#1 New York Times bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford has written everything from contemporary suspense to historical intrigue covering class, friendship, and forbidden love.
In her latest and in many ways most intimate novel, SECRETS FROM THE PAST, thirty-year-old American photojournalist Serena Stone is working on a biography of her celebrated father when she discovers that a former lover is in trouble overseas. Her travels take her back into her own past and into the past of her mother where she'll uncover family secrets long buried.
Barbara was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about SECRETS FROM THE PAST (the book that is, not her personal secrets from the past... I'm not publishing an exposé here!).
Ali: You’ve been publishing with us for about 10 years and you’ve written almost 30 novels, what makes SECRETS FROM THE PAST special for you and your readers?
Barbara: What makes SECRETS special for me and my readers is that I've used the first person narrative. But this is only the third time in my writing career that I have done so. However, I believe writing in Serena Stone's voice gives great intimacy to the book, and therefore to the reader. I always give my female protagonist a job and I've never written about a war photographer before. So this is something else that's new. I am told by my earliest readers that the book has an enormous amount of immediacy and is very NOW.
Ali: Speaking of "now"... when a library patron returns SECRETS FROM THE PAST to his or her local branch and inevitably says, "I loved it! What do I read now?" Which books, audiobooks, and films would you want Readers' Advisory librarians to recommend?
Barbara: Of course I would always recommend A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE as a book, an audiobook, and a movie. The movie stars Liam Neeson, Jenny Seagrove, Deborah Kerr and a cast of other great actors. It is available now on DVD from Acorn Video. The miniseries runs for 6 hours. Also available are the two sequels, HOLD THE DREAM and TO BE THE BEST. Other books I would recommend of mine are HER OWN RULES, REMEMBER, THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE and LETTER FROM A STRANGER.
Ali: Fantastic. That sounds like a formidable stack of excellent stories. You mentioned audiobooks so let's talk briefly about the audiobook for SECRETS FROM THE PAST. The narrator Stina Nielsen has narrated everything from Chuck Palahniuk's RANT to Sarah Dessen's KEEPING THE MOON to Shannon Hale's MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND. She did a particularly wonderful job with SECRETS FROM THE PAST (listen to a clip from chapter one here!). Tell us a little bit about your relationship with audiobooks. What's your ideal situation for listening to books read aloud?
Barbara: I always enjoy listening to the audiobooks. It's a wonderful way to relax, just sitting on a sofa and imagining all of the characters enacting the story.
Ideal, indeed! Thank you so much for your time, Barbara!Read more
Mark Sullivan, the internationally bestselling author and bestselling co-author with James Patterson, tells all!
...Or at least he tells us a lot of really great stuff, like what he learned about commerical fiction while working with Powerhouse Patterson.
Sullivan told Publishers Weekly,
"I thought I knew what I was doing when it came to commercial fiction. Working with Patterson, however, I discovered quickly that I didn’t. [...] What I’ve learned from the global bestselling author could fill a book, but here are some of the lessons that have changed my writing life."
Read about those lessons at PublishersWeekly.com!Read more
In Gregg Hurwitz' own words, his latest thriller, THE SURVIVOR, is the story of "a man forced to step up, willing to do anything to protect those he loves, even as his body begins to betray him." More specifically...
One morning Nate Overbay—a divorced former solider suffering from PTSD and slowly dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease—goes to an eleventh-floor bank and climbs out a window onto the ledge, ready to end it. But when a crew of robbers bursts into the bank viciously shooting employees and customers, Nate confronts the robbers, taking them out one-by-one.
Nate is then kidnapped by Pavlo, a savage Russian mobster who planned the failed heist. Pavlo gives Nate an ultimatum—break back into the bank and get what he needs or watch Pavlo slowly kill the ex-wife and teenaged daughter Nate lost when he came back from Iraq.
"Hurwitz’s writing is crisp and economical, and he steers clear of hackneyed phrases and one-dimensional characters. [...] A fine thriller that succeeds on every level." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Surely Hurwitz can’t keep this up forever. Lately, each new book he publishes is his best so far, and this one’s no exception. [...] Nate is the kind of character who, if not handled just right, might quickly become unbelievable, but there’s no danger of that with Hurwitz at the controls. It’s hard to imagine that he can top this one, but, based on past performance, don’t bet against it." —Booklist (starred review)
Publisher's Weekly ran an interview with Gregg in June. Read their Q&A here.Read more
Let's cut to the chase: I loved this book. I had no idea what I was getting into when I cracked the pages of SHINE SHINE SHINE and here I am a month later still processing all of the wonderfully full and flawed characters—some of who are on their way to the moon(!), others of who feel alienated right in the suburbs of their own planet.
Debut author Lydia Netzer was kind enough to answer a few questions about her terrific first novel for us. Read on, readers!
Q: You cover a lot of ground in SHINE SHINE SHINE from Burma to Virginia to Pennsylvania to the Moon (not to mention the past and the future)! Which setting did you have the most fun writing?
I grew up in Detroit, but we spent all our summers in the hills of western Pennsylvania, living in a decrepit old farmhouse on a dirt road. Of course, I loved this old farm, and I still do -- it’s June now and I’m answering these questions from the dining room -- panelled in wormy chestnut and full of weird antiques! The valley where Sunny and Maxon played as children is my valley, their creek is my creek, and the stump that’s shaped like a throne -- that was my mossy old stump throne. It was very satisfying to bring that setting into the book and put into words the way I felt about this place as a child. As an only child, I spent a lot of time dangling from the tire swing by myself, and often imagined a playmate arriving magically out of the woods, just as Maxon did for Sunny.
Q: Many of the characters in SHINE SHINE SHINE struggle to project an air of "normalcy," did you have any challenges writing scenes with such offbeat people?
I have yet to meet a person who is absolutely normal. I think normalcy is a construct. There are some people who do a pretty excellent job at burying their weirdness, but that doesn’t mean the weirdness isn’t there. These skilled social creatures, practiced at fitting in, collectively create a definition of what “normal” looks like and then others strive to match it. Or else they don’t. Some of us are less committed to passing for normal, and we let our weirdness out a bit, peel the lid off the crazy, off the angst and the exuberance. I’m sure people have good reasons for wanting to pass as normal and have others see them as acceptable. In fact, parenthood can really drive you in this direction -- toward stuffing down all your crazy and packing it away, presenting a very peaceful, unremarkable face to the world. No one sets out wanting to be the weirdo mom or the freak dad. It’s a status you have to come to grips with over time, sometimes after all attempts to disappear into normalcy have failed.
So to answer the question, I think there are offbeat people all around, and imagining what strange fancies lurked under the apparently normal skin of apparently average people was a very interesting project.
Q: If a Reader's Advisory librarian wanted to compare SHINE SHINE SHINE to a couple of other books or even movies on their shelves, which would you want them to pick?Read more
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to steal a few minutes with debut author Amber Dermont whose novel, THE STARBOARD SEA, comes out this month! She opened our conversation with a word about what librarians mean to her.
"I grew up in a library," she said. "My parents are rare book dealers and our house was floor to ceiling bookshelves and first editions. To this day, I still feel most at home lost among the stacks. During high school and college, I worked as a library proctor and apprenticed myself to a series of world-class librarians. These super heroes taught me how to research my stories, check my facts and compile the necessary details that lead me to write my own novel. I am forever in their debt."
And now, on to the interview!
Ali: I would guess that every debut author takes inspiration from other artists, be they authors, musicians, painters, or, say, typographers. Does anyone stick out as a particularly important part of your process?
Amber: Great question! Writers are like magpies thieving for shiny objects, eager for any charm that will help build a better nest. As I began writing THE STARBOARD SEA, I sought inspiration from the painter John Currin and the photographers Tina Barney and Anthony Goicolea. All three of these artists helped me envision the physical and emotional landscapes of the novel: the listless suntanned faces, the splendor of Manhattan penthouses, the caprice of adolescence and the brutal beauty of youth. John Currin often paints society women in sexy, outlandish poses. His portrait of his wife, "Rachel in Fur," served as the muse for my character Brizzey and the redheaded starlet in his masterpiece, "Heartless," helped me bring Diana and Aidan to life. Currin's intimate depiction of two nude sailors, "Fishermen," became a touchstone for Jason's tender and fraught relationship with Cal.Read more
In CHILDREN OF WRATH, Willi Kraus, the celebrated WWI veteran and detective, returns with the case that made him the most famous Jewish Detective in Germany in the days of the Weimar Republic. In this prequel to THE SLEEPWALKERS, Kraus tackles the case of the Kinderfresser, the vicious Child-Eater of Berlin (I know! It gives me the hebejebes, too!).
Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review. Here's what they said:
"Grossman's brilliant second historical featuring Berlin policeman Willi Kraus finds Kraus already feeling the isolation of being a Jew in an overwhelmingly Aryan environment. [...] Fans of cerebral murder mysteries will look forward to the next installment." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"...it's terrifying and worthy. Human nature has never looked so raw." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Publishers Weekly interviewed Paul Grossman back in December and he offered some interesting insight into the research for CHILDREN OF WRATH, such as, "One major influence in my decision making was the works of German psychologist Alice Miller and her ideas on how German child-rearing practices of the 19th century became a key component in the rise of Nazism." He also hints at what's up next for the series: "France." Read the full interview here!Read more
Olen Steinhauer was recently profiled in Publishers Weekly about his latest novel AN AMERICAN SPY featuring the reluctant, contemporary spy Milo Weaver (preceded by THE TOURIST and THE NEAREST EXIT). The article, "A Literary Spy: Olen Steinhauer," discusses Steinhauer's journey to writing spies and what intrigues him about them. The article reads,
"Steinhauer's remarkable portrayal of the trilogy's Weaver has garnered comparisons with John le Carré. A huge fan of le Carré, Steinhauer calls THINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY 'a wholly literary novel.' It seems clear that Steinhauer, in that spirit is trying to marry literary devotion to craft and seriousness with the compelling narratives of genre. A lot of today's spy fiction 'is interested in how spies work,' he says. 'I'm interested in how people deceive each other.'"
Steinhauer also offers some interesting commentary on his writing process. He says,
"I write myself into a corner, then get stuck, then get an idea, then change everything... If it went smoothly, I'd be worried."
Publishers Weekly also gave AN AMERICAN SPY a starred review and said,
"Steinhauer is particularly good at articulating contemporary spy craft—the mechanics of surveillance and intelligence in the digital age and the depth of paranoia endemic to the trade. In addition, his ability to create characters with genuine emotions and conflicts, coupled with an insightful and often poetic writing style, set him apart in the world of espionage fiction."
We want to make sure that you didn't miss the brief interview that Publishers Weekly held with domestic crime writer and Edgar-finalist, Sophie Littlefield.
A BAD DAY FOR SCANDAL is the latest in Littlefield's humorous and gutsy series featuring vigilante Stella Hardesty (following A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY). Publishers Weekly says, "Littlefield's eccentric cast of characters grows richer with each book, and Stella continues to dazzle with her wit, charm, and ease with firearms." Library Journal says, "This caper is more fun than eating cotton candy on a Ferris wheel." We agree!
Publishers Weekly caught up with Littlefield to ask her a few quick questions about her feisty series such as, where did the idea of Stella come from? How do you keep Stella's vigilantism from alienating readers? And, how do you balance the violence with humor?Read more
Academy Award-nominated actor Albert Brooks wrote a thrilling near-future novel that takes place in America after cancer is cured, L.A. is devastated by an earthquake, and the American government is financially ruined.
In their review of 2030 Publishers Weekly says, "Brooks's mordant vision encompasses the future of politics, medicine, entertainment, and daily living, resulting in a novel as entertaining as it is thought provoking, like something from the imagination of a borscht belt H.G. Wells."
Publishers Weekly also snagged some of Brooks' time for a quick interview in which he discusses writing a novel versus a screenplay, why he chose America's near future as the driving element in 2030, and more. Read the full interview here!Read more
Pintoff says, "For SECRET OF THE WHITE ROSE, I wanted to explore the anarchist threat that was part of early 1900s New York City, creating a time of uncertainty much like the present, where we live with the constant threat of terrorism."
And how does she write period pieces with such rich details? "Like most historical writers, I use a variety of sources, from libraries to contemporary newspapers to old photograph collections."
Pintoff also talks about which came first, plot or characters, and who she considers to be her literary role models. Read the full Q&A here!Read more