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  • Sarah Skilton 5:00 pm on 2019/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: christmas shopaholic, , Fiction, , josie silver, julia whelan, last christmas, london belongs to us, my oxford year, one day in december, , , sarra manning, ,   

    5 London-Set Books to Read After You See Last Christmas 

    Anglophiles, assemble! Last Christmas hits theaters today, about a young woman (GoT’s Emilia Clarke) who works at a year-round ornament store and whose holiday blues start to lift when a handsome stranger (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding) enters her life. Besides the romance, what I’m most looking forward to are the scenes showcasing the beauty and quirks of London during the holidays. Here are five more new and recent romances set in Merry Old to keep you cozy this weekend.

    Royal Holiday, by Jasmine Guillory
    An impromptu mother-daughter trip to England to style a duchess for the holidays? So much yes. Guillory’s fourth book centers on an older protagonist, 50-something Vivian Forest, whose daughter Maddie (last seen in The Wedding Party) provides the impetus for the trip of a lifetime. When Vivian meets Malcolm Hudson, a veddy proper private secretary to the Queen, sparks fly. The problem is, Vivian’s due back in the States after New Year’s. Is a magical fling worth the possible heartache to follow?

    Christmas Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella
    Becky Bloomwood Brandon is eager to share a traditional English Christmas with husband Luke and daughter Minnie at her parents’ place, complete with ugly sweaters and caroling. Then her mum and dad drop a bombshell: they’re moving out of the village of Letherby and into a trendy London ‘burb. As such, they need Becky to host the festivities this time around. Bargain shopping, well-meaning yet screwball attempts to help loved ones, and surprises in the form of an ex-boyfriend, ensue. Like a mug of cocoa with marshmallows on top, this looks to be a sweet and heartwarming delight. This is Becky’s eighth outing, but newcomers to the Shopaholic series needn’t have read the previous volumes.

    One Day in December, by Josie Silver
    What happens when your best friend lands the guy you’ve been fantasizing about for a year? That’s Laurie’s predicament in this romance that spans a decade and begins with a missed connection out a bus window in London. When Laurie and Jack first glimpse each other from afar, their mutual and intense attraction is put on simmer—they have no idea how to find each other again—until months later when Jack shows up on the arm of Laurie’s mate Sarah at a holiday party. Does fate intend for them to pursue each other, or is it better for everyone if they walk away? Perfect for fans of Love Actually.

    My Oxford Year, by Julia Whelan
    When Rhodes Scholar Ella Durran arrives at Oxford to study English lit, it’s the culmination of a lifelong dream. Soon, however, she’s torn between her education and a job opportunity working for a rising politician. Then there’s the banter-filled and swoony romance she’s begun with Jamie Davenport, a young, mischievous professor who pushes all her buttons in the best ways. But Jamie’s hiding something from Ella that will change everything—and force Ella to make choices that all seem headed toward heartbreak. Have Kleenex on hand for this gorgeous and emotional debut.

    London Belongs to Us, by Sarra Manning
    Fans of fast-paced stories set in a single night will tear through this love letter to London. When teenage Sunny discovers the truth about her boyfriend—he’s two-timing her with a girl from another school, and has been for a while—she sets off on a cross-city trek for answers. Zipping through villages both lesser-known and iconic (Notting Hill, Soho, Camden…), she meets a colorful cast of characters and learns what she’s willing and unwilling to do for love—and herself.

     What London-set romance novels would you recommend to Last Christmas fans?

    The post 5 London-Set Books to Read After You See <i>Last Christmas</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 1:00 pm on 2019/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Fiction, final option, gwendy's magic feather, , richard chizmar, spy, sword of kings, the age of anxiety, ,   

    The Best New Fiction of November 2019 

    Seven years after The Night Circus won our hearts, Erin Morgenstern returns with an equally riveting sophomore novel full of magic, lush imagery, and secret societies. The incomparable Danielle Steel is also back with a World War II spy tale, and in his debut novel, rocker Pete Townshend brings us an operatic, psychedelic meditation on creativity. If you’re not ready to leave behind the thrills and chills of Halloween, look no further than Gwendy’s Magic Feather, by Richard Chizmar (with a foreward by Stephen King).

    The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern
    In this love letter to books and the power of stories to transform and make sense of our lives, The Night Circus author introduces us to graduate student and bibliophile Zachary Rawlins, who discovers a magical underground library that’s in danger of being destroyed. Soon Zachary is following clues that relate to an incident from his childhood, somehow captured in a book he never wrote. Painted doors that lead to lost cities; masquerade parties; secret societies; and a love story to call his own await him. Morgenstern’s masterful ability to immerse readers in fantastical realms will enchant and delight.

    Spy, by Danielle Steel       
    Fans of Steel’s historical fiction (particularly Silent Honor and A Good Woman) will devour this World War II-set espionage tale about a young woman living a life of subterfuge and risk. Alexandra Wickham is a classic beauty, fluent in French and German, and born into privilege in Hampshire, England, but she refuses to remain on the sidelines while her fellow countrymen put their lives on the line. Her volunteer work as a nurse in London quickly springboards to a position as a secret agent. But can she keep her true identity hidden from everyone she’s ever cared about?

    Final Option, by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison
    Juan Cabrillo, leader of “The Corporation” and captain of the Oregon—a disgusting clunker of a steamer that’s secretly the most high-tech ship in the world—is back for a 14th adventure. Sent to extract two American spies who’ve been exposed in Brazil, Cabrillo finds himself scrambling to avoid a trap. Worse, someone has duplicated the formerly one-of-a-kind Oregon in a bid to beat Cabrillo. He’s never faced such a formidable opponent, nor had more to lose if he and his crew fail in their mission.

    The Age of Anxiety, by Pete Townshend
    The Who’s lead guitarist and songwriter (who once owned a bookstore!) has written a novella, an autobiography, and a short story collection in the past, but this month he debuts something entirely new: an “operatic rock novel” ten years in the making. A sprawling, at times hallucinatory meditation on what it means to be creative (and the fine line between brilliance and madness), the book pulls back the curtain on certain aspects of the music industry while following two generations of a London family and the artistic—sometimes broken, sometimes damaged, always fascinating—people who surround them.

    Gwendy’s Magic Feather, by Richard Chizmar
    In Gwendy’s Button Box, Chizmar teamed up with Stephen King for a novella set in the iconic fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. Now Chizmar is flying solo for this full-length sequel that finds Gwendy (the once-hapless girl entrusted with the nightmarish button box) all grown up into an accomplished, happily married woman with political aspirations. Gwendy returns to her hometown when two girls go missing in a storm. Perhaps she’s meant to use the contraption to help aid in the search—or perhaps the contraption is using her.

    Sword of Kings, by Bernard Cornwell
    If you miss A Game of Thrones, why not dive into this bloody, battle-heavy, medieval history of England? In the twelfth book of the series (which inspired the Netflix show The Last Kingdom), 10th-century monarch King Edward sees power slipping from his grasp. He’ll need to rely on Uhtred of Bebbanburg—our narrator—to secure a proper heir by killing the heir’s main two rivals. Reluctant though he is to leave Northumbria (remind you of a certain Stark?) Uhtred is bound by oath and reluctantly up to the task, his sword “Serpent-Breath” by his side.

    The post The Best New Fiction of November 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2019/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: amal el-mohtar, , , , Fiction, , joanne ramos, , , , , , , , , , , this is how you lose the time war, , vengeful,   

    9 Books to Read if You Loved The Testaments 

    In 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale  was published as a terrifyingly possible prophecy about the dangers of the small, seemingly insignificant choices that can lead even the most advanced, modern societies into a world that barely resembles the one they knew. Margaret Atwood is famous for saying that everything which occurs in the dystopian novel is pulled from real, recorded historical events—meaning that the fictional society known as Gilead could happen anywhere, even at home where we feel most safe.

    Legions of readers followed Offred’s story as a Handmaid in Gilead, one of many women forced to bear and relinquish children into the care of their captors. Offred’s first child, born in a free America, is stolen from her before the novel begins, and when the novel ends her fate is unknown, faded into darkness as the van she steps in may be taking her to freedom, or to her doom.

    In the thirty-five years since its publication, The Handmaid’s Tale has become an international bestseller and received the television treatment as a Hulu show starring Elizabeth Moss. But the fascination with the story has only led to more questions: what happened next? Did Offred survive? Did she have another child? How was Gilead created, and even more urgently: how did it fall?

    The Testaments (which was B&N’s September Book Club pick!) is Atwood’s answer to those questions: a new novel, taking place fifteen years after the conclusion of one that started it all. From the perspective of three different women (two within Gilead, one beyond its borders), the story follows both the early origins of Gilead and its essential founders as well as a dangerous plot to destroy the country from within.

    Without spoiling the revelations learned in the story, I can say The Testaments is a truly satisfying novel for both fans of the original book and the show (and fans of just the show can read it and will not be lost for a second) and answers most, if not all, of the questions offered above. The characters are complex and flawed, and their arcs—both redemptive and tragic—are wholly satisfying. For example, the architect of Gilead’s downfall will be a delightful surprise to fans of the show, and provides a future potentially award-winning turn for at least one actress who currently appears on it, should the show decide to pursue The Testaments as a continuation. But I will say this: If The Handmaid’s Tale was a prophet of doom for women’s rights, The Testaments is a beacon of hope. It is a manifesto on female courage and resilience, one that I think many readers will find welcome in 2019.

    When you finish it, check out our readalike picks below!

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    In The Testaments, the world is defined by keeping women subjugated, mainly in the name of reproduction. But in Vox, female subjugation has another, insidious element: women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words a day, or a device embedded into their skin will shock them. Jean McClellan, a former cognitive linguist (who lost her job as a result of these new laws) watches as her young daughter already knows to silence herself, expecting rewards for how little she speaks, and her teenage son sinks into dangerously abusive territory where he sympathizes with the government more than his own mother. But when an opportunity arises for Jean to regain her voice and fight the oppression from within, she knows this is her one and only shot to make a better life for her daughter and protect her only son from himself. She must engage in lies and deceit with the people she loves most in order to save them—that is, if she’s not caught first.

    Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
    In an America eerily similar to that of Gilead’s beginnings, abortion is no longer legal. That of course doesn’t mean that people aren’t obtaining abortions, it means they are going outside the system, to women such as Gin, an herbalist who lives on the outskirts of a small Oregon town…who suddenly becomes a national spectacle when she is accused of and tried for providing such a service. Her story interweaves with that of three others: a single woman desperately trying to get pregnant before the law only allows married couples to have children; a mother of two in a dangerous marriage; and a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. The characters are what make this novel memorable, as they all go to great lengths to get what they want in a world that forbids them to want anything.

    Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
    How is a YA historical novel that takes place during Medieval France a readalike for The Testaments? Well, let me tell you: because in 14th Century Brittany, life for women was kind of like a dystopia. The main character of Robin LaFevers’ brilliant Grave Mercy is about to be married off to a terrible man and she has no say in the matter. In fact, women during this time often turned to convents and took sacred vows in order to gain more autonomy and freedom than they would have had as married mothers. That is what Ismae does—to escape bondage, she swears to serve the God of Death and in his service, kill other terrible men who deserve it. The elite sisterhood of assassins she joins makes her feel powerful for the first time in her life…until she falls in love with a man she doesn’t entirely trust. Romance, swordplay, and feminism all in one series—of which there are five books to binge!

    Vengeful (Vicious #2), by V.E. Schwab
    No one writes villains the way V.E. Schwab does. The first book in this duology, Vicious, focused on male villainy, when two friends at college discover the secret to developing ExtraOrdinary superpowers and as a result, become enemies each bent on destroying the other. The second book, though (which should technically be read after Vicious for continuity’s sake) is all about female anger, villainy…and justice? This is where it connects to the world of The Testaments for me; it’s a novel in which we see female characters do terrible things in order to attain justice. In Vengeful, women take center stage and are determined to use their ExtraOrdinary abilities not only for self-preservation, but for ultimate power, no matter the cost.

    This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
    Readers of The Testaments who love watching the ultimate takedown of Gilead from within will love this unique sci-fi novella about two agents on opposite sides of a war throughout time. Red and Blue are supposed to be enemies, but when they start exchanging letters , that begins to change. With literally out-of-this-world prose that sets the pages on fire, the love story that unfolds against the backdrop of tyrannical rule is an unforgettable reminder that even in the darkest of times, love wins.

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    Gilead’s beginnings are not just rooted in patriarchy, but in a global health crisis: plummeting fertility rates force people into extreme panic, during which a fringe group seizes control. Station Eleven also begins with a health crisis, but a different one: an flu pandemic that ravages most of modern society, forcing the world into a version of the Dark Ages where people search for pockets of the civilization they once knew. This literary page-turner follows a group of actors as they perform Shakespeare twenty years after the collapse of modernity. When a dangerous prophet threatens the peaceful existence they’ve managed to carve out for themselves, the survivors have a choice to make that could determine their survival.

    The Farm, by Joanne Ramos
    Possibly the most direct readalike on the list, this novel is about women who have children for other women in a place known as the Farm. The deal is this: a huge payday in exchange for nine months of your time growing a baby that, once birthed, will go to the person who paid for it. Jane agrees to be a ‘Host’, but soon realizes there’s another, hidden cost to this agreement: she can’t leave as long as she’s pregnant, or she forfeits the fee she so desperately needs to help her actual family, the one she loves beyond the walls of the Farm. An eerie, modern approach to similar questions addressed by Atwood’s novels.

    What did you think of The Testaments?

    The post 9 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Testaments</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: , Fiction, , , , , , , ,   

    10 Breakout Debut Authors Who Made Us Wait for Their Next Book 

    As much as we romanticize authors, it’s easy to forget that writing novels is a profession for most—both a creative calling and a way to pay the bills. As such, many authors approach success with diligent follow-up; if you manage to sell a first novel, you generally work hard to publish a second one as quickly as possible, if only to consolidate your fan base and prove the first wasn’t a fluke. It’s estimated that upwards of a million books are published every year, so it’s easy to imagine losing your toehold on readers’ imaginations if you let too much time go by.

    The ten authors on this list, however, didn’t feel any urgency, and made us wait years—sometimes decades—for their second novels.

    Susanna Clarke
    First novel: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
    Follow-up: Piranesi, expected September 2020
    Gap: 15 years

    It took Clarke a decade to write her door-stopping debut, an alternate history set in a version of 19th century England in which magic has recently returned after a long absence—although she’d earlier published several short stories in the same milieu. A massive bestseller and award-winner, it’s one of the most unusual works of fantasy you’ll ever read, filled with epic detail (much of it conveyed via cheeky footnotes) and a writing style that brings names like Dickens and Austen to mind. It’s a masterpiece, in short, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting Clarke’s next novel ever since—so color us delighted to learn that, after a decade and a half, it’s finally on the calendar—if still a year away as of this writing. Piranesi, due to hit shelves in September 2020, will introduce us to a whole new world of Clarke’s devising. All we know right now is that the title refers to the main character, who lives in a “watery labyrinth” of a house with thousands of rooms and spends his days assisting his friend “The Other” with research into “a great and secret knowledge.” Of course, not all is as it seems. Few novelists earn the benefit of the doubt based on a single prior novel—but Clarke is most definitely one of them.

    Erin Morgenstern
    First novel: The Night Circus
    Follow-up: The Starless Sea
    Gap: 8 years

    Erin Morgenstern’s debut won the Locus for Best First Novel, a fine feat for a work that began as a NaNoWriMo writing exercise—though it took six years of reworking and polish to turn it into the fantasy publishing phenomenon of 2011. It tells the story of five-year old Celia, struggling with controlling her instinctive mental powers while being raised by her father, Hector, better-known as Prospero the Entertainer in the Le Cirque des Reves—an uncanny circus that only opens at night—and of Marco, the magician’s son whom she is destined to duel. Eight years later, Morgenstern is finally back with The Starless Sea, in which a grad student named Zachary stumbles on evidence that a doorway to a magical world he refused to believe in as a child was actually the real deal—a passage to a huge, largely abandoned underground library where time is unpredictable. Learning that a secret society is working to hide the library and even seal it off forever, and Zachary finds himself at the center of the effort to save it. Eight years is a long time, but if that’s how long it takes to create something as otherworldly and transporting as The Night Circus, the wait will have been worth it.

    Stephen Chbosky
    First novel: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Follow-up: Imaginary Friend
    Gap: 20 years

    It might surprise you to remember it’s been two decades since the release of Chbosky’s generation-defining debut The Perks of Being a Wallflower—perhaps in part because the film adaptation came out in 2012, after the author spent years trying to get it made (eventually directing it himself). The emotional journey of its protagonist, Charlie, is messy and internal and incredibly heartfelt—the kind of novel that feels especially vital, for people who grew up feeling like outsiders in their own life story. Chobsky’s second book, Imaginary Friend, shifts gears hard, delivering something closer to Stephen King than John Hughes. It’s a terrifying nightmare tale about a young boy who disappears in the nearby woods for a week. He returns he’s physically unharmed but changed in other ways—he longer suffers from his learning disability, and hears voices telling him to build a treehouse in the woods. Even as he does, his town descends into chaos as a mysterious illness moves through the population and a host of disturbing entities begin to haunt it. It’s quite the leap in terms of subject matter, but the characters’ emotional journeys are as truthful as ever, and when it comes to the horror elements—well, don’t read this one late at night.

    Harper Lee
    First novel: To Kill a Mockingbird
    Follow-up: Go Set a Watchman
    Gap: 55 years

    If you recall, the announcement that Harper Lee would publish her second novel 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize was met with wild enthusiasm—and then dawning unease, as questions over who actually made the decision to publish what is essentially an early draft of that acclaimed novel arose. We may never know for sure what happened behind the scenes that led to Go Set a Watchman beings published in 2015, but we do know with a certainty that while it’s not a bad novel by any stretch, it’s simply not up to the standard set by Mockingbird. Though in all fairness that’s an extremely high bar to clear. The expectations piling ever-higher in the years after her timeless debut likely had something to do with the fact that Lee published almost nothing else, so whatever you think of Watchman, its mere existence is some kind of marvel..

    Joseph Heller
    First novel: Catch-22
    Follow-up: Something Happened
    Gap: 13 years

    Heller took eight years to write his debut novel, the ingenious satire Catch-22, so 13 for his second tracks pretty well. Few novels in any language capture the pure insanity of living within a massive bureaucracy quite as well as Catch-22, using a slippery sense of time and a numbing repetition of the absurd to really make you comprehend how little you understand about your own existence. Something Happened arrived in 1974 with a lot of expectations in tow, and was initially received as an overlong disappointment, perhaps because people were hoping for Catch-23. In the ensuing decades the novel’s reputation has risen, and it’s routinely featured on lists of “the best books you’ve probably never read.”

    J.R.R. Tolkien
    First novel: The Hobbit
    Follow-up: The Lord of the Rings
    Gap: 14 years

    The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are often considered as two parts of a larger single work, but making them fit together required extensive revision, resulting in a whole new edition of the first novel years being published years after its initial 1937 release. The Hobbit was originally imagined as a children’s novel. Tolkien began writing a sequel after sales were better than expected, but as his sequel grew in complexity and darkness, he later tinkered with The Hobbit to fit the more mature mythology and tone of The Lord of the Rings. And yes, it is actually a single novel; the publisher broke it into thirds, fearing the public wouldn’t be willing to take the risk on such a long work of fantasy—which is somewhat understandable, considering the genre we now understand to be “epic fantasy” didn’t yet exit. At more than 500,000 words and featuring one of the most well-developed and deeply-imagined fictional universes ever devised, fourteen years in the making doesn’t seem so long.

    Walter M. Miller
    First novel: A Canticle for Leibowitz
    Follow-up: Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman
    Gap: 38 years

    Miller was primarily a writer of short fiction; Canticle was actually a “fix-up” novel created by combining three short stories into one seamless story. Nevertheless, it is one of the great debuts in SFF, more than just a story of Earth recovering from an apocalypse but an examination of faith, religion, human nature, and the patterns of history itself. Miller had a deal with his publisher for a sequel, but turned down what he saw as an insultingly low advance. Regardless, he continued to work on the novel for the next 37 years, secured a new publishing deal, and then fell into a depression that left him unable to complete the book. He ultimately asked author Terry Bisson to help him complete the novel, which Bisson did, but Miller committed suicide before Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman finally published. Though the improbability of meeting nearly four decades’ worth of expectations meant the novel received a mixed reception, it’s certainly a fascinating extension of an undeniable classic of the genre.

    Alexander Chee
    First novel: Edinburgh
    Follow-up: The Queen of the Night
    Gap: 15 years

    It’s not like Alexander Chee was idle in the decade-and-a-half between the publication his award-winning novel Edinburgh, a devastating story about two young boys who fall in love and fall victim to horrifying abuse, and his sophomore effort, The Queen of the Night. THe author is a prolific writer of short fiction, and he also edits, teaches, and contributor to numerous magazines and websites. But Queen is a different kind of novel, a fantastic historical tale about Lilliet Hearne, an American orphan who joins a circus and travels to Paris, where she discovers, well, just about everything. Chee was actually all set to publish the book in 2013, but at the last minute discovered fresh information about one of his real-life characters, and pulled the book back from his publisher to include the new material, delaying things another few years.

    Helen DeWitt
    First novel: The Last Samurai
    Follow-up: Lightning Rods
    Gap: 12 years

    Behind Dewitt’s bestselling debut is a kind of amazing story: she originally wrote it in 1996, but was demoralized by the responses she got from editors and quickly pulled the novel from submission. By chance, an editor at Miramax saw the book and took it to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where it caused what can only be called a stir, with people fighting over copies. Dewitt was dubious, worried that the complex story—involving several different foreign alphabets and a non-linear narrative—would be too challenging for publishers to handle properly. And she was right, in a sense: her signing of a contract set off a decade of battles—over the title (originally dubbed The Seven Samurai after the Kurosawa film, it was altered when the rights couldn’t be obtained, only to see the replacement used for a samurai movie starring Tom Cruise, which probably resulted in at least a few confused bookstore returns); with copy editors who ignored her corrections and altered her intention, with typesetters who lacked the ability to handle her complex requirements. Though the book was released in 2000 to general acclaim and strong sales, it soon fell out of print and the rights to the book reverted to the author in 2008. It was finally republished by the independent press New Directions in 2016, and met with a critical reevaluation that deemed it one of the most essential novels of the 20th century. Her follow-up, Lightning Rods, was actually written shortly after The Last Samurai, and was intended to be published first—a streamlined book that would establish her as a writer and pave the way for the more challenging novel; New Directions released it in 2012, and did a good enough job with it that the author trusted them to bring her first book back into circulation.

    Arundhati Roy
    First novel: The God of Small Things
    Follow-up: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
    Gap: 20 years

    Roy is another writer who wasn’t exactly idle in the years between books. Her debut—telling the story of fraternal twins that explored how small things can have an outsize effect on our lives—won the Man Booker Prize for fiction; for years Roy referred to ongoing work on her second novel, but no book appeared as she worked on a TV show and published numerous essays. For a while it seemed like she might have abandoned fiction altogether, but The Ministry of Utmost Happiness arrived in 2017 as almost a conceptual opposite of her first—a big book concerned with gender identity, celebrity, and the tectonic shifting of politics and intolerance that grind people to dust. If every book that took 20 years to write was this good, no one would complain.

    What other long-in-coming sophomore efforts did we miss?

    The post 10 Breakout Debut Authors Who Made Us Wait for Their Next Book appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/10/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Fiction, his bright light, , , the dark side   

    An Interview with Danielle Steel On Motherhood, Writing Every Day, and the Novels That Have Meant the Most to Her 

    Danielle Steel is a venerable novelist who has written over 180 books and is a staple of the New York Times bestseller list. In the interview below, she discusses everything from her experience as a mother, to how she develops her ideas, and why her decision to include an intimate LGBTQ scene in her latest novel, Child’s Play, was an important one.

    I’d like to ask some follow up questions to the recent (and incredible) piece in Glamour about your success and work. You mentioned that some ideas begin as more “mundane” but then become “magical.” From where do you draw inspiration? Does it start with a character or a conflict?

    My ideas start with a character or an event, either a theme that intrigues me, or sometimes a news event that captures me. In Child’s Play, it’s about a mother who thinks she has ‘perfect’ adult children who are doing everything she hopes for them and thinks they should—-and suddenly they all have their own life plans, entirely different from hers or what she wished. It’s something most parents of young adults go through, and should resonate both with parents, and adult children. Mother does not always know best!!! A big adjustment for all!!

    I was fascinated by your rigorous writing schedule that you detailed in that article, which has obviously paid off in spades. If you could give any advice to young writers about starting and maintaining a consistent writing practice, what would it be?

    Write Every Day!! (I didn’t take a day off from writing for the first eleven years). And work as hard as you can—and even harder. Discipline is essential, and perseverance. Don’t just wait for inspiration to strike you, sit there and work no matter what, even if it comes slowly. There is NO substitute for hard work (in anything, not just writing).

    You have written 180 titles at the time of this printing. As a thought experiment: other than Child’s Play, your most recent title (which I’ll get to in a moment), if you were a bookseller recommending your own work to a prospective reader (or a professor teaching a Danielle Steel 101 course) which ones would you recommend they start with? Of all your books, which stand out as particularly special throughout your career?

    183 titles. My work is intentionally very varied, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, books about corporate life and industries, some thrillers (like my recent book The Dark Side), some books slanted toward women, some of strong interest for men, family sagas, some lighter themes, and some very serious ones. There should be something for everyone in my body of work—-even children’s books, and a few non-fiction. The book that was the most special to me of course was the one about my late son Nick, “His Bright Light.”

    Child’s Play, your newest novel, introduces the reader to Kate, a successful woman who has lots of ideas about how her life and the lives of her three adult children should be. Her steadfast devotion to certain ideals—high quality education, marrying well, etc. reminded me about a section in the Glamour piece where you discussed the differences in how you experienced your early working life and how your children have experienced theirs. Was the inspiration for this book drawn from your own observations as a mother?

    My observations in Child’s Play come from my experience as a mother (of many children. I have 9), and from what I’ve seen around me among young people and parents. We want the best for our kids, but our plans for them aren’t always what they want or what is suited to their life. It takes strength and courage to find the right path in life, and it takes patience, understanding and great love to let your children follow the path that seems right to them. And sometimes the two are very different!!

    I loved how Kate really thinks she knows her children but they are all keeping things from her, to varying degrees. As she described her relationships with them, I felt only encroaching dread because I knew that the more clearly she defined them, the more wrong she would wind up being. Without betraying their privacy of course, what are some of the things about your own children that have surprised you as they’ve grown up?

    Motherhood and mothering is always surprising!! Life is surprising!! My children have followed paths I expected for the most part, but with their own special spin on it, which suits their individual needs and personalities.  I’m very proud of them!!

    The three “children” in Child’s Play are of course adults in their own right with fascinating storylines: the son Kate describes as a nerdy video-game designer who would have no social life without his squeaky-clean fiancé is actually quite a Romeo who has an affair; Claire, whom she views as naive in relationships decides to pursue the most permanent of them all, motherhood; and Tammy, her workaholic daughter with no time for a relationship is actually in a committed partnership with a woman. How did you develop each of their characters, and did you plot each of their endings before the story began?

    I tried to think of the things that would surprise me the most and might be the biggest adjustment for most parents, to make the book varied and resonate with my readers going through challenges with their kids.

    The reader quickly learns that Kate has been keeping secrets of her own, and that realization is what sparks the children to be more open about their own paths in life. Your novels often overlap genres, between mystery, thriller, and even coming-of-age journeys. What do you love most about writing in each genre?

    I write about the human condition, which is what fascinates me most, the things that make us all suffer and bring us joy, the challenges we face that we have no control over (like the loss of a loved one). I love what difficult situations bring out in people, how we grow from them, however painful. I love writing about people and relationships that bind us, what brings us closer to each other and tears us apart. The rest is all a backdrop for those relationships, a stage on which life plays out.

    Tammy’s storyline in particular was quite moving and very modern—there’s a beautiful intimate scene between her and her partner involving artificial insemination as they pursue building a family. I can’t recall another book with a scene like that in it, and I think it’s so important for the LTBQIAP+ community to see themselves represented, as well as for your straight, cisgender readership to be exposed to scenes like that. Can you discuss the process of writing that scene, and why it was included?

    Tammy’s storyline and the scenes around it are important because it is part of our modern life. It’s as real as all relationships, and important to include in a book about relationships, couples, and families.

    I know you don’t read while you write, but are you reading anything right now? If not, what are some of your favorite books by other authors that you would recommend?

    I’m not reading anything right now, and I wish I were. I have a lot of work on my desk at the moment, and two books in outline that I’m going to start soon, so I’m not reading right now.

    Last question: please describe Child’s Play in three words.

    Describe Child’s Play in 3 words: A Great Read.  And 3 more words:  Please read it!!

    Child’s Play is on B&N bookshelves on October 8.

    The post An Interview with Danielle Steel On Motherhood, Writing Every Day, and the Novels That Have Meant the Most to Her appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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