Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blog Hiatus

Life matters are calling...must take time off from blogging for a while.

Hope to be back soon.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hester Kaplan Interview & Book Giveaway



Title:  The Tell
Author:  Hester Kaplan
Publisher:  HarperCollins 2013
Pages:  325
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Source:  Author
ISBN:  978-0-06-218402-3
Rating:  4 stars





It has truly been my pleasure to become acquainted with Hester Kaplan's writing talents and insights.  Hester graciously agreed to answer some of my burning questions:

1. How did you get inspired to write The Tell?
The first time I ever went to a casino and sat at a slot machine, I had such a strong feeling about it that I had to wonder what was going on and why I was so fascinated.  I looked at the people around me—mostly women—and many of them seemed to be in some sort of trance as they leaned forward towards the machines. I became interested in how and why a woman might become addicted to playing.  I created the character of Mira as someone you might never expect would become a compulsive player—and in that reversal of expectations was the germ of the novel.  

2. Tell us about your writing process.
For me, there’s only one process that works, and that’s to just sit down and do the work, hour after hour, and day after day.  Through writing—and through reading—a writer discovers her own way of approaching and tackling the work.  I find that a regular schedule works for me—8:00 in the morning at my desk and writing until noon.  I reserve the afternoons for my teaching and for editing, and if I’m lucky, reading.

3. If you could meet and talk with one special person who would it be?
Tonight I would love to have dinner with Alan Cumming.  I think he’s a genius.  And very funny.  Tomorrow it will probably be someone else.

4. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you "grew up?"
I wanted to be anything but a writer.

5. Do you have a favorite quote?
My favorite quote is the one that speaks to me on that particular day.  Today?  “Human beings have their great chance in the novel.” –E.M. Forster

6. What were the challenges in writing The Tell?
Every bit of it was a challenge—in a good way. I have to be challenged by the puzzle of a novel or story I’m writing because that makes me determined.  I don’t like to be beaten by my own work!  The Tell is full of secrets and one challenge was how not to blurt them out all at once.  

7. Who designed the cover of your book?  Did you have any input?
The cover design in by Archie Ferguson. I love the cover and think it captures the book perfectly.  Thank you, Archie!

8. What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Stoner, by John Williams.  It’s about a college professor, not a pothead.  I’m also (re)reading The Passion Flower Hotel by Rosalind Erskine.  It was the first dirty book I read as a kid and I’m interested to see what I’m going to make of it all these years later.

9. Do you have any hidden talents?
I wish.  I was a mediocre—at best—college basketball player.  I make a mean pea soup.

10. Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite author is often the one I’m currently reading.  I am a serial fawner in that way.  Still, I always come back to certain authors for their surety of style and their depth of feeling: Alice Munro, John Updike, Philip Roth, Richard Ford.  An incredibly talented new writer I admire is Ramona Ausubel.

11. Anything else you'd like to share with your readers?
Sometimes the gap between the intention of the author and the response of the reader reveals something marvelous and mysterious.  That’s why I love to hear from readers.  Please let me know what you think of the book: hesterkaplan.com

HesterKaplan is the author of THE EDGE OF MARRIAGE (1999) which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and KINSHIP THEORY (2001), a novel. Her stories and non-fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories series (1998, 1999), Ploughshares, Agni Review, Southwest Review, Story, and Glimmer Train. Recent awards include the Salamander Fiction Prize, the McGinness-Ritchie Award for Non-Fiction, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. She lives in Providence, RI and is working on a collection of stories and a novel. Her latest novel, THE TELL, is forthcoming in January 2013 from HarperCollins.

Hester's Website:  http://www.hesterkaplan.com/index.html
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/hester.kaplan
Article:  http://beyondthemargins.com/2013/03/the-museum-of-imagination-breathing-life-into-your-writing/
Buy your own copy of The Tell:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062184023

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paperback copy of The Tell

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Tell Review & Giveaway


   
Title:  The Tell
Author:  Hester Kaplan
Publisher:  HarperCollins 2013
Pages:  325
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Source:  Author
ISBN:  978-0-06-218402-3
Rating:  4 stars



Book Blurb:
An elegant and haunting novel of love and family, The Tell demands that we reconsider our notions of marriage--duty, compromise, betrayal, and the choice to stand by or leave the ones we love.

 Mira and Owen's marriage is less stable than they know when Wilton Deere, an aging, no longer famous TV star moves in to the grand house next door. With plenty of money and plenty of time to kill, Wilton is charming but ruthless as he inserts himself into the couple's life in a quest for distraction, friendship--and most urgently--a connection with Anya, the daughter he abandoned years earlier. Facing stresses at home and work, Mira begins to accompany Wilton to a casino and is drawn to the slot machines. Escapism soon turns to full-on addiction and a growing tangle of lies and shame that threatens her fraying marriage and home. Betrayed and confused, Owen turns to the mysterious Anya, who is testing her own ability to trust her father after many years apart.

 The Tell is a finely-wrought novel about risk: of dependence, of responsibility, of addiction, of trust, of violence. Told with equal parts suspense, sympathy, and psychological complexity, it shows us the intimate and shifting ways in which we reveal ourselves before we act, and what we assume but don't know about those closest to us.

 My Thoughts:
One of my main curiosities throughout The Tell was trying to figure out which of the three main characters would have the most meaningful discoveries regarding personal growth of his or her self, as well as his or her perceptions of others.  Would Mira's love for Owen ever match the depth of his for her?  Would Mira be allowed to follow her philanthropic passions?  Would Wilton turn out to be more than a slick, opportunistic, charmer?  Is Owen willing to tolerate stressful shenanigans?  Are addictions able to be controlled or eliminated or are they always devastating?

 As an author, Hester Kaplan has a gift for delving into human foibles.  Her main characters, Owen, Mira, and Wilton, although very different in temperament, each walk that fine line between social acceptance and personal demons.  They muddle through just like regular people in the reality of everyday life.  All three are looking for companionship, love, connection, and logical answers.  All three struggle with loss, jealousy, functioning during crisis, and honesty.

 The Tell is chock full of wonderful figurative language and outstanding word choice.  Hester Kaplan's words are both rich and precise.

My Favorite Quotes
"Owen presented her the giant artichokes in their tin foil coats.  They looked like steaming jungle oddities."

"He'd [Owen had] been inside only once, after the ancient owner had croaked in her bed and the place had been efficiently emptied by her officious out of state children.  The apocalyptic vacancy of the rooms, the fissured ceilings, the washcloth on the floor of the tub, the isopropyl chill in the air, had awed him.  There was something about all those aristocratic details of leaded glass, inlaid floors, and lights hanging like distended organs that made him think of an old man, useless now in a threadbare suit and expensive shoes whom no one wanted to talk to anymore."

"A casino would either ruin the state or save it, and what went on inside, depending on where you stood, was either gaming or gambling, harmless or moral destruction.  Letters in the paper talked about jobs and revenues and the rights of reservations, while others pointed out the proximity of proposed sites to schools, churches, and nursing homes, as if kids, parishioners, and the feeble were most vulnerable to the evil vapors."

"Owen went to Mira to pull her away from her foreboding, but stopped where a huge, lumpy, brown clay pot sat like an unloved mutt.  Mottled and covered with blemishes of glaze, there was something especially furious and shitlike about it.  Its ugliness was impossible to miss, and hard not to admire." (how much does this sell for at the fundraiser, you ask?).

"Large windows on each of the two floors spread across Brindle's brick facade.  The building had once housed supplies for the costume jewelry industry.  Later, it had stayed vacant for decades, except for the occasional squatter or rat.  Mira's father, in the family tradition of mindless acquisition, had bought it for reasons unknown to Mira, though she'd said it definitely wasn't because he saw an art school in it or her future.  Occasionally Mira would still find a sparkle or chip of ruby or sapphire glass between the wide wood planks.  She collected them in a jar she kept on her desk."

"The man [Wilton], in his mid-sixties, Owen decided, spoke with a kind of put-on accent of breeding and affluence, half high-up East Coast, half something fake British, and as though he meant everything and nothing at the same time.  A vaguely ridiculous person...a man too much about himself.  The standard blue eyes were watery, the blade of nose off-balance, not the result of a fistfight--he was too wispy for something like that--but from aging imperfectly and maybe dissolutely, and there was the first slackness of skin on his neck.  His wiry body had an almost dissipated look to it, the former muscles gone stringy as if his personal trainer had recently defected..."

"There was something about the man that made Owen think he might understand how the murk of sadness could blur the stars.  When he was a kid on a night like this...he would smell the slime of tadpoles and hear the ferns unfurling around the pond where he grew up and believe that everything was possible in his life.  Later, a night like this had shown him how that possibility could be over when a friend had died."

"At six-foot-six, he [Owen] was more than a foot taller than Mira and had to bend to get his hands around her swooping waist, his pinkies grazing her inviting hipbones.  She had spent the day at Brindle, the striving art school she owned and ran on the other side of the Point Street Bridge, and her dark, chaotic curls held the smell of clay and poster paints.  This was her perfume--industrious, ambitious, alluring, the scent of best intentions.  He adored her in a way that made his legs go watery."

"Owen realized that moments of terror can have their own solipsistic lucidity."  (According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary solipsism means "the theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing;  extreme egocentrism.")

"All those multicolored kids with the funny accents and all those shaky recovering drug addicts--they just don't bring in the bucks like they used to.  My donors are suffering from compassion fatigue.  And the older they get, the less they care.  Old people love their pennies all over again.' "

The Tell will appeal to readers who enjoy reading about human complexities, relationships, and Rhode Island.

About the Author:
HesterKaplan is the author of THE EDGE OF MARRIAGE (1999) which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and KINSHIP THEORY (2001), a novel. Her stories and non-fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories series (1998, 1999), Ploughshares, Agni Review, Southwest Review, Story, and Glimmer Train. Recent awards include the Salamander Fiction Prize, the McGinness-Ritchie Award for Non-Fiction, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. She lives in Providence, RI and is working on a collection of stories and a novel. Her latest novel, THE TELL, is forthcoming in January 2013 from HarperCollins.

 Hester's Website:  http://www.hesterkaplan.com/index.html
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/hester.kaplan
Article:  http://beyondthemargins.com/2013/03/the-museum-of-imagination-breathing-life-into-your-writing/
Buy your own copy of The Tell:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062184023

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Shadow of Night Promo & Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below to win a copy of  Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
AND 6 Alchemical Symbol buttons!


Title:  Shadow of Night
Author:Deborah Harkness
Publisher:  Penguin  2013
Pages:  592
Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
ISBN:  978-0143123620





Book Blurb:
A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.

Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy.

Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past.

A CONVERSATION WITH DEBORAH HARKNESS

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list with publications following in 37 countries.  What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for A Discovery of Witches? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in Diana’s world.

Q:  Last summer, Warner Brothers acquired screen rights to the trilogy, and David Auburn, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer of Proof, has been tapped to pen the screenplay. Are you looking forward to your novels being portrayed on the big screen?  What are your favorite casting ideas that you’ve heard from friends and readers?

A. I was thrilled when Warner Brothers wanted to translate the All Souls trilogy from book to screen. At first I was reluctant about the whole idea of a movie, and it actually took me nearly two years to agree to let someone try. The team at Warner Brothers impressed me with their seriousness about the project and their commitment to the characters and story I was trying to tell. Their decision to go with David Auburn confirmed that my faith in them was not misplaced. As for the casting, I deliberately don’t say anything about that! I would hate for any actor or actress to be cast in one of these roles and feel that they didn’t have my total support. I will say, however, that many of my readers’ ideas involve actors who have already played a vampire and I would be very surprised if one of them were asked to be Matthew!

Q: SHADOW OF NIGHT opens on a scene in 1590s Elizabethan England featuring the famous School of Night, a group of historical figures believed to be friends, including Sir Walter Raleigh and playwright Christopher Marlowe.  Why did you choose to feature these individuals, and can we expect Diana and Matthew to meet other famous figures from the past?

A. I wrote my master’s thesis on the imagery surrounding Elizabeth I during the last two decades of her reign. One of my main sources was the poem The Shadow of Night by George Chapman—a member of this circle of fascinating men—and that work is dedicated to a mysterious poet named Matthew Roydon about whom we know very little. When I was first thinking about how vampires moved in the world (and this was way back in the autumn of 2008 when I was just beginning A Discovery of Witches) I remembered Roydon and thought “that is the kind of identity a vampire would have, surrounded by interesting people but not the center of the action.” From that moment on I knew the second part of Diana and Matthew’s story would take place among the School of Night. And from a character standpoint, Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, and the other men associated with the group are irresistible. They were such significant, colorful presences in Elizabethan England.

Q: In SHADOW OF NIGHT, we learn more about the alchemical bonds between Diana and Matthew.   In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research.  What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading SHADOW OF NIGHT?

A. Whereas A Discovery of Witches focused on the literature and symbolism of alchemy, in Shadow of Night I’m able to explore some of the hands-on aspects of this ancient tradition. There is still plenty of symbolism for Diana to think about, but in this volume we go from abstractions and ideals to real transformation and change—which was always my intention with the series. Just as we get to know more about how Elizabethan men and women undertook alchemical experiments, we also get to see Matthew and Diana’s relationship undergo the metamorphosis from new love to something more.

Q: SHADOW OF NIGHT spans the globe, with London, France, and Prague as some of the locales. Did you travel to these destinations for your research?

A. I did. My historical research has been based in London for some time now, so I’ve spent long stretches of time living in the City of London—the oldest part of the metropolis—but I had never been to the Auvergne or Prague. I visited both places while writing the book, and in both cases it was a bit like traveling in time to walk village lanes, old pilgrim roads, and twisting city streets while imagining Diana and Matthew at my side.

Q: Did you have an idea or an outline for SHADOW OF NIGHT when you were writing A Discovery of Witches?  Did the direction change once you sat down to write it?

A. I didn’t outline either book in the traditional sense. In both cases I knew what some of the high points were and how the plot moved towards the conclusion, but there were some significant changes during the revision process. This was especially true for SHADOW OF NIGHT, although most of those changes involved moving specific pieces of the plot forward or back to improve the momentum and flow.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, whose secrets Diana and Matthew are still trying to uncover in SHADOW OF NIGHT. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.

Q: Unlike Twilight’s Bella and Edward—hormonal teenagers who meet in the halls of a high school—your leading characters Matthew and Diana are established academics who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.  This is a world where vampires and witches drink wine together, practice yoga and discuss philosophy.   Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.

For more info on Deborah Harkness and the All Souls Trilogy, check out http://deborahharkness.com.

I’d also like to invite you to join Harkness and her editor Carole DeSanti, the author of The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R, for a virtual book event on BookTalk Nation on June 4th at 2pm EST.  Fans can join by phone and buy personalized copies of the book by ordering online here. 

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Interview with Tanya J. Peterson & Giveaway



   
Title:  Leave of Absence
Author:  Tanya J. Peterson
Publisher:  Inkwater Press   2013
Pages:  327
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Source:  Publisher
ISBN:  1592998836
Rating:  4 stars







I recently read and reviewed Tanya J. Peterson's new novel, Leave of Absence.  She kindly agreed to answer some interview questions asked by me...an inquiring mind who loves to hear about back stories, inspirations, and what makes authors tick.



1. Tanya, you have a very impressive curriculum vitae.  Are there particular accomplishments you are very proud of?
  Thank you, Beth.  I typically don’t think of myself or what I do as “impressive,” so it was nice to have you say that.  I’m not sure if a single accomplishment stands out for me, but in reflecting on this question, I realized that I’m proud of the choices I’ve made and the way I’ve merged everything—education, experiences, struggles, and successes—and channeled it all into a mission.  I’m hoping to do good in this world, to increase awareness and true understanding of mental illness in order to reduce the stigma and negative stereotypes that currently exist toward people experiencing mental illness.  I’d like us all to view each other with empathy and compassion.  

2. When in your life did you become interested in mental health?
  I began my career as a high school teacher, but less than a month into my very first teaching job, I realized that my true passion was to be a counselor.  I felt driven to help people overcome obstacles, whether external or internal.  I firmly believe that with support, people can thrive despite hardships.  I’ve actually believed this since childhood, but of course I couldn’t articulate it until adulthood.  I just knew that I wanted to help people who were experiencing tough times.  I suppose, then, that I can honestly say that I’ve been interested in mental health and standing up for people for nearly my entire life.  

3. If you could meet and talk with one special person who would it be?
  Eleanor Roosevelt.  She was an amazing woman—very strong, very compassionate.  She was a dedicated humanitarian, and she had the admiration of world leaders in an era when women simply did not have a lot of power or opportunities.  I’d love to have the opportunity to speak with her.  (Yes, I realize she’s dead, but you didn’t say the person had to be living now!)

4. Do you have a favorite quote?
Yes!  For years a quote by Mahatma Gandhi has been my personal mantra:  “Be the change you want to see in the world.” 

5. Tell us about your writing process.
I wrote Leave of Absence with a definite purpose in mind:  to counter negative stereotypes of mental illness and help increase empathy and compassion for those experiencing mental illness.  I had this goal in mind before I ever began the story.  I have another one in the works, and I started it the same way.  I suppose I can say that I start with the theme.  
     Then, because the theme has to do with people, and because I personally like character-driven stories much more than plot-driven stories, my next step is to create and develop the characters.  I get to know them very well, including their backgrounds, before the actual story begins.  I bond with them; I know how they think, feel, and act.  This helps me bring them to life for those who read my novel(s).  
     Once I have connected with the characters, I sketch out a rough outline of the story itself.  Where does it begin, how does it end, and how am I going to get there?  This is just a guideline for me and I end up modifying it repeatedly as I write.  Every morning when I sit down to write, I review what I wrote previously (once I’m well into the book, I just reread the previous chapter or two).  That way, I remember where my characters have been, and then I contemplate where they are going to go next and why.  I often brainstorm at the beginning of a new chapter, and if something new comes to me, something I want to include, I’ll go back and modify what I’ve written so this new idea fits in well.  To me, it’s important that everything I put in a novel be intentional.  It has to fit, to be there to contribute to the overall purpose.  If it doesn’t, I remove it.  
     Once I have thought hard about the direction, I think about all that has been going on for the characters so I can get into their minds.  Once I can feel what they feel and think what they think, I begin to write the next segment.  I often close my eyes when I’m writing so I can fully visualize the scenes in my head.  It sometimes feels like I’m just channeling the characters!  
In order to be able to keep track of everything, I keep binders for my novels.  There are sections for each character, for research notes (this is always a pretty big section), for outlines, for brainstorming and planning, for scenes I think might work, etc.  Since I’ve always loved office products and using them to research and take notes, I even love this part of the writing process!  To me, writing is thoroughly enjoyable.  I can even experience flow when I write.  

6. Who are your favorite authors?
       There are so many I like, so it’s hard to narrow it down.  Among my favorites are Saul Bellow, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison for their meaningful, character-driven stories.  I’m also fond of Karin Slaughter for her Will Trent series, Juliann Garey, and Pricille Sibley.  

7. Do you have any hidden talents?
Well, I’m not sure!  I did used to play the trumpet, and I played it fairly well.  I’m extremely out of practice with it now, though.  If I took some lessons to refresh both the mechanics of playing and the ability to read/play complex pieces, I wonder what would happen.  

8. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you "grew up?"
There was a short period of time when I wanted to play my trumpet professionally.  That was merely a whim that I didn’t take seriously.  For much of my childhood, I wanted to be a doctor.  My uncle was a doctor, so that was tangible to me.  I admired how he helped people.  He was also a researcher, and I loved the idea of studying ways to improve lives then applying what was learned to help people.  I didn’t know the concept of counseling or psychiatry; the only thing I knew was what my uncle did or what my own doctors did when I saw them for checkups or problems.  Perhaps this was my initial exposure to the concept of the helping professions.  I’m really glad that I didn’t become a medical doctor because I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now:  writing and speaking to stand up for mental health.  

9. Do you have project ideas for the future?
As I mentioned briefly above, I’m working on a new novel.  I’m in the very early stages at the moment.  Like Leave of Absence, this one also explores mental illness.  It’s very different from Leave of Absence, though!

10. Anything else you'd like your readers to know?
I’d like to mention two things, but I promise I’ll be brief with them!
One:  Never give up on yourself.  Sometimes life is tough, but you really do have the power to take control and make things better.  You might have to readjust your direction and goals, but that’s okay.  Some of my greatest challenges are what led me to where I am today.
Two:  I appreciate you, Beth, for your honest review of Leave of Absence and for interviewing me.  Starting out as an unknown author, an unknown person, is difficult.  Having people like you invite me onto their blogs is an honor and is very helpful in spreading the word about me and about Leave of Absence.  And I appreciate your readers, too, for taking the time to read about Leave of Absence and read this interview.  You’re all much appreciated!

Thank you Tanya!  Your sincerity shines through in your writing.  It has been a pleasure getting to know you better and I very much look forward to your future novel.  To find out more about Tanya or contact her try one of these:
Blog - http://tanyajpeterson.com/blog/
Twitter - @tanyajpeterson1
Pinterest - http://www.pinterest.com/tanyajpeterson
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/tanyajpeterson

Tanya J. Peterson holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Master of Science in counseling, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor.  She has been a teacher and a counselor in various settings, including a traditional high school and an alternative school for homeless and runaway adolescents, and she has volunteered her services in both schools and communities.  She draws on her life experience as well as her education to write stories about the emotional aspect of the human condition.  She has published Losing Elizabeth, a young adult novel about an abusive relationship, Challenge!, a short story about a person who finds the confidence to overcome criticism and achieve a goal, and a book review of Linley and Joseph’s Positive Therapy: A Meta-Theory for Positive Psychological Practice that appeared in Counseling Today, the national publication of the American Counseling Association. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Leave of Absence Review & Giveaway



   
Title:  Leave of Absence
Author:  Tanya J. Peterson
Publisher:  Inkwater Press   2013
Pages:  327
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Source:  Publisher
ISBN:  1592998836
Rating:  4 stars



Book Blurb:
     “Oliver knew deep in his heart that he would never, ever be better.” In this insightful and evocative novel, Tanya J. Peterson delves deeply into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.

     When Oliver Graham’s suicide attempt fails, he is admitted to Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. Unable to cope with the traumatic loss of his beloved wife and son, he finds a single thread of attachment to life in Penelope, a fellow patient wrestling with schizophrenia and its devastating impact on her once happy and successful life. They both struggle to discover a reason to live while Penelope’s fiancé William strives to convince her that she is worth loving. As Oliver and Penelope try to achieve emotional stability, face others who have been part of their lives, and function in the “real world,” they discover that human connection may be reason enough to go on.
     
     Written with extraordinary perception into the thought processes of those grappling with mental illness, Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing.

My Thoughts:
     Leave of Absence is thought-provoking, engaging, and very interesting from cover to cover.  I greatly appreciate Tanya J. Peterson's talents for weaving great fictional writing with professional insights.  She gracefully addresses mental health stereotypes and illustrates the time and energy involved for people such as Penelope and Oliver, both dealing with common emotional issues, to make genuine progress in real life.

     Here are some examples of the many ingredients in Peterson's writing that combine to successfully engage the reader:

1.  Intrigue, not in the crime-mystery sense, but wonderings about the future of the characters:

     People often desperately needed someone to listen, to provide a human connection, and he could build on that connection to talk them down.  Gregory felt confident that he could form enough of a connection to keep the man [Oliver] in place, if only he would make eye contact.  The avoidance of eye contact, though, meant he had already checked out.

     [Penelope speaking] “Her apartment is painted in reds and yellows, Oliver...Red and yellow. Fear and disgust. She said she had been looking forward to meeting me, but everything around her said the opposite.  Walls are straight lines, remember, and straight lines mean the truth.  The truth is that she’s afraid of me and disgusted  by my mental illness.  I tried to ignore the colors, but it’s hard to ignore colors.  Then Mrs. Roosevelt started talking to me, telling me that I was an embarrassment to William.  She sometimes brings other people with her to help her make her point. I don’t know who they are, just that there are a lot of them; Mrs. Roosevelt is a very popular person..."


2.  Power of  memories:

     Giggles that seemed to originate from deep within the little belly erupted and mingled with the laughter that already danced in the air.  Oliver couldn’t tell who was having more fun, the beautiful woman or the adorable toddler.  Actually, he was pretty sure he was the one taking the most delight in the moment.  Her happiness, her love of life, were so contagious.
     
     “Oliver, how would you feel about us living here?  I can
picture us here, honey.  I love this place already.  And when we have kids, they’ll have as much fun as you did exploring the nooks and crannies and wreaking havoc by building forts all over the place."  His heart soared.  He had such fond memories of growing up here, and he wanted nothing more than to build a family here with Maggie.


3.  Wonderful imagery (can't you just picture the room?):

     Along a side wall was a large aquarium in which half a
dozen fish swam back and forth, up and down.  One darted through the open door of a castle and out the other side.  The multicolored gravel in the tank looked out of place in the waiting room.  Everything else in the room was muted beige or pink—even the abstract artwork on the walls boasted shades of pink in varying degrees of paleness—but the tiny rocks at the bottom of the tank were brightly dyed in every color of the rainbow.

4.  "Feeling" the emotions, such as the angst between William and Oliver:

     William gestured angrily toward Oliver. "You don’t have to deal with anything like this. My fiancée is very much alive, but in a lot of ways, it’s like she’s gone. Your wife and son are dead.  They’re just plain gone. You’re lucky; you got to bury them, and they can live on perfectly in your memory. So don’t pretend to know what this is like."

...Oliver interrupted him. “How am I lucky? ... Maggie and Henry are dead, and they’re never coming back.”  The tears flowed freely now, and he didn’t try to wipe them away.  "You can talk to Penelope, hold her, cherish her.  I am never, ever, going to see Maggie and Henry again.  I’ll never be able to hold them and tell them how much I love them.  Their lives were cut short; they are gone forever and…” His voice cracked. He tried again. “And it’s all my fault!  They died a horrible death because of me."

Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing.  Check out this book trailer:

 

About the Author:
Tanya J. Peterson holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Master of Science in counseling, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor.  She has been a teacher and a counselor in various settings, including a traditional high school and an alternative school for homeless and runaway adolescents, and she has volunteered her services in both schools and communities.  She draws on her life experience as well as her education to write stories about the emotional aspect of the human condition.  She has published Losing Elizabeth, a young adult novel about an abusive relationship, Challenge!, a short story about a person who finds the confidence to overcome criticism and achieve a goal, and a book review of Linley and Joseph’s Positive Therapy: A Meta-Theory for Positive Psychological Practice that appeared in Counseling Today, the national publication of the American Counseling Association. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children.
Website - http://tanyajpeterson.com/
Blog - http://tanyajpeterson.com/blog/
Twitter - @tanyajpeterson1
Pinterest - http://www.pinterest.com/tanyajpeterson
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/tanyajpeterson

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