It sparked her desire to become a healer, and she has been practicing psychoanalysis and psychotherapy for over forty years in Manhattan. Susan is a published haiku poet. She and her husband live in Westchester, New York. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by L. Follow on Instagram for more like this. The writing is clear, concise, and sparkling on every page.
We start with Frannie in Old Bailey, where she is awaiting trial and sentencing of the alleged murders. Frannie is whip-smart, articulate and tells her story retrospectively in first person as if writing in a diary. Please join me in welcoming the lovely Sara Collins to the author interview series. Can you tell us a little about why this book, why now? What was haunting you? Whenever I looked to history or historical fiction for an exploration of black lives all I saw were victims. It began to seem as if the story of slavery left no room for any other stories.
There was never any adventure, love, or mystery. I wanted to write about a character who happened to have been a slave but who was highly educated, morally ambiguous, angry and in love. Slavery, in itself is haunting. But then Frannie is brought from Jamaica to London with her master and is technically free under English law, but she becomes a new type of slave to Master and Mistress Benham. Can one ever leave the…uh…shackles of their past behind? The past is the lens through which we see everything, including ourselves and our place in the world.
History is a form of collective memory but the people who write it down are the ones who get to decide what we choose to forget as well as what we choose to remember. There is real power in that, as well as an ability to keep us stuck in the same old patterns. Historical fiction gives us room to speculate about forgotten histories, reclaim some of that power and perhaps break free of those patterns.
If history is a kind of haunting, writing about it can be a form of exorcism. Can you highlight a few? Why were these conducted? Was it common practice? The institution of slavery could not have become as widespread or survived as long as it did without reliance on pseudoscience designed to prove that blacks were less than human. The great minds of the age were obsessed with this wild goose chase.
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I was interested in exploring the extent to which the ideology justifying slavery was built on experiments into racial differences. Was the draw to write about this time and place personal? Although I was born in Jamaica, my family was forced to leave when I was only four years old following the outbreak of political violence in the aftermath of the elections.
I grew up in Grand Cayman and then went to boarding school in England at the age of eleven. I have moved between those three places all my life, never feeling as if I truly belonged in any one of them. Sometimes I think writing a novel set in Jamaica was an attempt to write my way back home, in the same way novelists are often driven to write about things because they want to understand them. But Jamaica in the early 19 th century was also an incredibly lush and dangerous place.
Breathtaking beauty masking unimaginable suffering. Paradise for some, but hell for others. All of that is good gothic material and I think I was drawn to it for that reason also.
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I loved her. They are always classics. So…I have to ask…have you read these books yourself? Can you give us a sense list of which books are included and why? I came to love Frannie as well, even though she did some infuriating things at times. One of my the keys to developing the character for me was to think of a young black girl with my own sensibilities stuck in the era of plantation slavery. One of the great losses would have been access to books. My early images of Frannie were all of a bright young girl growing up on plantation, craving the books she can see through the windows of the great house, desperate for a life of learning.
Those became the springboard for the character. I wanted to explore what education would have meant to a girl like that, as well as how far she would have gone to get it. Being a debut author, can you tell us a little about your journey to publication? I was crippled by despair and self-doubt, and I wanted to give up several times. There was one practical reason I kept going. Just after I started writing it, I submitted the opening chapters to the Lucy Cavendish prize for the best unpublished first novel by a woman in England and soon afterwards I met my agent who was one of the judges.
She offered me representation at our first meeting but it took another two years before it was ready to be submitted to publishers. By the time I finished it I was physically and mentally exhausted. I was incredibly lucky to have had a smooth road to publication from there! Thank you, thank you for taking the time.
Thank you for these excellent questions! Perhaps your readers may be interested to know that Frannie has been optioned for television and I am writing the scripts myself, which is hugely exciting and challenging. She lives in London. This book hits on so many of my favorite things: renovating an old house, a baby, and gorgeous writing. Taz and Marnie are crazy in love.
They are living in a fixer-upper with lots of dreams and countless projects. I absolutely loved the metaphors of the house being like the body, the mind, always a work-in-progress. Lots of great references to homes, architecture, woodworking, and renovations. The prose absolutely sings.
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Plus, wit. Plenty of wit and subtle humor balancing out the tragedy. I am so honored to welcome Pete Fromm to the author interview series. Please join us. I always think we are sort of haunted into writing. I love, love the fixer-upper touches, the house renovations, the woodworking…all of that. I see the home as a metaphor for our psyche, always a work-in-progress.
Do you agree? And also, can you tell us a little of your experience as it pertains to house stuff? Are you handy? Of course the renovations run parallel with all he has to rebuild in his life, all the decisions that have to be made, all the unexpected you find when you open up a wall; the little disasters, the cool surprises, and, as you caught, the deeper meaning in his psyche, learning every day, having to decide whether to tackle this job or that job or put it all off, or to charge into the next new thing.
As for my own experience, it started when a friend bought a derelict one room school house in Missoula, and I moved in to help with the rugged construction, and then the finer stuff, cabinets, tiling, lighting, self-teaching all the way, taking apart the dry-rotted ten feet tall old double-hung windows, seeing how they were put together, and then rebuilding them using the old fir joists from the false ceiling. I, at this time, had exactly zero experience as a carpenter. So, I worked as a carpenter for two years, with a tiny company, where we built houses from the ground up, from forming the foundations, to roofing and everything in between.
It was a great crash course, and I still use everything I learned nearly every day as I now restore our own year old Craftsman in Missoula. He had friends, a mother-in-law who shared the same loss, and these people did not vanish along with Marnie, they came together. Can you describe that for us a bit—I love how water symbolizes birth, renewal, cleansing…maybe even amniotic fluid. Was this location purely fictional, or based on an actual place? Rivers here give the added attraction of current, swimming into it, seeing how far you can go before being pushed back, and then huge eddies where the river turns bends, or rushes around obstacles.
There you can rest, circle around, be buoyed by the reversing current. I love, love where the title comes from. Can you talk a bit about that, please? When the groom lifts the veil from her. Pete, is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Your summer plans…what you had for lunch…how you keep the saw sharp? Summer plans? As I write this, my duffle is out by the door, ready to be loaded into the car, as I set off on the book tour. By winter it will be tugging on my whole arm, shouting for it. Thank you, Pete! Author photo credit: Emmanuel Romer. Abby Graven is twenty-eight.
She lives at home with her mother and father and maybe older sister, who seems to have some concerns with the law. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes at her job at a discount store in Michigan. Each day she is taunted by her best friend from school, who made it big as a Hollywood actress. Abby painstakingly purchases every magazine Elise is featured and constructs collages of her.
And then Elise returns for a high school reunion. This brief encounter stirs up old feelings in Abby and she decides its time to make a hange. She is stunned and warmed Elise still remembers her and so Abby offhandedly makes her way to L. But there, in L. Elise is floundering professionally. There are dark secrets of ambition, a desire for greatness, and dynamic shifts of creativity.
This is what I love. Please join me in welcoming Lauren Acampora back to the author interview series. Lauren, welcome! And then I have the most vivid dreams. And can you tell us about the Rhizome? Thank you so much for this interview, Leslie! Some of these dreams have had eerie correlations with real-world events: births, deaths, appearances of old friends. There are already organizations that help people corral their potential via meditation and such, so an institute devoted to the creative power of dreams seemed a natural extension. It was a kick to imagine how such an institute might work, and who would be at the helm.
As for what was haunting me when I wrote the book, the short answer is: a lot. Living a reasonably sane life necessitates a continual leap of faith in the existence of goodness and light. It also requires plenty of willful ignorance and denial. Some of us have an easier time with this than others, and Abby is a character who can barely cope. In writing this novel, I poured all of my anxiety and despair into her character. There was plenty going on in the world to be anxious and despairing about during that time, and writing the book helped me get through it. Is this your typical process—a short story first?
How can one build on that scaffold and make a smaller story a full-fledged novel? They both sort of happened by accident. The only way I could rescue the good parts was by condensing them into a short story. All the other stories grew around that one: interlinked stories about neighbors and friends living in the same town.
So, in a way, it was the opposite process: novel first, story later. I had just begun work on another novel at the time, and it was giving me a headache.
It started out as a fun, breezy experiment but quickly took on a darker, more complex life of its own. In fact, almost everything about the original story changed. I transplanted that seed and developed it into a novel from scratch, with a different setting and very different characters. Can you talk about the role of art in this story? Do you work in tandem? Does he influence you and vice versa? Inking her detailed visions onto paper is what gives her life meaning, and endeavoring to share these visions with others is what gives her life purpose.
She attempts to fashion an alternative reality for herself through her art. The character of Paul, on the other hand, considers art to be an important catalyst for human empathy and understanding—a challenge rather than an escape. He and Abby are at cross purposes here, but they are both right.
This is likely because we draw from the same well of experience and inspiration. When I first met Thomas, he was creating miniature dioramas featuring a solo man undertaking perilous physical challenges, blocked off from scenes of domestic calm. After we started dating, he began creating scenes of couples isolated from the world. After we moved into our house in the suburbs, he began creating scenes of houses torn apart by tornadoes and falling into sinkholes.
You can see his work at www. Just recently, I was reminded about the obscurity of reading. We sit and look at slices of trees with symbols while hallucinating wildly. So, this begs my next question: is Abby mentally ill? I played around with this question quite a bit as I wrote the book, approaching it differently in different drafts. Rather than giving a definitive answer, I wanted to prompt the reader to consider the nature of sanity for him or herself. Mental and emotional health is such a complex realm, with fuzzy definitions and delineations of pathology.
It can be difficult to objectively judge mental health. Mental illness does not always lend itself to a black-and-white diagnosis but can be more like a spectrum. As the poet Theodore Roethke wrote:. Motherhood is examined in a unique manner. Can you talk more about that? The book is deeply concerned with child endangerment, which is something that haunts Abby. Children are being victimized in so many ways at the moment: through violence in Central America, mistreatment at the U. Abby is acutely aware of these nightmares—and also of the subtler ways in which children are steadily ground down and diminished by the expectations of our society.
With each passing day, as she learned the functions and names of things, those possibilities narrowed. It seemed a small tragedy that her wide universe of pure potential had to shrink down to the confines of quotidian life. An infant is born with a surfeit of neural connections, which must be trimmed to a manageable number. The connections that prove useful are solidified and strengthened, and the others are disbanded. This is why learning foreign languages is so much harder as we get older, and why it becomes so difficult to change habits and routines as we age.
In short, young people are by nature more cognitively flexible—and wildly creative. As adults, our neural pathways have largely become atrophied into ruts, and childhood is a long-lost paradise of creativity. Abby sees childhood as a rich but fragile gift. She has a strong maternal instinct in that she wants to protect this gift as well as she can. Can you tell us a bit about you—maybe some facts people might not know? It took years to find the confidence to write fiction—years to even finish a short story.
I do think that my background in poetry—its careful word choices and rhythms—has proven a good foundation for my writing. There is a music to it, a cadence, that I still hear in my sentences.
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Speaking of creativity in childhood, I think my daughter may possess this ear for rhythmic language. Of course, she has the benefit of all those flexible neural connections! I think creativity is what keeps us young, or at least afloat. Lauren, this has been a delight. Thank you, thank you! One thing you may be interested to know is that the first spark for the book came to me while standing in line to buy groceries in the supermarket. I was staring at the tabloid magazine covers—all those glamorous movie stars photographed on the rise gorgeously and on the decline scandalously —and began imagining characters who became Abby and Elise.
It just goes to show that ideas can come at any time, from any place. And then, many years later, in , Nancy, now a New Englander, is notified that her son, Teddy, and recently-separated husband, Geoff, are caught in a freak thunderstorm. They have both been hit by lightning, one survives. This staggering news shocks and makes its way throughout several newspapers, affecting locals and family alike. Nancy not only loses her husband, but also her father, later her mother, and mother-in-law. She goes through a series of relationships, and struggles to find meaning in this seemingly senseless act—that is a true rare occurrence.
The writing is pellucid, uplifting, and healing. Nancy, welcome!
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I am so struck with this story. Both your son and your husband are hit by lightning in a freak thunderstorm. Can you set the scene for us? On July 23, , the day that my husband and younger son were hit by lightning, I was living in our family home in a town halfway between Concord and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That morning I hugged and kissed my son as he loaded up his sea-kayak. I called my husband and offered him raspberries when he came to cut the grass. He and I had been married for twenty-six years; for the last four months, we had been separated.
It was a beautiful day with no hint of the freak thunder and lightning storm that struck farther down the coast where my husband and son were kayaking. This news is simply staggering. It typically happens in Florida or Texas, to young men between the ages of years old, and in the summer months. But your son was twenty. Your husband forty-eight, and this was in Maine.
Are you still scratching your head on that? Lightning has so many associations—Biblical, mystical, mythical. I am still wondering what it means that my husband was killed by lightning and that my younger son was spared. Can you share a bit of your writing journey? I especially like the writing retreat…. Writing has been helpful to me in recovering from my grief. It strikes, and a writer has no choice. He or she has been chosen to write. And yes, I believe that I was chosen to write about my experiences.
What did you learn about yourself as you wrote? Because every book should teach you something but also the reader. Writing and sharing my memoir have taught me so much. It was initially a surprise that complete strangers were moved to tears by my words and that they wanted to hug me. I think I understand this because I was estranged from my mother when she died by suicide. First, can you give us a little background in terms of your marriage? Complicated grief is more of a descriptive concept than a clinical one. For many years, the grieving were expected to recover within a year.
Now, many experts understand that the loss of a loved one is complex and that each response is unique. Families, workplaces, and medical and mental health professionals all need to respect the needs of the grieving. In my case, my grief was complicated because my husband and I were estranged at the time of his death. The grief process is complicated by a wide range of factors. They all deserve compassion. How did your work prepare you for this? Or did it? And how might you guide someone through freshly experienced grief?
Many of my patients over the years came to me because of losses, because they were grieving. It is ironic that I had so much experience helping patients recover from losses—the loss of innocence, the loss of love, the loss of identity. I do believe that my experience helped me on an intellectual and behavioral level; I knew I needed to go to work, to go to a bereavement group, and to avoid situations that would trigger difficult emotions. I try to help support friends who have profound losses, but I feel inadequate to take on a major role. These days, I leave that to others.
You have to tell us about Teddy now. What does he think about the book? He went on to graduate school to become a P. Now married and with children, his life appears normal, but he still has no memory of one critical week of his life. I believe my book has filled in some details for him; he has been wonderfully supportive and plans to go to a book reading with me.
He says that one of these days he hopes to write a book about his experiences. That really pleases me. I want to share that writing has been a healing experience, one I value and recommend. Your enthusiasm for memoir writing and my memoir is so infectious. Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. She is also a retired clinical social worker; during her twenty-year-long career, she served both as a psychiatric social worker and a psychotherapist.
Find her online at nancybills — memoir. Author photo credit: Julia Bishop. Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by L. Find more like this on Instagram leslielindsay1]. What does it mean to forgive? Plus, oh, my gosh—that cover—which could be just about Anywhere, USA. Or Anywhere, Period. But—each home has different stories.
This is a gorgeous book in scope and practice—begging questions of forgiveness, past mistakes, family bonds, and those mundane, ordinary everyday moments that at first glance seem segmented, fragile, but also make momentous explosions in the grand scheme. The writing is razor-sharp, perceptive, and moves powerfully through the narrative in a sweeping arc, covering so much ground. I am in awe. Please join me in welcoming the lovely Mary Beth Keane to the author interview series.
Mary Beth, it is such a pleasure and delight. Thank you for taking the time. I love this book. Thank YOU for reading and for having me! I love them, in fact. I always begin with a single character, usually in motion. One of the things I thought a lot while writing this book was whether knowing someone as a child means knowing their truest selves.
We learn to hide so much as adults. Kids really KNOW each other. These characters will stay with me for a long time. Can you give us a peek behind the curtain—who are these characters? Were they based on a kernel of those close to you?
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Perhaps kernels picked up from here and there, but really not more than that. My husband was estranged from his parents for a long time, and had a particularly difficult relationship with his mother, though I know he loved her. The things that happen to all of us as kids have reverberations for the rest of our lives, and writing this book was my way of deciding whether I think a person can ever get past his or her own history. The other things — struggles with alcoholism, mental illness, even just the idea of openness about what we want and feel — yes, those come from life.
I saw myself in Peter Stanhope in many ways—a daughter of a mother with a severe mental illness. It seems mental illness appears in more and more fiction or maybe I just happen upon them serendipitously. Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about how this found its way into the narrative? Also, did you know May is maternal mental health awareness month? Some of seeds of this story are deeply personal, either for me or for people close to me. People who are still suffering. In the s, s, 80s… there was so little recourse for a person who needed help.
Where could a person go? A lot of Irish ended up going to priests, and I think recent revelations have taught us how helpful that probably was. I had a person in my life who was terrifying to me as young teenager. She hated me, used to harass me, I was terrified of her. But as I kept writing, especially when I was inside her point of view, I realized how much she must have been suffering, and she ended up being the character I had the most sympathy for.
Great question. I read widely and constantly to keep myself on track. Mohsin Hamid. Peter Carey. Elena Ferrante. I read a lot of debut novels, too. And poetry. I really believe that everything comes down to sentences. Making them sharp and right and lining one after another in the right order and rhythm, choosing the right detail, making sure that every single line does a job of some sort, earns its right to be there.
Nothing is allowed to be there simply because it sounds good. Poets are really the best at this, paring whatever they want to convey back to individual words and turns of phrase. Mary Beth Keane gives us characters so complex and alive that I find myself still thinking of them days after turning the final page. A must-read. And how did you overcome them? Oh God. To put it in perspective, I write about words a day, roughly five days a week.
I spent 4 years writing this book with some off periods, granted but I ended up with a page book. I abandoned the book twice: once for just a week or two, but the second time for a whole summer. At some points I began in the middle of the story and sort of drew in backstory as I went. For a long time I began where the book ends now, and wrote it as sort of a loop. Every option resulted in the present of the action getting bogged down with flashback. But if half a book is flashback, why not just go back there and live there for a bit?
So ultimately I realized the best way to tell this story was chronologically, for the most part. There is some flashback but only to enrich and shine a light on whatever the characters are thinking in the present. I also find so much of writing a story is gut instinct.
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When I felt myself itching to be with a character, I went to that character. When I felt myself growing bored as I was writing, I told myself the reader would feel bored, too, and I ditched it. I think fiction writers in particular have to listen to their bodies as they go. I made zero effort to keep stage time even between the main characters. I think the evenness readers feel comes with weight or something , not necessarily time on the page. During the school year my day is very regimented.
I usually wake up early — around — and workout. I find running or cycling goes really well with writing. Once they get on that bus I write for a few hours, usually until around or After that I answer emails or follow up on things I owe people or am supposed to be doing. I have to be really protective of that schedule because I work from home, in the town where I grew up, and if I loosen my grip even a little, next thing people are stopping by, expecting me to chat on the phone, etc.
My mother suggests I go to Costco with her almost every day, and every day I disappoint her by saying no. Once the kids get home I switch into domestic mode when I can. The kids do their homework, I shuttle them to their activities. Often at night I read over what I wrote that morning and make small tweaks. But I do agree that there is obsession in this book. No one else has said that. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York with her husband and their two sons.
Nedda is 11 years old in , when the Challenger erupts and her beloved astronaut hero, Judy Resick becomes carbon, atoms, dust…she can barely go on. What happened to those astronauts? Nedda loves her father, a laid-off NASA scientist fiercely. Why is her father so intent on keeping her young? And what is this secret?
The writing is poetic, insightful, and reflective, bringing up big issues about transformation, space-time travel, childhood, parent-child relationships, even environmentalism. The actress reaches a plea bargain that calls for at least a day in jail. Lindsay Lohan will serve at least 24 hours in jail in her drunken-driving cases under the terms of a plea deal reached Thursday. Through her attorney, the actress pleaded guilty to two counts of being under the influence of cocaine and pleaded no contest to driving with a blood alcohol level of.
Prosecutors dropped two counts of driving under the influence, which are which are seen as lesser offenses than the charge of driving with a. Although she faced a mandatory minimum of four days in jail, she was given credit for one day already served. Prosecutors also agreed she could serve 10 days of community service instead of two days in jail.
Lohan, who was also placed on three years probation and ordered to complete an month alcohol education program, has until January to serve her jail sentence. Earlier in the day, she dodged felony charges, with prosecutors filing misdemeanor counts after tests found she possessed insufficient amounts of cocaine, authorities announced.
The actress was charged with seven counts, including two counts each of driving under the influence, driving with blood alcohol of over. In both incidents, police found Lohan in possession of cocaine. But in each case, the amounts tested were below the. The year-old actress is currently in rehab at the Cirque Lodge program in Utah.