Archive for April, 2010

Jen’s Jewels with Gil McNeil

Friday, April 30th, 2010

I can only imagine what it’s like being a single parent. Trying to work full-time while coordinating the children’s school and extra-curricular activities would be a Herculean task to say the least. Unfortunately, many women find themselves in this role due to the unexpected death of a spouse. No matter what the circumstances, it is a role no woman (or man) ever wants to play.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Gil McNeil tackles that very question in her latest release, NEEDLES AND PEARLS. The sequel to her highly popular book, THE BEACH STREET KNITTING SOCIETY AND YARN CLUB, she picks up a year after the death of Jo Mackenzie’s husband as Jo struggles to adjust to her new life raising two sons all alone. With Gil’s British wit and sensational storyline, she welcomes the reader into the zany lives of a hilarious cast of unforgettable characters. As a side note, you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy the sequel. Although, it is a great read!

As part of this interview, Hyperion Books has generously donated 5 copies for you, my lucky readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: As a British author, your audience across the pond in the U.S. may not be as familiar with your work as your fellow countrymen. So that we may have a better understanding of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.
Gil: After University, where I studied History, I worked in an art gallery, film production and a literary agency before moving into publishing. After building up a range of publishing clients, I expanded my freelance work and moved into working with charities I’m currently Director of the children’s charity PiggyBankKids.

Jen: At what juncture in your life did you decide to take the plunge and pursue a career in writing? And, what was the most challenging part of the process?
Gil: I’ve always written, or been involved with writing, so I was in the lucky position of having good friends in the publishing business who encouraged me to write my first novel, in 2001. The Only Boy for Me was such a joy to write I was keen to carry on, and happily so were my publishers Bloomsbury, so I wrote my second novel Stand by your Man, and then In the Wee Small Hours (which continues on from The Only Boy for Me) before I wrote my fourth and fifth novels DIVAS DON’T KNIT (published in the US as THE BEACH STREET KNITTING SOCIETY) and NEEDLES AND PEARLS.

I’ve also edited seven fundraising anthologies for the charity PiggyBankKids, which have been a real treat to work on since I’ve been able to include some of my favourite authors, who have all generously written stories for us to raise funds to support our work to improve children’s lives, and support our groundbreaking research into pregnancy difficulties and help save newborn lives (
The most challenging part of the process of the writing for me is finding the time – I carry around cards and notebooks and jot down snatches of conversation, ideas, and sometimes scribbles that I can’t actually read when I get home…

Jen: Your latest endeavor is the sequel to THE BEACH STREET KNITTING SOCIETY AND YARN CLUB which received starred reviews. For my readers who are unfamiliar with this novel, please give us a brief overview of the premise.
Gil: Jo Mackenzie needs a new start. Newly widowed with two young sons and a perilous bank balance she has leave London to take over her grandmother’s wool shop in a small seaside town. They arrive in the pouring rain, but with a shop full of dusty wool in horrible colours, two lively sons, an A list actress moving into the local mansion, Trevor the loony Wonder Dog, and a knitting group addicted to cake it’s not going to be easy.

Jen: In NEEDLES AND PEARLS, the story picks up one year after the tragic death of Jo’s husband. Having relocated to a quiet, small-town, Jo is now a single parent, manager of a yarn shop, and a young widow trying to make peace with the circumstances surrounding her husband’s demise. Which one of the three is the most difficult for her to fulfill and why?
Gil: Like most of us, Jo struggles with combining everything – doing her best by her boys and her business, and still trying to find time for herself somewhere in the middle of all the chaos. But I think she’d say the most important thing for her, by a million miles, are her children.

Jen: The story centers around Jo’s grandmother’s yarn shop. A question I just have to ask, is knitting a passion of yours? If so, what is your favorite type of project and yarn?
Gil: Yes, all the women in my family knit. My grandmother was a champion knitter, and knew a whole range of patterns off by heart. She had a tough life, with six children and very little money, so she’d unpick a sweater belonging to one of her older kids, wash the wool and reknit it for one of the little ones. By the time she was knitting for her grandchildren things were easier, and she’d spend ages with my knitting for my dolls. We’d all sit knitting by the fire, with my mum and my aunts swapping patterns and working out complicated stitches and I’d sit cross legged on the floor and they’d forget I was there, so I got to hear all sorts of family gossip usually reserved for child-free moments. It was fabulous.

Jen: Jo’s relationship with her grandmother is one of true admiration and respect. However, the one with her mother is not. What has caused the rift between mother and daughter? Who, if anyone, is to blame?
Gil: I think mothers and daughters can be tricky, and in the past I’ve written about mothers who are wonderful (a bit like my mum) so I wanted to have some fun writing a mum who is selfish and hopeless. Jo’s mother is searching for an artistic life where she feels central, and finds her children’s lack of enthusiasm for taking part in her Me Me Me dramas annoying. And after years being dragged round art galleries with their mother in unusual floaty outfits they just find her exasperating. I think there is a definite stage where however you much you want to wear kaftans and beads, or very short skirts and high heels, your children just want you to blend into the background, keep quiet, and make lovely suppers… One of the nicest things about being a mum is perfecting the art of hovering in the background. I’m rather partial to a bit of hovering, I find it can be quite relaxing, as long as you mix in the occasional shocking moment, just to remind small people you have not actually morphed into a household appliance …

Jen: Every woman needs loyal girlfriends to help her get through the good as well as the bad times. Jo is no exception. Let’s start with her best friend, Ellen. As a famous
Newscaster, the world is her oyster yet she is quite envious of Jo’s simplistic lifestyle. In what ways do these two women compliment each other?
Gil: Like all good girlfriends they trust each other implicitly. They can be honest, know each others strengths and weaknesses, and will stick up for each other when times get tough. They also share the same sense of humour – a vital ingredient in any good friendship.

Jen: Unbeknownst to Jo, her movie star friend, Grace, plays a significant role in her life. In what ways does Grace’s exuberant wealth serve as a subtle reminder for Jo of the importance of accepting people for who they truly are rather than judging them on appearances only? Why does Grace include Jo within her inner circle?
Gil: Jo is dazzled by Grace, and also touched by how vulnerable she is, d
espite all her wealth and power, especially when she is pregnant and feeling nervous. She also understands, from her background working in television news, how important it is not be grabbing at people, not to ask questions and turn yourself into yet another person who wants something, a snippet of gossip to trade at a dinner party, or even sell to a newspaper…And Grace recognises this. And with Jo as her knitting coach she can find some calm and relaxation, and feel like a proper mum, knitting for her baby, instead of a movie star always in performance mode. When I was doing some of the research for the novel I was interested to see how many actresses are knitting on set – from Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz to Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna – and having spent a fair amount of time on film sets, which sound exciting but actually involve huge amounts of time hanging around while nothing much happens, I could see how something calm and repetitive like knitting would be a great antidote to nerves and drama.

Jen: Elsie, Jo’s co-worker at the shop, is a peculiar lady who just can’t seem to make up her mind about Jo. On one hand, she disapproves of Jo’s choices in life; however, she has a special fondness for her as well. Why does Jo choose to accept her gruffness rather than confronting her?
Gil: Elsie has a heart of gold, but she keep sit well hidden, and Jo knows that a few packets of biscuits and a cheery manner are the best way to get her on side in the shop.

Jen: A question I just have to ask, will there be a sequel? (I hope so!) And if yes, what can you share with us?
Gil: I’ll have to talk to my publishers about that – I’m not working on anything at the moment, but I do have lots of ideas on what might happen next, so maybe…

Jen: Do you have a website? Do you have any patterns or knitting materials available for readers?
Gil: I’ve put some patterns on the McKnits website – – so that readers can see examples of the things Jo talks about in the book.

Jen: Thank you so much for taking time of your busy schedule to stop by and chat with my readers. I truly enjoyed NEEDLES AND PEARLS. Best of luck with your book tour!
Gil: Thank you for asking such great questions. It has been such a treat getting so many letters from readers in the US telling me how much they loved the first book; one woman told me she laughed so much people started giving her odd looks on the train. So if you see anyone giggling on a train, it might just be my fault…I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Gil McNeil. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of NEEDLES AND PEARLS today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?

Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at with the correct answer to the following trivia question.

Where can you find samples of knitting patterns mentioned in NEEDLES AND PEARLS?

Later this month, I will be bringing to you my interview with Ellen Block, author THE LANGUAGE OF SAND. You won’t want to miss it.

Until next time…


Match Day by Brian Eule

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors by Brian Eule

Each year, on the exact same day in March, at the exact same time, each of the thousands of fourth-year medical school students across the country opens an envelope whose contents reveal his or her destiny. This is Match Day, the day on which graduating fourth-years are matched with their residency programs. The match might mean disappointment, if their top choices are rejected. It might mean joy and triumph if they are assigned their favored hospital program, the one they see as the doorway to their specialty and their lives’ direction. The drama is intense; the rewards immense. Brian Eule allows readers to see something of what Match Day means, how it works, and how it affects the lives of medical students and by extension new physicians.

Eule explores the paths taken by three students, from just before Match Day all the way through their first year of residency. One of these young physicians is his girlfriend, Stephanie Chao; the other two are colleagues of hers. Each student faces her own challenges in medical school, in studies, ambitions, and personal life, and then even more challenges in her first year at her matched residency. While Eule himself is affected personally by what happens to Chao, where she will go, and what her specialty will be, he seldom intrudes into the book, as some authors do, beyond his role as an observer or the person most profoundly affected by Chao’s match. This bestows more objectivity to his thoughts and observations of what happens not just to Chao but to her friends as well. As they move from their role as students to that of physicians, their journey develops from hesitant and uncertain interns to more confident doctors, with knowledge and experience and wisdom. Eule gives us a glimpse of this journey and leaves us with an admiration for medical students in general.

Fiction Written by Women

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

The shortlist for the UK 2010 Orange Prize for fiction written by women was announced. April 13. The winner will be honored June 9 in London. Read more…

Finalists available at Harford County Public Library:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

More Top Historical Fiction

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

No Less Than Victory : a novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara
Hitler and his battered army have no other option than surrender. But despite the advice of his best military minds Hitler will hear no talk of defeat

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
This story of an aristocratic French master and his servant is an irrepressibly funny novel set in early-19th-century America

Pearl of China : a novel by Anchee Min
Anchee Min brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who loved the country of her childhood and who has been hailed in China as a modern heroine

(click on a link to go to the title on our catalog where you may place a reserve)

Top Historical Fiction

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Historical fiction is making a come-back! Recently, at the announcement of a shortlist for The Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, Alistair Moffat, the chair of the judges panel for the Prize said, “Historical fiction may have become more popular because at a time when the future seems terrifying to us, we need to refer back to and understand the past more fully.”

For those among you who believe with Alistair Moffat that, “the best way to understand the past is often to read a novelist rather than an historian,” here are a few suggestions from the top historical fiction of 2010 recommended by Brad Hooper of Booklist: (click on the titles to go to our catalog)

All Other Nights : a novel by Dara Horn
Jewish Americans in the Civil War

The Coral Thief : a novel by Rebecca Stott
An intriguing mystery, centering on pre-Darwinian theories of evolution, and set in 1815 France

Devil’s Dream by Madison Smartt Bell
A fictional tale of infamous Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest imagines elements from his personal life

Four Freedoms by John Crowley
An imaginative account of war and peace, innocence and wisdom, set in 1940s America

Homer & Langley : a novel by E.L. Doctorow
An unforgettable work about two reclusive hoarders in early-twentieth-century New York City

2010 Hugo Award Nominees

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The 2010 Hugo Award nominees for Best Novel have been announced.

Check these out! (Click on the title to go to our catalog to place a reserve)
Julian Comstock: a story of 22nd-century America by Robert Charles Wilson
WWW: Wake by Robert Sawyer
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Voting on all the Hugo awards takes place at Aussiecon 4 in September.

The Devil’s Company by David Liss

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Do you enjoy stories of political suspense and intrigue, of double-dealing, and of crime? Do you like reading about a conspiracy that must be thwarted before a world-shattering deadline is reached? Do you also enjoy stories with an engaging and enthralling hero, a private investigator who is definitely outside of society, a loner, an anti-hero, a ruffian, and a master of disguises?

Are you also thrilled when you can learn fascinating details of the past, like the splendor and squallor of eighteenth-century London? If you like all of these things all tied up in an action-packed thriller, you are bound to enjoy The Devil’s Company by David Liss. Find this book in our catalog

Once again Benjamin Weaver, thief-taker, ex-pugilist and house-breaker is involved in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with shadowy adversaries. The year is 1722. Weaver is being blackmailed by Jerome Cobb, a wealthy and mysterious schemer who needs Weaver’s strength and guile for his own treacherous plans against the British East India Company. Weaver’s theft of important Company documents is only the first move in a daring conspiracy within the eighteenth century’s most powerful corporation. Weaver must infiltrate the Company, navigate its warring factions, and uncover secret plots of corporate rivals, foreign spies, and government operatives – with millions of pounds and the security of the nation at stake.
Depicting the birth of the modern corporation, this book is an impressive historical novel as well as an entertaining tale of action and suspense.

You may also like:
The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia
A Spectacle of Corruption by David Liss
The Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell

False Mermaid by Erin Hart

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I have just finished reading another mystery featuring a female investigator and which also heavily involves folk culture. Recently the culture was native Alaskan; this time it is Irish. In False Mermaid by Erin Hart Find this book in our catalog forensic pathologist Nora Gavin struggles to convince the St. Paul, Minnesota police that her brother-in-law was the culprit in the unsolved murder of her celebrated actress sister five years previously.

For those five years Nora has been in Ireland where, unable to face the salacious rumors circulating about her dead sister and frustrated by the police and their inability to pin any concrete evidence on the husband, Nora had fled. There she has been working with an archaeologist exhuming bodies from the bogs, sometimes using her forensic abilities to solve contemporary murders.

Concerned about the fate of her niece when her (Nora is convinced) murderous brother-in-law announces his impending re-marriage, Nora returns to the US. Now she is determined to bring some closure to the mystery by finding new evidence. She quickly does find more evidence, using her forensic pathology skills on the body of another murdered woman. Nora also finds clues left for her by her sister. The action quickly hots up as Nora is followed and begins to fear for her safety and the safety of her witnesses. She goes back to Ireland and finds herself on the run, together with her niece who has run away from her father. The whole plot is cleverly interwoven with the story of the mysterious disappearance of an Irish fisherman’s wife one hundred years ago. The story lives on in folk memory in a song that becomes key to the solving of Nora’s mystery.

If you like rich Irish local color evocatively rendered you will like this book. If you like old folk tales and stories and songs you will like this book. There is also plenty to interest fans of forensic pathology and of fast-moving mysteries with plenty of action, but also times of introspection. At the bottom of everything is love, which can be both transformative and destructive.

Jen’s Jewels with Holly LeCraw

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Have you ever wondered what your parents were like as a newly married couple before they had kids? Sure, we’ve all seen the photographs from their pre-parenthood days and have heard the story of how they met, but that doesn’t really tell us anything. Was theirs a whirlwind romance that would make you swoon? Or, was it filled with tumultuous times that tested the strength of their love?

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Holly LeCraw explores a sister and brother’s intense struggle to come to terms with the haunting revelations from their parents’ past in her debut novel, THE SWIMMING POOL. Splashing on the scene with her expertly written book of dives and dips and twists and turns, this psychological tale will keep you up until the wee hours of the morning. Mark my words…Holly LeCraw is the new IT girl in the publishing world!

As part of this interview, Doubleday, a division of Random House, has generously donated 5 copies for you, my lucky readers, to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: As a debut novelist, the story behind the path that led to publication can be just as fascinating as the novel itself. So that my readers may have a better understanding of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.

Holly:I don’t know about fascinating….the path has consisted of working hard, alone, in little rooms, for a long time. Also, battling myself for a long time–that is, learning how to get out of my own way, and to trust the results.

I have a degree in English from Duke and a master’s in English from Tufts–an M.A., not an MFA. My original intent was to get a Ph.D. and go into academia, but I realized that was the wrong place for me. I did go to writing workshops at Bennington (back when it was a summer program), the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a few other places.

When I first got out of school, I worked briefly in publishing, but once I realized I wanted to write, I started waitressing and temping and things like that. In retrospect I’m not sure that was the best route, but at the time I couldn’t envision putting my creative energies into both a job and writing. Then I started having kids and became a stay-at-home mom, and fit writing in wherever I could.

Jen: Describe for us your “Ah! Ha!” moment when the decision to pursue a career in writing became a reality.

Holly:For a long time I didn’t think of it as a career–because “career” connotes “money,” which I definitely was not making from writing. And, also, a sense of legitimacy that took a long time for me to feel. But one answer to your question is that there were a series of moments when I proved to myself, over and over again, that I was miserable if I wasn’t writing. I thought that in order to be a grownup you had to work in an office and wear high heels and be otherwise respectable, but whenever I tried to be that person I failed miserably, so I finally threw in the towel.

The first true artistic “ah-ha” moment I had was when I was writing a story called “August,” about seven or eight years ago. This was after I had spent years writing a not-very-good novel, and had finally put it aside. I had three little children and not much time; I was pretty discouraged. But I had started this story, and I guess because I figured I had nothing to lose, I was being freer about it–I didn’t know where it was going at all. I had some images in my head, and I was just swimming from one to the next.

One afternoon I was working and realized I just had a few minutes before I had to leave to pick up kids. Normally I would have stopped, but I decided to press on, what the hell–and then, all the sudden, I had finished the story. I hadn’t even known I was near the end. And the end was a complete surprise to me; but it was perfect. That was the first time that I really got out of my own way–that I had not tried to control every word before it came out.

That story was nominated for a Pushcart, and led to some wonderful things. And I remember that moment, sitting at my desk, looking at those words I had just written, going, “Oh. So that’s how it works.”

Jen: Your debut novel entitled THE SWIMMING POOL has made a definite splash in the publishing world. An intricate storyline layered with emotionally charged characters makes this book a must-read. I could not put it down. Bravo! How did you arrive at the premise?

Holly:It started with Jed and Callie, the brother and sister. I knew their mother had died, and they didn’t know who had killed her. I thought it was a short story. And then my husband took the kids away for a weekend, and in that lovely quiet the basic outline of the book appeared. The key was Marcella; she was a very small, ancillary character for about three minutes, and then I realized she was major.

Jen: As I mentioned, your book is a story within a story. Let’s start by dissecting its parts. Betsy and Cecil McClatchey have a typical country club marriage. From the outside, it looks as if they lead an idyllic life. Yet, one day Cecil dares to cross the line and has an affair. What is the catalyst that leads him towards the path of self-destruction?

Holly:I don’t want to say it’s a garden-variety midlife crisis–although maybe it is. Actually, I think midlife crises aren’t garden-variety all the time. I think they can be profound existential crises. You’re confronting the idea of mortality and realizing it might be too late to reinvent yourself, and realizing all the decisions you made that you didn’t even realize were decisions at the time. Some people panic and throw everything away. I’ve seen it. I don’t want to play to stereotypes, but it seems like men panic much more easily.

I have to confess that I have the least sympathy for Cecil of any of my characters. I had to work hard to understand him–because Marcella falls in love with him, and I had to respect that, and respect him. People have affairs all the time, and usually they’re not evil people. But a betrayal like that, especially in what is a good, solid marriage, is just incomprehensible to me personally. So I had to work very hard to try and figure it out. I think Cecil just decided he hadn’t taken enough risks. He had always played by the rules, and he began to wonder what would happen if he didn’t. I think Betsy could also sometimes be rather closed; she is almost frighteningly self-sufficient. I think he was attracted to Marcella’s vulnerability, because it was so different from Betsy, and made him feel useful, and powerful.

Jen: Why does Betsy choose not to confront Cecil even though she is well aware of his indiscretion?

Holly:Well, she’s aware, in an intuitive way, but she doesn’t have any concrete evidence. And it’s really only right before the end of her life that she admits to herself that she knows. This just occurred to me, but I think she’s like Elizabeth Edwards was for a long time (or the public perception of her, anyway)–she’s just going to rise above, and hope this bad thing goes away. Betsy is a very orderly person; this is the ultimate disorder, and she is just not prepared to face it head on.

Jen: Within a blink of an eye, everything changes when Betsy is brutally murdered by an intruder in her own home. How does Cecil’s decision to not expose his affair, even though it would
prove his innocence, affect his relation with his daughter, Callie? And, with his son, Jed?

Holly:I think Cecil is so shattered he is not thinking clearly. He can’t connect A to B. He assumes that his children will know he’s innocent, and by the time he realizes that maybe that isn’t the case, he feels powerless to do anything about it. His feelings for Marcella are completely eclipsed by what has happened to Betsy; he decided at the beginning not to tell anyone, because it seemed irrelevant to him and because it seemed like a betrayal of Betsy, and later he doesn’t have the wherewithal to revisit that decision. He traps himself. And when he dies, he leaves Callie and Jed in the trap.

Jen: Years later, Callie and Jed are still suffering due to the circumstances surrounding both of their parents’ deaths. (Cecil dies not long after Betsy’s murder.) When Jed accidentally finds an old bathing suit hidden in their summer home, what makes him search out the owner? Or, is it simply a subconscious effort to bring the past back into the present?

Holly:The book takes place, as books do, when the characters are at a crisis point. Their parents died seven years ago, but the premature birth of Callie’s daughter has pushed Callie to the brink. Jed senses this, and he is ready to join her there–ready to shake himself out of his emotional paralysis. The bathing suit reminds him of a time when he still felt life held endless possibility–and, incidentally, when he was attracted to someone, which he hasn’t truly been in a long time.

Jen: Marcella is a troubled woman whose life has been a series of disappointing events that have stripped her of all semblance of self-worth. Quite simply, she is an empty shell yearning for love. When Jed shows up on her doorstep looking for answers, why does she choose to open Pandora’s Box?

Holly:That is a very, very good question. Maybe a bit of a chicken and egg situation. The first answer is that they have a powerful sexual attraction from the beginning–but why? Honestly, it is something I didn’t want to examine in too analytical a way when I was writing it. It holds a magic that I didn’t want to parse away. Their relationship is taboo, definitely; it has quite an Oedipal tinge. Jed has lost his mother (who, however, was nothing at all like Marcella), and Marcella never had the son she longed for so desperately. She doesn’t think of him as a son, but that suggestion is there.

But at the same time, they’re equals. They’re mourning the same person, the same situation, and they’re both so broken. It’s possible that each was the only one that could have brought the other forward.

I think Marcella also might initially give in to Jed partially out of guilt. She feels she has helped to wound him, and so wants to comfort him. Which she does. He hasn’t been able to love anyone, really, since his parents died, until he reconnects with her.

Jen: When Marcella reveals the details of her relationship with Cecil, how does Jed’s opinion of his dad change? Or, does it? Is he more sympathetic or critical of his father’s imperfections?

Holly:I think Jed hasn’t been able to mourn either of his parents fully, because of the ways he lost them–that’s why he is so stuck. With his father, he has been stuck in rage. When Jed finds out about his father’s affair, in an odd way it re-humanizes Cecil for him. Jed is disgusted and devastated, but his father also becomes less monolithic in his mind, and that is the beginning of being able to really see what he lost.

Jen: The wounded soul in this story is poor Callie. Unable to accept the fact that her parents are dead, she barely exists in a world that has shown her no mercy. How is her relationship with her husband Billy a direct correlation to the way in which she views the atrocities in her life?

Holly:That’s a very interesting question. In some ways she has been much more functional than Jed since they lost their parents–she’s gotten married, had children. I think though that her relationship with Billy is quite shallow–just as probably all her relationships are shallow at this point, except with Jed. She is a great one for soldiering on, like Betsy, and what happens during this book is that she finally cracks under the pressure. Being a trouper like that requires a lot of energy directed outward and not much inward, and that’s not sustainable for Callie.

Jen: Without giving too much away, how does Marcella’s new relationship with her ex-husband Anthony help her to reconnect with her daughter?

Holly:I don’t think it’s her relationship with Anthony so much as the fruits of her relationship with Jed–she begins to wake up, to be able to see other people, to feel some agency. She begins to dwell less on her losses and the things she never had, and to look instead at the things she does–namely, her daughter. She’s also able to reconsider her relationship with her own mother, who died when she was about Toni’s age, and which had never been very functional; and that helps her to see herself as a mother and to think more clearly about how she and Toni relate. It goes the other way too–as Marcella begins to thaw, their relationship becomes vital again, to each of them.

When I was writing the book, I was very conscious of the beauty of these people’s lives. That might sound crazy, given all the tragedy and drama in the book. But their connections are profound, and they all begin to sense the wonder and depth of their love for each other, both the people they have lost and the people they still have. I hope that in the end readers feel it is a hopeful story.

Jen: I wish we could talk about the shocking ending, but we can’t. Suffice it to say, my readers will not be disappointed. So, let’s switch gears and discuss your promotional plans. First of all, do you have a website? If so, please take us on a brief tour.

Holly:I do have a website– All the info about the book’s promotion is there, and more about me, and writing the book. And there are links to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

Jen: Are you planning a book tour? Also, will you be participating in author phone chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?

Holly:I am going on tour–I’ll be in Atlanta (where I was born and raised); Seattle; Washington, DC; Nashville; Durham, NC; and Oxford and Jackson, MS. And I’ll be at a bunch of stores here in New England and also on the Cape, where the book is mostly set.

I’d love to do phone chats and book group visits! You can reach me at The contact info is also on my website.

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Holly:Right now it’s called The Sweetness of Honey. It’s a bit of a Cain-and-Abel story–there are two half-brothers, one middle-aged and one just out of college, and they are both teachers at a prep school in New England. They each fall in love with the wrong people–and, just to make things interesting, the same people.

Jen: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by and chat with my readers. What a powerful and well-written novel! I do believe this is only the beginning of a long, successful career. Best of luck!

Holly:Thank you so much. You asked wonderful questions. And I certainly hope you’re right.

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Holly. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of THE SWIMMING POOL today. Better yet, would you like to win one instead?

Okay, be one of the first 5 readers to e-mail me at je
with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win! Good luck!

What is the working title of Holly’s next book?

Next month, I will be brining to you my interview with Gil McNeil, author of NEEDLES AND PEARLS. You won’t want to miss it.

Until next time…


Holocaust Remembrance Week

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

This week PBS is airing various programs as part of Holocaust Remembrance Week. Today, Wednesday, April 14 will be a program which examines genocide from the Holocaust to Rwanda to Darfur. The program is based on the book -

Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen Find this book in our catalog
“Until now, the world’s peoples and governments have done little to prevent or stop mass murdering. Today, the world is not markedly better prepared to end this greatest scourge of humanity. The evidence of this failure is overwhelming. It is to be found in Tibet, North Korea, the former Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Rwanda, southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Darfur.” (catalog notes)