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (1986), which the University of California Press has reissued with a new Afterword. She is also the author of Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America (Viking, 2004), and Julia Child (Penguin Lives, 2007), which won the award for Literary Food Writing from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2008. Her work is represented in the Library of America’s American Food Writing, The Virago Book of Food, and Best Food Writing 2002.  She is a frequent speaker and panelist on culinary history, and contributed a regular column on a wide range of food topics to, the Gourmet magazine website. During 2009-10 she was a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

In June 2012, the New York Public Library opened an exhibition called Lunch Hour NYC, co-curated by Shapiro and Rebecca Federman of the NYPL. Read Edward Rothstein’s review in the New York Times here. For more information about the exhibition, click here.

More recently, Shapiro was featured in Michael Pollan’s Netflix documentary series Cooked (2016).

I so adored this book and I'm so happy to have Laura here. Thank you, Laura! Now I am starving.

I adored this book. How difficult was it to choose the women you chose? And did you have a favorite?

I started out with a nice little crowd of six women -- well, as nice as a crowd can be that has Eva Braun in it -- whom I had chosen for all sorts of impressionistic reasons that didn't always hold up once I started the research. I would go looking for a paper trail documenting the food in some way and simply not find one.  So I held a few auditions, and although I only had three important criteria, it ended up taking quite a while to assemble the final group. 
 First of all, she had to be dead. This was a hugely important requirement. I've worked as a journalist for many years, and when you write about someone as a journalist you're naturally dealing with a real, live person. You're responsible to her, you owe her a fanatic degree of accuracy, and yet no matter how hard you try to achieve that, in the end the story belongs to her. She owns her own life. Writing about someone whose life is over is quite different. I'm still going to be as accurate as I can possibly be; I'm certainly not going to invent anything, but I'm going to feel much more free to think around and around my subject and bring her to life in my own way.
Second, I looked for women whose lives were open to research, and in particular, obviously, research on their meals. This was tough. Most people just don't record what they ate. Or maybe they do, but the references to food are scattered randomly through hundreds or maybe thousands of unpublished letters. Actually that's my favorite kind of research -- I love reading people's mail -- but I just couldn't do it six times over for a single book project. I worked as much as possible with primary sources, but I had to bow to the logistics.
Third, I didn't want women with any kind of professional connection with food. I assumed early on that the food stories of chefs and cookbook writers would be sitting right out front on the surface of their lives, which would make them too obvious to be interesting. I wanted stories that were lurking below the surface. For that reason I almost didn't start reading about Rosa Lewis, since she was a professional caterer; but I couldn't resist...and sure enough, her relationship with food wasn't at all obvious. It was going to be wonderfully difficult to extract, so I decided to break my own rule. 
As for my favorite -- it's Barbara Pym. I've loved her books for years, my copies are falling apart from constant rereading, and I jumped at the chance to write about her in as much glorious and expansive detail as I wanted.

I admit I know the answer to this from reading your wonderful book, but I always have to ask, why this book now for you? What were you thinking about when you started it?

The book that preceded this one was Julia Child, a short biography in the Penguin Lives series, and Julia was a such a perfect, peerless, incomparable and wonderful person to write about that I will probably never recover from the experience. As soon as it was published, I thought, I want to write another biography, and I want it to be about another Julia. But I couldn't find anyone else in the food world who appealed to me that much, and who hadn't already been written about quite a bit. So when I randomly picked up a biography of Dorothy Wordsworth one night, I think the food jumped out at me because I was ready to see it -- primed, in a way, to start wondering about culinary biographies of non-culinary people.

In a age where eating disorders are so prevalent, and glossy magazines always show 13-year-old models who weigh 95 pounds, it’s hard for women to remember that eating is a pleasure—and an important one.

Yes, and the dieting advice you see everywhere is so full of inane messages -- Eating is fun! Eating is a pleasure! Just follow these rules obsessively, spend a fortune on ingredients and kitchen equipment, never eat anything resembling a normal meal, and you'll be happy and blonde and 25 forever.
Two of the women in the book have dieting obsessions, Eva Braun and Helen Gurley Brown, and although I didn't set out to write a cautionary tale in either case, I hope it's clear that when you cast food as your enemy, there will never be any such thing as victory.

I definitely agree with you that how we do our eating shows character! I fell in love with my husband on our first date because he insisted we try three different desserts!  And I left a controlling guy because he monitored what I ate! Can you tell us a food story that involves you?

My mother was a wonderful cook, and we always had great food at home, so when I got my own apartment I was delighted to be cooking and enjoying food  just as I had been raised to do, but now in my very own home. Then I acquired a boyfriend who I think must have been one of the first neurotic foodies -- obsessed, but in a joyless way. He cared desperately about what he ate, shopped with fanatic care, and cooked very well because he knew all the best cookbooks and recipes. But he also worried quite a bit about his weight, so he used to serve himself, and me, the most minuscule portions I had ever seen. It was such a double message. He was being generous, in his own way, by doing all this excellent cooking; and then he would sit there looking nervous because I might eat too much. Giving and withholding, giving and withholding --ugh. I was so relieved when I finally figured this out and broke up with him.

I loved the story of Eleanor Roosevelt who protected the worst cook, and Helen Gurley Brown eating nothing at all—that one made me particularly sad because I always felt she was punishing herself under this veneer of cheer.  Food indeed is our story, and I feel like people should pay more attention to how they eat and why they eat. Can you talk about this please?

People do pay attention to how they eat these days, but it tends to be in the context of a crisis -- we're too fat, or we eat to much salt, or we have to cut out sugar, or we feel guilty because we're giving them pasta again instead of some beautiful Asian soup that we can't make without shopping in six different stores. If we could get past the worries, and the social/cultural demands that are always hovering, I think we'd be able to use our senses -- and our imaginations -- a lot more actively when we cook and eat. I see pictures of food posted on Instagram and Facebook, and I think yes, very nice, but that's only part of the story and probably not the most important part. The most important part you can't take a picture of -- it's what's going on in your mind and heart when you're crashing together a pan of macaroni and cheese for the kids, or in your psyche when you start planning a menu for a dinner party. Decode those messages, and you see where your food story is lurking.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

More and more nowadays it seems as though people do nothing but think about food, at least judging by what's going on in social media and by the lines that start forming at 5 pm outside this or that buzzed-about new restaurant. But it doesn't seem to me that chasing the latest chef, or posting pictures of some new hybrid ice cream made with chicken livers and sesame seeds, has anything to do with what's truly important about food, namely nourishment and sharing. The thing they call molecular gastronomy is a perfect example. It's not about feeding anyone. It's for people who are so jaded, who have eaten so much, and spent so much money doing it, that there's no way to woo them anymore except by transcending food entirely and entertaining them with Cirque du Soleil on a plate. It drives me nuts to see food writers take this seriously, when there are so many people in this country we haven't reached, who deserve to be freed from the clutches of the food industry. Simple, fresh food that people can afford and cook -- there's no culinary idea more genuinely radical than that.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

I'm sure you were planning to ask about the research, and I am delighted to answer. I loved doing it. I always love the research most, and this book had six times as much because it had six different subjects. There is nothing -- nothing! -- more blissful than picking up a stack of books you've requested at the British Library and taking them to your desk and opening the first one.  The world disappears, or at least one world disappears and another one comes to life before your eyes.  I admit, I'm speaking as an English major here, something I never really outgrew, so I was homesick for the British Library long before I ever saw the place. But every library makes me happy. The reading room at the Jerwood Centre in Grasmere, in the Lake District, was built to house the Wordsworth papers. They will bring you Dorothy Wordsworth's diary -- the very paper she wrote on, line after line of practically illegible handwriting -- and put it in front of you. It's yours, it came directly from Dorothy and now you yourself are looking at it and turning each fragile page.  I love research. Thank you for asking.

Jane Goodrich talks about George Nixon Black , his house and his secrets, writing longhand, and her novel, THE HOUSE AT LOBSTER COVE

Jane Goodrich, co-founder of Saturn Press, has written a novel featuring George Nixon Black, whose real-life house, Kragsyde, a shingle-style architectural masterpiece built on the North Shore of Massachusetts, was recreated in loving detail by Jane and her husband, doing all the work themselves, on an island in Maine.

George Nixon Black, a complex and romantic man, spent a lifetime hiding in plain sight, harboring a secret of violence and a secret of love. Using characters, letters and events from history, and spanning the period between the Civil War and the Jazz Age, The House at Lobster Cove is part family saga, part love story, and an engaging personal journey set against the magnificence and mercilessness of the 19th century.
The book is a loving testament to George Nixon Black, his house, and the secrets he held. It is an artisanal work combining all the aspects of Ms. Goodrich's distinguished career — building, designing, telling stories, writing, and printing.
Thank you so much for being here, Jane!

Q: What prompted your interest in the life of GEORGE NIXON BLACK? How has learning about him changed your own life?

A: I must admit that George Nixon Black’s house caught my eye long before he did. I was aware of Kragsyde, his house at Lobster Cove in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts for at least a decade before I ever knew of Nixon, as he was known by his peers. In fact, most people only know his name in association with his famous shingle-style house. Nixon’s personality was naturally modest, but as a wealthy gay man he practiced a habit of secrecy for his own safety. He left very little evidence of his life, and it is only through Kragsyde that his name remains in history.

Nixon’s Kragsyde was torn down after his death, but has lived in the light of architectural fame ever since. Once my husband and I had decided to build a replica of the house, Nixon became a ghost on our building site. Because we were doing all the work entirely ourselves, the rebuilding progressed slowly. Questions about how the original rooms looked or were used naturally led to questions about Nixon himself, and the members of his family who lived with him. As I began to research him, a fascinating individual emerged. Our replica was built in Maine, but Nixon lived in Boston so the first surprise I discovered was that he was born and spent his childhood in a Maine town less than 30 miles from where we had chosen to rebuild our Kragsyde.

Q: I understand you wrote THE HOUSE AT LOBSTER COVE by long hand. How did that help the writing and plotting process? How did you manage and keep track of the voluminous files and historical data?

A: The quick answer is that I have never been able to think and type, whether on a computer or typewriter, but the longer answer is I would be unable to write without the ability of long hand. I simply cannot imagine writing without actually writing. I have used the same fountain pen for 35 years and we are old friends.  I work in a craft printing business, I hand built Kragsyde. It is natural for me to progress slowly and carefully with simple tools.  I have often heard of writing described as a craft, and indeed it is. Building a house from the ground up by hand and writing a novel are very similar activities.

When I began to research George Nixon Black I started with primary source materials, particularly his will. I built out lists of his neighbors, people who he worked with in business, his family members, friends, employees, and descendants of people to whom he left money. I made index cards at first, but quickly memorized all this information, and kept my eye out for these people in other historical contexts. My best tool was a simple notebook in which I set out a page for each year of his life divided into months. Whenever I found the smallest detail about him I wrote it in this timeline notebook. When the time to write and plot the novel came I filled in this timeline with events occurring in the larger world.

Q: You did extensive genealogical and period research for THE HOUSE AT LOBSTER COVE ( Black lived in the late 19th century). What was the most challenging but rewarding find? What was the path that led you there?

A: This is a funny story, at least for anyone who has ever done hours of research in a library.
      In following through with my list of Nixon’s friends I found that he had applied for a passport after the Civil War to travel to Europe with a friend named Frank Crowninshield. It turned out this Civil War era Frank was the uncle of the Frank Crowninshield who was the famous editor of Vanity Fair magazine in the 1920’s.  In attempting to sort out the many Crowninshields and make sense of them I found myself in a huge quiet room in the Philips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Here I had called up a box of letters written by the Civil War soldier Frank Crowninshield. When I opened this box, dozens of letters mentioning Frank and George Nixon Black fell out. It was the single largest resource I ever found mentioning Nixon. I gasped audibly, and the heads of a half-dozen other researchers snapped up. Realizing my faux pas I apologized. “Sorry,” I said. “but I just found something.”
“Lucky you.” one of them grumbled and went back to his research.

There are many such moments of serendipity that happen during research which make you feel you are hunting someone who wants to be found.  I met a descendant I had been hoping to find, by bumping into them on a train platform in Providence. I went into a cellar of musty deed registers in Boston and the book I was seeking was open to the page I was looking for.  A stray dog in a graveyard led me to, and sat down on, a grave I was seeking. That particular event made the hair on the back of my neck stick up!

Q: Would you have liked living in the same time as GEORGE NIXON BLACK? What mis(conceptions?) do we have about that period?

A: Would I like to be a member of the Gilded Age one percent? Yes and no. One could live unapologetically with great wealth which is a state unknown today, but the robber barons of the 19th century were puny compared with the tech robber barons of our time. Henry Ford would love the mark-up on an I-Phone compared to his Model T.

Medicine was crude and death and disease were part of daily life. Few families were not touched by the untimely death of one of their own.  Teeth were a constant problem. Without antibiotics the smallest injury or sickness could be fatal. Crowd scenes in period movies never show enough missing teeth or pregnant women to be accurate to any earlier time.

A woman’s life choices were more narrow than today, which can also be viewed as both a good and bad thing. One might, as a woman be expected to stay home and have children, but one would not be expected to get up the day after a birth and answer an email and be back in a full time job in a month.  People were allowed more time to be ill and more time to grieve. Today we are impatient with that.

One big misconception people seem to have is about Victorian prudery. People of the 19th century were just as racy as in any other time. It was just not so often on public display, and considering the sort of things acceptable for public display these days, perhaps they were wiser.

Both centuries have much to recommend them and much that is less desirable. I go back to THE HOUSE AT LOBSTER COVE and what I have Nixon conclude in the year 1902: The world does not get better, it merely changes.

Q: THE HOUSE AT LOBSTER COVE is your first book. It is exceeding expectations and succeeding in the marketplace. What was the most exhilarating  and frustrating part of the experience for you?

A:   The frustrating part? During the submission process of the novel, my literary agent and my dog died unexpectedly, and within days of one another. That was a bad week.

The most exhilarating part has been successfully introducing George Nixon Black to the world. In reading fiction about gay men I found over and over stories was written as cautionary tales. Their lives seemed always to end in sickness, misery, imprisonment or death. It certainly was not always this way, and I wanted to tell the story of this little-known man. A quiet, happy life, which was led on his own terms without hurting anyone else, and without being unfaithful to himself. He overcame problems but lived for 34 years in a relationship of great love and fidelity, promoted artists of every sort, and left his money to charities which still benefit people and animals today. I often say his story would be that of Oscar Wilde if Oscar had a happy ending.

Q: What is obsessing you now and why?

A: The slipping away of the summer. I have always had a deep feeling for the summer. Perhaps this is one reason Kragsyde, as the apogee of the American summer house, appeals. I have always considered June, July and August as summer, and the shoulder months as cheap impostors. Therefore, once July 15th is behind me, I begin to fret, and am never completely cured until the following June 1st.

Q: What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

A: I’m going to answer two questions I am often asked. The first is how I feel about revealing a man to be gay after he has spent a lifetime hiding it?
The world may not be better, but it has changed. In 1918, Nixon wrote about his long-term partner in his will. In his own words he wrote “ I desire to recognize the steadfast and faithful friendship that existed between us for many years...” In 1918 this statement was opaque, but today we know exactly what this statement about two men who had lived together for 34 years means.  I think Nixon would be pleased to have his lifestyle recognized. He will be even more pleased when the world does not give it a second thought.

Q: Since my novel is about real people and real events why was it written as a fiction?
 George Nixon Black was a romantic and secretive man with a love of the arts. I think he would prefer that posterity saw him as a painting rather than a photograph. It is only through fiction that the reader can see with his heart.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Some stories do not need to be told..." Emily Colin talks about her exquisite new novel, THE DREAM KEEPER'S DAUGHTER

I don't remember when I first met Emily Colin. Only that she sent me pages of a book that were astounding--and that turned out to be the New York Times bestseller, The Memory Thief, about a man whose dreams are haunted by a woman he's never met. I swore I'd read her grocery lists next, but I don't have to because she just published The Dream Keeper's Daughter, about secrets, reality and the very nature of love. And you want to watch the amazing trailer here. 

I'm thrilled to host Emily here. Thank you, Emily!

The Dream Keeper’s Daughter is the story of single mother and field archaeologist Isabel Griffin, whose mother disappeared when she was 16 and whose boyfriend, Max Adair, vanished in the woods not 50 feet from where she was standing—the day after she’d told him she was pregnant. After her mother went missing and her father sank deep into an obsession with finding his wife, Isabel vowed that if such a thing ever happened to her, she wouldn’t allow herself to become consumed by what she’d lost. So when Max disappears, she gets her PhD in archaeology and devotes herself to raising their daughter, Finn. But eight years later, on a dig in Barbados, she gets a mysterious phone call. The hauntingly familiar voice on the other end says only, Isabel. Keep her safe, before they’re disconnected. Still, Isabel is sure the caller was Max—and as one peculiar event follows another, she has to decide whether honoring the promise she made all those years ago means believing the impossible: Max is stranded 200 years in the past, on the eve of a historic Barbados slave rebellion, and the choices he makes will shape both of their lives forever.

Some stories do not need to be told.

And others? They claw their way out of you, whether or not you feel inclined to share them. They cannibalize your thoughts at traffic lights, at the grocery store, even mid-conversation, so that you break off what you’re saying and stare into the distance, causing your unfortunate companion to believe that a) you’ve lost your mind, or b) the discussion at hand was so dull, you’ve chosen to vacate your body rather than remain a part of it.

The truth, of course, is both better and worse. You’re not bored. You’re possessed—by an idea, by people who live only inside your head. And when they speak, you are compelled to listen.

Really, it can’t be easy hanging out with fiction writers.

The Dream Keeper’s Daughter was one of these stories. But the strange thing about it was that the character who possessed me wasn’t Isabel, who I’d first envisioned pregnant and running through the woods, screaming the name of the man she loved as he tore through the brambles—or even Max, the man himself, who chased a ghost through the trees behind his parents’ house and wound up in 1816 Barbados, on the eve of a slave rebellion that would shape the lives of his family forever. These were the main characters of my story, and you’d think that their voices would be the ones that whispered in my ears, kept me up at night, and rendered me the world’s worst—or at least most frustrating—conversationalist.

No—the character who captivated me was Ryan. He was meant, at first, to be no more than Isabel’s best friend, a sounding board and a surrogate parent for her child, whose father had vanished in the woods and never returned. But somehow, Ryan became much more. He had a past, deep-seated hurts and ghosts of his own, and these somehow took root in my novel without my conscious volition. In fact, I was annoyed: What business did he have, speaking up like this? Didn’t he know he only had a bit part to play?

But it was no use. His story grew with Isabel and Max’s, until it became just as important to me as theirs. His voice spoke to me on the verge of sleep, jolted me awake in the morning.

It was like being haunted, really.

My point, I suppose, is this: If you don’t like what Ryan has to say, blame him. I had nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why do we love celebrities so much? The divine Julie Klam answers all as she talks about her wonderful latest, THE STARS IN OUR EYES


Julie Klam has a bio on her website that is so wonderful, I want to reproduce it here:
Julie Klam grew up in Bedford, New York. Don't be confused if you see that her brother, the author Matthew Klam, says he was born in Katonah, New York. Katonah is in the town of Bedford, and she can call it whatever she wants. After attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and interning at Late Night with David Letterman, Julie went on to write for such publications as O: The Oprah Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, and for the VH1 television show Pop-Up Video, where she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Writing.  Currently she writes for The New York Times, The Washington Post,  and the magazines that haven't folded.  She lives in New York City with her daughter, her Dan Davenport, and a variety of cute dogs.

Julie's the author of Friendkeeping, Love at First Bark, You Had Me at Woof, and Please Excuse my Daughter, and her latest book The Stars in Our Eyes is so wonderful that you are going to buy up twenty copies just to hand out to any celebrity you might meet!

Thank you so much, Julie. For everything.

So, as someone who once followed Steve Martin around the block until he hid from me—(he’s actually very shy, I’ve heard. Or that’s my explanation, anyway), I devoured your book. What was the “Why Now” moment when you decided to write it? (P.S. I gasped when I saw your had a blurb from Carly Simon.)

I have always wanted to write something about my own love of celebrities but I had never thought it would be a book. When I was getting divorced, I really wanted to write something that was not about me (or me now) and that was how it was born. Because of a confluence of things (related to my divorce) it took me longer to write this book, and it ended up being when a reality tv star became president so it definitely has a different poignancy (if I may) now.

Do you think that living in NYC makes us more celebrity conscious and less apt to hurl ourselves on celebrities? I had a friend who sat next to Anne Meara once and had a whole conversation about the food and even let Anne Meara have a bite—and never once did they talk about her celebrity. I sat beside Margo Martindale once and we spent a half hour talking about my handbag! So my question is, how do we balance our ferocious need to know these people with our devil-may-care attitudes that we are not going to intrude in their lives like everyone else?

 I think we pride ourselves on being cool here. I have had those kind of exchanges you are talking about, though I act way more buoyant then with other people. I feel like when you leave a celebrity alone, you’re giving them a gift. Today I was walking home from the gym and passed Samantha Bee walking with her two little kids and you could almost feel her thinking, “please don’t.”

I love that you thought celebrities could save you, but YOU are a celebrity yourself. How does it feel to be on the other side? And are book celebrities less than Hollywood ones? What about animal celebrities, the ones who have zillions of followers on twitter?

I’m not a celebrity, but I recently talked to a famous writer friend about the weird, small world of the famous writer. I don’t mean Stephen King or James Patterson, but like Colson Whitehead and Gary Shteyngart (and just not to name only men, Anne Rice, Liz Gilbert). They aren’t less, they are different. There are very few people who are known by everyone.  And the new breed of internet celebrity, well, they are different than the old kind, because talent isn’t necessarily what made them famous.

You must have had so much fun writing this book. Did you find yourself getting re-obsessed at all? The fun part about writing this book was when I was wasting time reading stupid stories about celebrities, I could pretend I was working!

 It’s funny, but the one celebrity I actually know, Al Kooper, from Blood, Sweat & Tears, never once has talked music with me. And it’s better that way. We only talk about movies, so there feels like common ground. And I think readers would want to know, what’s the best way to stalk, um, I mean, approach a celebrity?

I would say feel it out. If there’s a celebrity at an opening you can approach them, if they’re buying Preparation H in Duane Reade, maybe not a good time. I think most people appreciate a brief, ‘your work has meant a great deal to me, thank you’ and move on. I was working for a caterer at a bar mitzvah and Ray Liotta was there and I said, “I don’t want to bother you, but I loved Dominick and Eugene so much.” And he was genuinely happy and asked me my name and then I skittered away.

I also want to ask about the book’s cover, which I absolutely adore.  Since I know that covers are marketing tools, and they can change and change and change, was this the first and only cover? Were there others?

HA HA HA First of all, thank you. I am forgetting now but I think there were 100 covers but I didn’t see any of them, because my publisher, Geoff Kloske, and editor, Jake Morrissey, didn’t think any of them were right. This cover took the longest of any of my covers and I started to wonder if it would ever happen. I actually made suggestions (all involving glitter). When I came in to see it, Geoff threw all the rejects on the table and they were cool, but just not quite right.  And they had this one (though it was sort of dusty rose and I asked if they could make it a different color, because pink books frighten me) and it was like WOW!

What’s obsessing you now and why?

Well, my horrible obsession is the news from the government, I need to cap my intake because I go down all of the dark rabbit holes and it’s very easy to despair and wonder if there’s any point to anything when these cruel people are in power. I am also obsessed to finding sandals to go with a new dress.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

You should have asked, what do I think of Caroline Leavitt? Well, I think she’s a brilliant writer and a kind supportive friend and I adore her.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Carol Hoenig talks about her wonderful new bookstore (it has WINE! and FOOD!) The Turn of the Corkscrew

Who isn't thrilled when a great new bookstore opens up? I first visited Turn of the Corkscrew: Books and Wine (110 North Park Ave, Rockville Center, Long Island, NY) for a reading. It's incredible! Not only does it have these wonderful winding rooms, but it has very special wines (served in real wine glasses), delicious food, and all the books you could ever want. You can paint and sip, bring a date, browse the books, have great wine and food, and just hang and talk to Carol and Peggy! What's particularly wonderful is that both Carol and Peggy risked it all to create this gorgeous space, so even if you don't live near by, you can still place online orders. Do it for the community. Do it for yourself. Do it for bookstores everywhere.  And thank you so much, Carol for this interview!

In these tough times, what made you want to open a book store?
Good question. Both Peggy, my business partner, and I had been talking for a number of years (after having worked at Borders Books for many years) of wanting to open a bookstore, but we knew the timing wasn’t right since bookstores seemed to be struggling, not to mention closing in droves; however, since I have always been involved in the publishing industry as a consultant and writer, I started to see that independent bookstores were making a comeback. So, we dipped our toes in the water and began researching the possibilities and managed to overcome each hurdle that was put in our way, and here we are. Go figure.
What I love is that your store also has a wine bar! And delicious food! And a warm comfortable feeling to it. Did you know this was always what you wanted it to be or did it become that way organically? I was so impressed by the crowd, the interest, the whole energy of the place!
Thanks so much, Caroline. And, yes, that is exactly what we wanted it to be. I’d been hosting a monthly book discussion in my home that we called Book & a Bottle since wine was always flowing, and my daughter who loves to cook, would prepare a menu inspired by the book we were discussing. Therefore, we wanted to shift that ambience to the bookstore.
What's the hardest thing about running a bookstore?  The easiest?
The hardest is getting people into the store! We came up against major challenges months after we opened since our street was closed almost daily due to major infrastructure for six months. What with the internet offering books, people didn’t necessarily want to struggle to get to us since they had other options. In addition, we cannot give the dramatic discounts that Amazon can, but most of our faithful customers understand that we bring value to the community that the internet cannot. Also, because we had to use most of our working capital to get us through those six months, we have a limited budget to order in a lot of stock, which is very frustrating. As for the easiest part about running a bookstore I would have to say showing up for work. I’d worked from my home office for over ten years and wasn’t sure I’d like the commitment to get out of my PJ’s and come to work, but each day brings new opportunities, as well as challenges to overcome, and I like that. (That said, I still work as a publishing consultant, writer, editor, ghostwriter, etc, because sleep is overrated.)
What do you want people to know about Turn of the Corkscrew Books & Wine that they might be surprised to know?  And as a professional namer (really!) I want to know how you came up with the great name for the shop!
Well, we wanted to have our name represent that we are both a bookstore and a wine shop. Peggy and I were brainstorming in my kitchen one night and she spotted the display of corkscrews I have near my wine bar and at first shouted out, “Taming of the Corkscrew!” Then we realized that didn’t quite make sense, but then I remembered Henry James’ novella, Turn of the Screw and suggested that, while tacking on “Books & Wine” and we both loved it. I’m pleased to say we still do. Some people get it and some don’t, but it gives us an opportunity to talk about what we have to offer.
What's obsessing you now and why?
Introducing readers to new writers-whether they are new to the publishing industry or just to the reader. We believe society has so many distractions that yield little reward that delving in a book, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, can open a mind and show another side of the story.  Reading doesn’t have to be dry and boring. It can create interesting conversations and add value to our lives.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?

People may not realize that both Peggy and I believed so much in this venture that we both used our homes as collateral, as well as our savings. We know we won’t get rich anytime soon, but we believe in the necessity of education and books are instrumental in that. We host a lot of author events, workshops and readings, hoping to be a place for the community.