Author Interview: Beatriz Williams

Beatriz WilliamsThroughout this blogging experience, there have been some very special moments that stand out. This is definitely one of those moments. I have been lucky enough to interview my favorite author, Beatriz Williams, and I am thrilled to share our Q&A with you all!

1. Your latest novel, A Certain Age, releases later this month. Can you tell readers a bit about the story?
A Certain Age is a retelling of Richard Strauss’s enchanting opera Der Rosenkavalier, set in Jazz Age New York, in which a Manhattan society goddess sends her younger lover to investigate the family of her brother’s fiancée, only to have him fall in love with the young lady himself. It’s all about class and money and the bittersweet passing of time, and especially about the transformation in Western culture in the years following the First World War. Of course, it’s about love and scandal too, as well as being a really personal, moving depiction of three people in love, and I had a wonderful time turning these musical characters into fully-fledged people on the pages of a book!

  1. One of the reasons why so many readers have loved your books (including myself) is because of the enchanting characters and their relationships. Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
    I’m inspired by just about everything, really, although I rarely start with actual people. In the case of A Certain Age, I began with Strauss’s fascinating characters—a beautiful woman conscious that her prime is nearly over, a dashing younger man, a charming ingénue—but they took on their own form once I set them into this story. Octavian in particular veered away from the young aristocratic gentleman of the opera; I kept his age around twenty, but I made him a First World War aviator bearing all kind of scars from his time in France, because that was one of the ideas I wanted to convey: how so much of the Twenties was really a reaction to the horrors of this apocalyptic war.
  1. How do you do research for novels that are set anywhere from the 1910’s to 1960’s all across the United States and Europe?

Well, I always start with something I know—a family story, a news item, a historical event—and I read a few books on the subject and the period, if I haven’t already. But the point of any novel should be the story that’s being told, and I try to invest not in million tedious details but in a few precious ones that convey a certain world to the reader. It’s in the dialogue, it’s in the thoughts rattling around in their brains, it’s in the way they interact with each other. So I find the most useful research is reading books written at the time and films made at the time. Historical facts are really the easy part. Anyone can Google the price of a subway ride in 1922!

  1. A Certain Age 2Although you have continued on with the Schuyler family, Julie Schuyler plays a role in A Certain Age, you haven’t published a traditional sequel. How do you let go of these captivating characters?
    My books tend to be made of several lines of narrative that weave together at the resolution, and the next book usually picks up some thread that didn’t get woven in. So I really feel that each book is complete as written, and if I’m going to tell another story, it’s got to start from scratch. The exception is coming up soon, however! My next book, The Wicked City,arrives in January, and it begins a series set in Prohibition New York, in which a straight-arrow enforcement agent teams up with a not-so-straight-laced flapper to break up a bootlegging ring. I was so fascinated by the story of Prohibition in America, but I knew it would take more than one story to convey all the many fronts and facets of this chapter in our history. So the Wicked City books will be released in winter, and in summer I’ll have my stand-alone novels. But they’ll all stay in the Schuyler world, with the addition of the Marshall family introduced in A Certain Age.
  1. You’ve written under the pen name, Juliana Gray. Why did you choose to publish under a pseudonym and then later decide to reveal this fact to readers?
    I was actually pretty up front about Juliana—we had a little teaser when the first one was published, which was only a couple of months after Overseas, but once both books were out we revealed the pseudonym. Since the first six Juliana Gray books were historical romance, however, we didn’t emphasize the connection—they are two different genres, and reader expectations are different, and we were conscious that some Juliana readers would hate the Beatriz books and vice versa! But the next Juliana Gray book, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, kicks off a historical mystery series set in 1906, and while it’s more history-and-mystery focused than my Beatriz Williams books, it’s something I think both sets of readers will really enjoy. I loved bringing these new characters to life, and my publisher bravely allowed me to give my imagination completely free rein, so I couldn’t be more excited about this new series!
  1. I’m crossing my fingers here, but can we expect to see anything new published from you soon?
    See above! 🙂
  1. What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

I took home a wonderful collection of books from an event in Rhode Island with three other authors, so I can’t wait to get started on Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, and Jen Lancaster’s By the Numbers, courtesy of Reading With Robin! And my dear friend Karen White’s new book Flight Patterns is fantastic.

 

 

Author interview: J.T. Ellison

JT Ellison social media headshot

Today I’m sharing an interview with an author who is not only talented, but also incredibly warmhearted. I met J.T. Ellison a few months ago when I read her book, No One Knows, and am so excited to welcome her to Dream by Day! Her latest novel, Field of Graves, releases today and to celebrate, we’re bringing you all a Q&A!

For readers who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a bit about the LT. Jackson series and Field of Graves in particular?

Sure! Field of Graves is the perfect book to jump in with, because it’s the prequel to the series. Homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, with the help of her best friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, is trying to stop a killer hell-bent on creating his own apocalypse. It’s set in Nashville and introduces all the characters in the books—most importantly, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. It’s the story of how Taylor and Baldwin met, how the team came together, a true origin story.

Taylor Jackson is a fabulous character to write. She’s the warrior goddess of Nashville, half cop, half rock star, and my own personal Athena. Sam Owens is her best friend, the lodestone of the series, the conscience, so to speak. They’re quite a pair. Add in Baldwin, and all sorts of mayhem ensues.

Why did you decide to revisit this series?

FOG, as we call it, was my first full-length novel. I landed an awesome agent with it, but it didn’t sell, so I put it in a drawer and moved on to the next book in the series, which did sell, and kicked off my career. Last year, I revisited it and realized it wasn’t half bad. I did a full editorial on it, and my publisher snapped it up. I’m thrilled it’s finally coming out.

Are there any characters in Field of Graves that came more naturally to you than others?

You’d think I’d say Taylor, but she was actually the most elusive. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around her. She’s an iconic hero—she’s not born in blood like so many crime fiction characters. She’s smart and intense and sees the black and white in the world, so finding her shades of gray was a challenge. I love them all, though. Baldwin is one of the easier ones to write for me. He’s so self-contained but so internally open, I really connected with him.

I loved reading your recently published book, No One Knows, and was shocked by the plot twist. What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to stretch my wings, actually. I’d written eight Taylor books and three Sam books and I wanted to see if I could write a standalone. I had a crazy dream in which I lost my husband after a party at the Opryland Hotel, and Harlan Coben appeared in it and gave me career advice, and it all came together as No One Knows. Crazy, right?

You’re a well-established and bestselling author, do you have any advice for other writers?

Read everything, and write every day. It doesn’t matter if you have ten hours of uninterrupted time or 10 minutes, you simply must touch your story every day. This will help you develop a solid writing habit. While this is the best job on earth, it is still a job, and you have to show up for work every day.

Field of GravesWhat are you reading when you’re not writing these gripping novels?

Books to blurb, books for the show (A Word on Words, I’m the co-host) books you recommend… I’m currently in Victoria Schwab’s A GATHERING OF SHADOWS and DEEP WORK by Cal Newport. True confession, there are 640 books on my Goodreads TBR…. Yikes!

 Thanks so much for having me on the blog! This was fun!

Of course, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, J.T.! I can’t wait to dive into Field of Graves and learn more about these badass characters!

 

About J.T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Follow J.T. on Facebook or Twitter @thrillerchick for more insight into her wicked imagination.

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

The One That Got Away by Leigh HimesI spent the past weekend down in the California sun with The One That Got Away, Leigh Himes’ debut novel. This was the perfect poolside read and is a great choice as we head into the summer months! In a similar tone as Freaky Friday staring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis (anyone else a fan of the movie?), The One That Got Away is a story of a switched identity and an alternate reality.

Abbey is an overworked and under-appreciated mother of two, publicist, and wife managing a limited household budget. When Abbey sees a picture in a magazine of a man she had once met, she wonders what her life would be like if she had said yes to a date with this now rich and successful man. Abbey then takes a tumble down the Nordstrom escalator and is shocked to wake up in a warped reality where she is married to this man rather than her husband…

I really enjoyed seeing Abbey’s character grow throughout the story as she realizes that the high society life may not be everything that she believed it to be. Additionally, Himes has created charming illustrations of pudgy babies and domestic life, and although these may not be glamorous, the scenes are touching and sweet.

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes 1I really enjoyed The One That Got Away and I definitely recommend it for the upcoming summer months!

Author interview: Leigh Himes

Leigh HimesOver the long weekend I started reading The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes and was quickly swept up by the fun and imaginative storyline and fashion-focused descriptions. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to ask Himes a few questions about her debut novel and I’m excited to share the interview with you all! Enjoy!

Congratulations on your debut novel, The One That Got Away! Can you give us an overview of the story?

Thank you, Samantha! ‘The One That Got Away” is the story of a young, married working mother struggling to make ends meet in a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia. After a fight with her husband and a particularly grueling morning with her kids, she sees a photograph of a man she almost dated in Town & Country magazine, and is filled with regret. But with the help of a magical Marc Jacobs bag, she gets a chance to see what life would be like married to that man: a dashing Kennedy-esque blueblood running for Congress. At first, she is dazzled by this fourteen-karat world of luxury and privilege—not to mention her doting, handsome husband—but soon begins to notice troubling clues about the woman she had become. Ultimately, she must discover which marriage is real, just how much she is willing to sacrifice, and who she really wants to be.

What inspired you to write this story?

Just like Abbey, I saw a photograph in a magazine of a man I almost dated years before. Though I certainly have no regrets, I couldn’t help but wonder about the choices we make in life and how our spouse changes—or doesn’t change—who we become. I remember sitting in my kitchen and showing the photo to my husband, and we talked about how it would be a great set-up for a novel. A few weeks later, I started writing and couldn’t stop.

A pivotal moment occurs in the story that causes Abbey’s life to shift course. What does Abbey learn from this event? 

Abbey learns so much! Not only about herself as a person, but as a wife, daughter, friend, and mother. In many ways, at 37, she finally grows up!

To be more specific, one of Abbey’s flaws is that she a little bit of a “giver upper.” I think that happens to a lot of working parents… you are so exhausted and overwhelmed, you just start shutting down (or blaming others). So Abbey’s experience not only gives her perspective, but it teaches her that no matter what you wear or what family you married into, life is about fighting every day to be your best self… and helping the people you love do the same.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? What has it been like to write and publish your first book?

Though I wrote every day for fifteen years as a publicist, this was the first fiction I’ve ever written so I can’t say I have a process! And I had nothing to lose, so I didn’t impose any deadlines or rules on myself. However, I did have a rough outline and it was detailed enough to provide a road map but not so detailed that I wasn’t able to discover new twists and turns along the way. That proved to be fortuitous because a lot of my favorite scenes and characters came to me as I was writing.

I’m also a big reviser. I hate looking at a blank page so I would rush through the first draft of every scene or chapter and then go back and revise, sometimes every word. I had a full-time job and small children at home, so it was more important for me to make progress and see the pages fill then have a “perfect” first draft.

As for publishing, the scariest thing is putting something so personal out into the world. Now that publication is finally upon me, I can’t help but feel like I’m standing on stage in my underwear. But as far as the publishing industry, that’s not scary at all, mostly because there are so many dedicated professionals—from designers to editors to marketing experts—who guide first-time novelists. It’s a wonderful industry; it’s made up of book lovers, after all! (So, if you’re thinking of diving in, go for it!)

But what’s been most fun is connecting with readers all over the country and hearing their takes on Abbey, Alex, and Jimmy… and their own stories of “the one that got away.”

What are you currently reading?

I am reading “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and have found it’s worth all the hype. It’s so tragic, but I still don’t want it to end! I just finished the brilliant but very R-rated “Coup de Foudre” by Ken Kalfus, a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal. I also loved “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and am hoping she will write more historical fiction. I even dragged my kids to the real life estate outside Philadelphia where the book is supposedly set, and as they played in the frog pond, I walked around the grounds imagining Alma and her mosses.

Author interview: Mary Kubica

Mary KubicaI can barely contain my excitement for this post. Today I’m sharing an interview with Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl.

Mary, welcome to Dream by Day and thank you so much for joining us!

Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel, Don’t You Cry, for those who aren’t already familiar with the story?

Don’t You Cry begins in Chicago when a young woman named Quinn awakens one morning to discover her roommate, Esther, missing. While snooping through Esther’s room in search of clues that might help her find Esther, she comes across some questionable items that lead her to wonder how well she really knows her roommate. Meanwhile, in a small Michigan town about seventy miles outside of Chicago, a teenage boy named Alex discovers a mysterious young woman in the café where he works – one bearing a striking resemblance to Esther. He’s taken with her at once and the two becomes fast friends, though as Quinn starts to uncover the secrets behind Esther, we wonder what Alex, seventy miles away, is getting himself into.

Where did you get the inspiration for Don’t You Cry?

I was initially intrigued by the juxtaposition of a woman’s disappearance with the mysterious appearance of a woman in a different locale. When I began the novel there was much I had yet to figure out: who would tell these stories, whether this was one woman or two, and how the lives of all involved would eventually intersect. But I was excited to explore the idea on the page and see how the story unfolded over time.

Were any characters easier to write than others? Why do you think that is?

I find it more difficult to write any of my characters when I first begin a novel, whether male or female, young or old. They’re new and I’m unfamiliar with them, and the dialogue or their inner thoughts and voice are sometimes hard to discern. But after a few chapters, I begin to grasp who they are and the process of bringing them to life becomes easier. That said, there are always characters who resonate with me more deeply, or who tug a bit more on my heartstrings. In Don’t You Cry, that’s certainly the character of Alex, who is a reliable and whip-smart kid who’s stuck at home caring for his alcoholic father after his friends have graduated from high school and left for college. He’s alone and lonely, and easily smitten with the mysterious new arrival to town, a woman he nicknames Pearl for a bracelet she wears. I believe Alex is the type of special character who will stick with readers after they finish the book and leave an indelible mark on their hearts as he has mine.

What drew you to the mystery thriller genre as an author?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, though my first published novel, The Good Girl, was the first manuscript I wrote that had any sort of suspense element to it. I focused on women’s fiction before that time, though not very successfully. I’d start with an idea I thought was brilliant and then lose interest in the manuscript partway through. Something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then I got the idea for a kidnapping tale, and though I didn’t go into The Good Girl with a concerted effort to make it more of a thriller than my previous works, I knew right away when those twisty elements fell into place that all along this is what my other manuscripts were missing. I’ve been writing thrillers ever since and adore the genre.

Do you have any particular practices that help you write? Can your share your process with us?

I wake up early every morning and begin writing around 5am. It’s my favorite time to write, and the time when I feel the most clear-headed and focused. I find that I’m easily distracted by noise, and so have to be certain the TV and radio are off when I write, and that my husband and kids are either asleep or off to work and school. Other than that I don’t need much to write, though caffeine comes in handy – that and the company of a few cats.

You have published three novels; do you feel particularly attached to any of the characters you’ve created in particular?

Each novel has one character I feel particularly attached to. In The Good Girl, it was Colin. In Pretty Baby, Willow, and in Don’t You Cry, it’s Alex. These are the characters who have the most moving stories for me, who are feeling lonely, neglected or abused. They’re the ones who keep me up at night, worried for their happiness and safety, and who stay with me long after I finish getting their stories down on the page.

Do you have any knew projects in the works?

I’m just finishing up my fourth novel which begins when a young father is killed in a car crash with his four-year-old daughter in the backseat, completely unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident until the coming days when the little girl starts having nightmares about a car following and pushing them from the road, and the man’s widow sets off to find her husband’s killer. This one is still untitled, but keep an eye out for it in 2017 – more details coming soon!

What are you reading when you’re not writing?

My favorite genre to read is also suspense. I’m a big fan of Megan Abbott, Kimberly McCreight, Carla Buckley, Lisa Scottoline, Heather Gudenkauf and SJ Watson, amongst others.

To learn more about Mary Kubica and her books, you can visit her website here!

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You GoThere aren’t many mystery novels that I want to re-read. For me, mystery books typically warrant a one-time read because the case has been solved. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is one of the rare mystery novels that I want to re-read because the plot twist was that good and I connected with the characters that much.

The story begins on a rainy afternoon when a woman is walking her young son home from school. When he runs ahead to get out of the cold a car hits him out of nowhere. The child dies on impact and the car speeds off without a trace. Right from the start, with this dark and eerie prologue, this book consumed me.

There has been a lot of hype about a major plot twist in I Let You Go and to be honest I was a bit skeptical because many mystery books boast the same thing. I was VERY mistaken because when I got to the plot twist, I instantly thought OH MY GOSH WHAT WHAT OH WOW or something along those lines because I was so shocked!

I Let You Go The book was gripping and I really felt for the protagonist, Jenna Gray, and the pain she suffered from the accident. She is one of those characters that I found myself rooting for and I felt generally upset when she faced trouble.

I have heard from some readers that the beginning of this book is slow moving. I didn’t feel this way, but if you start the book and find yourself thinking that it’s too slow, I hope you’ll keep reading! It’s worth it.

I Let You Go is definitely going on my top pick recommendations list! Beware, some portions of the story are dark, but I believe that these contributed to the overall emotional aspect of the book and made it all that much more touching in the end.

I Let You Go What about you all? Do any of you re-read mystery novels?

 

Bookish Podcasts pt. 2

Dream by Day book reviewsI’m back with another round of bookish podcast recommendations! There are so many great podcasts out there and I’ve listed the ones that I’ve recently been listening to below. Enjoy!

Beaks & Geeks by Penguin Random House

I’m honestly bummed that I didn’t know about this show earlier because I love their segments! It’s informal and conversational with author interviews, writing tips, and upcoming book releases. I’ve listened to quite a few at this point (each clip is pretty short) including interviews with Ernest Cline, Charlene Harris, Beatriz Williams (my favorite author!!!!), Tana French, Fiona Barton, and Sylvia Day. I really recommend this one!

World Book Club by BBC World Service

This show features longer segments covering a range of stories from classics to contemporaries. I listened to a panel discussing The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a fantastic story loved by many around the world. The panel discussed the artistry in Fitzgerald’s language and the idea of reinvention. I thought it was really interesting when they discussed whether there are heroes in The Great Gatsby and if so, who can be categorized as one. This is a good show too.

Dream by Day book reviewsBooks & Authors with Cary Barbor

I enjoy the content of this show quite a bit. In an interview with Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven, the host asks questions about how the idea developed for this post-apocolyptic story. An aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was that it’s not enough to simply survive, but that art needs to have a place in life too. The podcast also hosts interviews with literary agents and editors as well, both of which I found to be really insightful!

What about you all? What are you listening to?