Interview

THE OTHER LIFE, Ellen Meister

Other Life

A Conversation With
ELLEN MEISTER
Author of
THE OTHER LIFE

Carrie:  After The Smart One and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, THE OTHER LIFE is a real departure for you.  What inspired it?

Ellen: I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of escape. I guess that’s part of the job description for a fiction writer. I was thinking about that one day after my husband left for work and the children left for school. There I was, all by myself, waiting impatiently for my computer to boot up so I could lose myself in the world I had created, when I began to wonder what might happen if a wife and mother could use those magical hours alone to escape in a more literal sense. At once, I had the image of a portal right smack in the middle of the most domestic setting…an opening that would let the woman cross over to the life she would have had if she had chosen a very different path. The more I thought about this idea, the more excited I got. As details about my main character and her two lives emerged, a story began to form. But it wasn’t until it occurred to me that my protagonist’s mother was dead in one life and alive in the other that I knew I had a book.

Carrie:  THE OTHER LIFE is about returning to the road not taken and exploring the life unlived.  Have you ever longed to see what happened on the other road?

Ellen: Haven’t we all? I think that’s human nature, especially in times of extreme stress. We play the “if only” game, imagining what might have been. What if I hadn’t gotten married? What if we hadn’t bought this house? What if we never had a child? What if I had been there to prevent that accident/suicide/awful mistake? Of course, it’s easy to condemn this line of thinking as counterproductive, but I believe it’s a coping mechanism. There’s only so much grief and anxiety our minds can hold before we need a mental vacation.

Carrie:  In this story Nan makes the ultimate sacrifice for a child, in this case her daughter, Quinn, and her grandchildren.  Do you think that kind of love is instinctual or learned?

Ellen: I think we’re hardwired to make sacrifices for our children. It’s the basest human instinct, and it gets switched on like a spotlight when we have our first child. I guess scientists can explain the chemistry of it, but from a personal perspective, falling in love with my first child was the most dramatically transformative moment of my life. I was flooded with something that seemed to alter my DNA, restructuring every cell. I was no longer just Ellen, I was Max’s mom, and I knew from that moment on every decision I made in life would be informed by that simple fact.

Carrie:  With Nan and Quinn, you brilliantly capture the mother-daughter relationship and the bond that hovers between boundless love and bruising tension.  Did you draw from personal experience?

Ellen: Thanks for that compliment! I can honestly say that my own even-tempered mother is nothing like Nan, but I’ve always been fascinated by the wrenching emotional turmoil of family relationships. I’m not sure there’s anything more interesting—or more human—than the ways in which we are tested by love.

Carrie:  As her daughter straddles parallel universes, Nan wonders whether having an escape route will help Quinn manage life’s difficulties with more grace, or instead taunt her with a decision no one should ever have to make.  Is it a blessing or a curse…or something else? Ellen Meister

Ellen: I love this question, because I think it gets to the heart of the book, and I hope readers will explore this issue themselves. What if their life included a portal to what might have been? Would they welcome the possibility to cross from one life to another? Or do they think they would be tortured by the endlessness of the choices they could make?Ellen Meister

Carrie:  In musing about her mother, Quinn observes: “Sometimes we don’t just simply grow and change.  Sometimes life is so harsh and so dark, a part of us gets excised completely, leaving us permanently altered.” It happened to Nan, but what is it about Quinn that keeps her from the same fate?

Ellen: Quinn lives very much outside of herself. She’s introspective, sure, but she’s a giver and feels like her place in the world (or, in her case, worlds) is to take care of others. She’s so acutely aware of being needed that it’s very nearly impossible for her to make the kind of choice her mother did in her darkest hour. To Quinn, suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.

Carrie:  THE OTHER LIFE probes the choices we make in life.  Do you think there’s a way to avoid the second-guessing that often accompanies them?

Ellen: No, and I don’t think we should. That constant reexamination of our motives and choices is how we learn and grow. It’s like what Socrates said about the unexamined life.

Carrie:  Grief comes in many forms in this novel.  Are there lessons here for those stuck in grief?

Ellen: Grief is such a bear and so very personal. So I don’t know if there are any lessons here, but perhaps some comfort in taking the journey with someone finding her way through it.

Carrie:  THE OTHER LIFE has been called “the thinking woman’s beach read” (NY Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson), making it perfect for a book club selection.  What feedback do you get from book clubs?

Ellen: From my experience, book clubs enjoy novels with fresh writing, complex characters and enough emotional resonance to leave readers with questions that feel very personal. Naturally, I hope THE OTHER LIFE is all those things … and I’m thrilled that the early feedback I’m getting from beta readers suggests that it is!

Carrie:  What genres (or authors) do you like to read?  Why?

Ellen: I don’t limit myself to any particular genre, but I’m definitely drawn to character-driven stories that take a hard look at human relationships. So a survey of my book shelf would probably reveal more literary and women’s fiction than anything else.

Carrie:  Modern women yearn for balance between work and family.  As a writer and mother of three, do you have any advice for them?

Ellen: For me, it’s a matter of priorities that boils down to a simple equation:  Family = first; Work = second; Housework = dead last.

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SOMETIMES MINE, Martha Moody

Sometimes mineCarrie’s Conversation with Martha Moody

Carrie:  What inspired you to write SOMETIMES MINE?
Martha:
The germ of the story came from a book group discussion about my first novel, BEST FRIENDS.  Some women in the group were very distressed that the narrator, Clare, has an affair with her ex-husband.  There are a lot of bad things done by characters in that novel, and I was impressed at the particular anger Clare’s actions evoked.  I’m a physician, and I knew that two of my female patients were involved for years with married men.  I didn’t see these patients as evil, but as sad and isolated.  I thought, “Hmm, it would be a challenge to write about a mistress from her point of view.”

I also wanted to write about work.  Genie, the narrator of Sometimes Mine, is a cardiologist and her lover, Mick, is a college basketball coach.  Each of them is excellent at what they do, and each is defined and to some extent hidden by their role.  Their mutual appreciation of their distinctive work and talents helps bond them.  I’ve always liked this quote from the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer:  “With his work, as with a glove, a man feels the universe.”

The third impetus for the novel was a story my social work mother told me when I was a teenager, in the early 70’s.  One of her clients was a “maiden lady” who had lived all her life with another woman.  When the client’s friend got ill and then died, the client was treated by her friend’s family not as a spouse or grieving widow, but as a simple housemate.  This really magnified her loss.  That story haunted me for years as an example of the power of society’s norms.  In the book, when Mick moves into the realm of the sick, Genie has no defined role.

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you–Does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
Martha:
I’m a slow perker.

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot of SOMETIMES MINE without giving too much away.
Martha:
SOMETIMES MINE is the story of a long-term affair of a divorced female cardiologist, Genie Toledo, and a married college basketball coach, Mick Crabbe. It tells what happens when Mick gets seriously ill and Genie is forced to confront both Mick’s family and her own illusions.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from SOMETIMES MINE?
Martha:
SOMETIMES MINE is a love triangle between three very imperfect people.  You’d expect things to turn out badly, but in an odd way each person becomes heroic.  I’d like to think of the novel as a plea for accepting the complexity of people’s feelings and lives, and the surprising connections through which a person can gain strength.

Carrie:  What is your favorite scene in SOMETIMES MINE? Why?

HANNAH’S LIST, Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber’s Latest…

HANNAH’S LIST

HannahCoverSmall

Enter to Win:

  • One (1) Grand Prize winner will win $50 VISA gift card to enjoy additional titles by Debbie Macomber and a copy of HANNAH’S LIST
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A grieving widower receives an unexpected gift of love from his late wife on the anniversary of her death in HANNAH’S LIST, the emotionally powerful new novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.  Connected to her bestselling Blossom Street books (SUMMER ON BLOSSOM STREET, TWENTY WISHES, BACK ON BLOSSOM STREET, SUSANNAH’S GARDEN, A GOOD YARN and THE SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET) this story continues her moving exploration of the complex relationships among family and friends.

THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, Michele Young-Stone

HandbookLitngStkSurv

A Chat with Author, Michele Young-Stone

Carrie:  What inspired you to write THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS?
Michele:
I set out to write a novel about a girl’s affection toward an unresponsive dad—and the consequences of that relationship.  But, a fellow writer reminded me that there were a million books just like that.  He asked, “What will set your book apart from the pack?”  It hit me:  When I was eleven, I was struck by lightning.  I’ve always liked magical realism, especially when it’s grounded more so in the realism—when we’re reminded that not everything can be explained by science, so I thought, “This is my hook.”  The lightning makes the main character think that she has magical powers.  What little girl doesn’t naturally think she possesses some degree of magic—with our without lightning?

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you ~ Does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
Michele:
Actually, my novel ideas start with a scene either observed or imagined, like a girl holding onto homemade wings, climbing onto a bus (from my most recent work-in-progress).  From there, the characters take over and I allow the story to unfold. Sometimes it’s a mad rush where I’ve been known to write 1,000 pages to get to 100 pages.

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS without giving too much away.
Michele:
Oh boy!  Two strangers, seemingly with nothing in common, are brought together by the electric force of lightning. Becca, brought up in academic affluence, and Buckley, brought up in poverty, are connected throughout their lives by the folks they meet and by this uncontrollable element—lightning—that causes him to write The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, a handbook Becca purchases.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS?
Michele:
Have hope.  Have faith.  No matter how bleak our circumstances, there is possibility.  There are things in life we can’t control, but we can control our response to those things.  No one has to go with the flow.  We can turn things around.

Carrie:  What was the most difficult scene to write? Why?
Michele:
There were multiple scenes that were difficult to write, but ultimately, it was the final scene because it was pivotal to the book’s success, and more important than word choice and pacing (elements I struggled with in other difficult chapters), I wanted a “satisfying” ending, the right ending, and for the longest time, I wasn’t sure how the book should end.  I had to wait for the characters to tell me their thoughts.

Carrie:  Which character do you identify with the most in THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS? How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in the book?

The Elegant Gathering of White Snows, Kris Radish

Radish book

Just after midnight in a small town in Wisconsin, eight women begin walking together down a rural highway. Career women, housewives, mothers, divorcées, and one ex-prom queen, they are close friends who have been meeting every Thursday night for years, sharing food, wine, and their deepest secrets. But on this particular Thursday, Susan, Alice, Chris, Sandy, Gail, Mary, Joanne, and Janice decide to disappear from their own lives.

Their spontaneous pilgrimage attracts national attention and inspires other women from all across the country. As the miles fall away and the women forge ahead on their backroads odyssey — leaving small miracles in their wake–each of their histories unfolds, tales of shattered dreams and unexpected renewal, of thwarted love affairs and precious second chances. In luminous, heartwarming prose, Kris Radish deftly interweaves the women’s intimate confessions into the story of their brave, history-making walk.

Carrie’s Conversation with Kris Radish

Carrie:  What inspired you to write THE ELEGANT GATHERING OF WHITE SNOWS?
Kris:  I was a full-time journalist and had written two non-fiction books.
It was time.  I had worlds of experience inside of me from my life’s work and wanted a story that was passionate, inspiring, and very real. So I asked the universe to bring me a story.  And BAM! I was reading the newspaper and there was a story about a group of women who were inspired one night to go on a walking pilgrimage.  The story I wrote absolutely flew into my heart.

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you ~ Does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
Kris:
It depends.  Usually the idea drops inside of me like a hot brick and I run screaming into my office.  I’m serious! (Well, not always!)  Then it fans out from there and once the main character has a face and voice….there is no stopping me.  Really good red wine helps also!!

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot without giving too much away?
Kris:
A group of women, all friends, all different, meet weekly to talk and share lives—each one harboring a secret, loss, love, desire, ache. When one woman shares a very serious secret the women spontaneously decide to walk out of their lives and when they do that – walking, sharing, touching other lives – miracles abound.  It is a story of friendship, love, loss, and finally liberation.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from THE ELEGANT GATHERING OF WHITE SNOWS?

The Piano Teacher, Janice Y. K. Lee

The Piano Teacher

by Janice Y. K. Lee

Piano

In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war.

Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair, only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past. As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges—between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and, above all, the past.

Carrie’s Conversation with Janice:

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you ~ does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?

Janice: Percolation is definitely my process.  Sometimes, I feel like I am waiting for the story to rise up from the depths of my subconscious.  It can be very frustrating because I don’t feel like there’s a lot I can do to hurry the process along, that I’m not the driver of the process—that it is my subconscious.  I hear of writers who have their books mapped out before they start writing, and I cannot imagine being able to do that.  I wish I could.  It would make my life a lot easier. So I wait, and when something comes along, a sentence, an image, a particular word, and it resonates with me, I know that it has come to drive the story forward.  In this way, I accumulate the story.

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot/subject without giving too much away.

Janice: The Piano Teacher is a historical novel set in WWII Hong Kong about an Englishman and the affairs he has with two very different women before and after the war.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from this book?

Janice: I don’t write with a message in mind, when I’m in process but, upon reflection (and having been asked this question many times), I think that the book might make you think about the decisions one makes in excruciating times and how those decisions may come to define you in a way that is not at all characteristic with who one is in more normal times.

Nanny Returns, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Nanny Returns
Just as fresh, biting, and funny as The Nanny Diaries, but with the extra heart and wisdom of a few years’ experience, NANNY RETURNS brings both heroine and readers back to the exotic world of the Upper East Side—a community where appearances are everything, friendships can dissolve with the disappearance of a bank account, and children are often the casualties in the war between wealth and family.

Carrie:  What inspired you to write this book?
Emma & Nicola:
For years readers would ask us what happened to the characters from our first novel, but we had kind of drawn a hazy veil over them in our minds. We pictured a vague happy sunset for Nan, but didn’t let ourselves think about the little boy, Grayer, too much because we weren’t optimistic about his chances.  Then last Spring we had a series of A-ha moments back-to-back and before we knew it a story had unspooled before us.  We were inspired by articles we read about New York City private schools being taken over by parents who wanted to buy their children a world without consequences.  Then we read about the Astor trial and something about a son turning his father in for embezzling from his mother really struck us.  Of course the Madoff story was rife with gripping family dynamics, from the sons turning in their father to the father/son accounting firm that had enabled the fraud in the first place.  It all got our minds churning about pulling back to look at the larger societal impact of the Upper East Side community we satirized in the first book.

Carrie:  In general, how does an idea for a book come to you ~ does it perk slowly in your mind or does it come in a flash?
Emma & Nicola:
We have lunch together every day before we start working and we chew over the topics of the day, paying special attention to angles of stories that aren’t being addressed. For example in 2000 we were obsessed that endless stories were running in New York City media about how hard it was for the newly rich to find decent household help, but the help was never interviewed.  So if there’s a side of the story that is being underserved we’ll puzzle over that.  Then we have a-ha moments when one of us will crystallize one of these topics we’ve been mulling over into a fictional story.  Then Nicki gets teary and the hair on Emma’s neck stands on end and we know we’ve found our next book.

Carrie:  Give us an idea of the plot/subject without giving too much away.
Emma & Nicola:
In Nanny Returns we are revisiting ALL the characters from the Diaries twelve years later and re-embroiling Nan back in the lives of the Xes.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from this book?
Emma & Nicola:
Money can’t buy it.

Carrie: What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

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EASY ON THE EYES, Jane Porter

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EASY

Easy on the Eyes (from Jane’s Website)
At 38, Tiana Tomlinson has made it. America adores her as one of the anchors of America Tonight, a top-rated nightly entertainment and news program. But even with the trappings that come with her elite lifestyle, she feels empty. Tiana desperately misses her late husband Keith, who died several years before. And in a business that thrives on youth, Tiana is getting the message that her age is starting to show and certain measures must be taken if she wants to remain in the spotlight. It doesn’t help that at every turn she has to deal with her adversary—the devilishly handsome, plastic surgeon to the stars, Michael O’Sullivan. But a trip away from the Hollywood madness has consequences that could affect the rest of her life.

About Jane (from Jane’s Website)
Born in Visalia, California, I’m a small town girl at heart. I love central California’s golden foothills, oak trees, and the miles of farmland. In my mind, there’s nothing sweeter in the world than the heady fragrance of orange blossoms on a sultry summer night. As a little girl I spent hours on my bed, staring out the window, dreaming of far off places, fearless knights, and happy-ever-after endings. In my imagination I was never the geeky bookworm with the thick coke-bottle glasses, but a princess, a magical fairy, a Joan-of-Arc crusader. My parents fed my imagination by taking our family to Europe for a year when I was thirteen. The year away changed me (I wasn’t a geek for once!) and overseas I discovered a huge and wonderful world with different cultures and customs. I loved everything about Europe, but felt especially passionate about Italy and those gorgeous Italian men (no wonder my very first Presents hero was Italian). I confess, after that incredible year in Europe, the travel bug bit, and bit hard. I spent much of my high school and college years abroad, studying in South Africa, Japan and Ireland. South Africa remains a country of my heart, the people, the land and politics complex and heart-wrenching. After my years of traveling and studying I had to settle down and earn a living. With my Bachelors degree from UCLA in American Studies, a program that combines American literature and American history, I’ve worked in sales and marketing, as well as a director of a non-profit foundation. Later I earned my Masters in Writing from the University of San Francisco and taught jr. high and high school English. I now live in rugged Seattle, Washington with my two young sons. I never mind a rainy day, either, because that’s when I sit at my desk and write stories about far-away places, fascinating people, and most importantly of all, love. I like a story with a happy ending. We all do.

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, Emily St. John Mandel

LastNightinMontrealFINALCOVER

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL
…as described on Unbridled Books Website:

Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind for her entire life. She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities. In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop. Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along with way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she’s safe. Last Night in Montreal is a story of love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession. In this extraordinary debut, Emily St. John Mandel casts a powerful spell that captures the reader in a gritty, youthful world—charged with an atmosphere of mystery, promise and foreboding—where small revelations continuously change our understanding of the truth and lead to desperate consequences. Mandel’s characters will resonate with you long after the final page is turned.

 

Carrie’s Chat with Emily:
Carrie:  Emily, who is your biggest fan?
Emily:
  Probably my mother, on principle. Emilymandel1

Carrie:  This is your debut novel ~ What inspired you to write LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL?
Emily:
  I’ve always had a habit of taking notes with ideas for stories, and there was a particular sentence I wrote at least a decade ago: Mirage: you used to see water in the desert.  I don’t remember what I was thinking when I wrote it, but the line suggested traveling in the desert by car (the way illusory pools of water form on the highway up ahead), which begged the question of why the travelers had set out in the first place, and the story began from there.  Other elements — tight rope walking, private detectives, dead languages, traveling circuses — came together gradually as I was writing the book.

Carrie:  Give us an idea what LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL is about without giving too much away.
Emily:
  The story centers around a young woman named Lilia Albert. Abducted as a small child by her non-custodial parent, Lilia spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly.  In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop; haunted by an inability to remember the circumstances surrounding her abduction, she travels compulsively from city to city, leaving people behind. The story follows four people — her boyfriend, Eli, who follows her when she leaves him; Christopher, the private detective who remains obsessed with her case; Michaela, the detective’s daughter, who has the answers that Lilia longs for; and Lilia herself — and the question of why she was abducted in the first place is the mystery that drives the narrative.

Carrie:  What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL?
Emily:
  There are a number of themes in this novel — amnesia, the fragility of family, dead languages, love — but I think that if you were to distill all of those things to their essence, it all comes down to an underlying theme of loss.

Carrie:  What is your favorite scene in the LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL and why?
Emily:
  I think my favorite scene in the book is the ending. Without giving away what happens, I feel that the story couldn’t have ended in any other way.

Carrie:  What was the most difficult scene to write in LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL? Why?
Emily:
  I can’t say any of them were particularly easy, but I think the most difficult scene to write was the opening, when Lilia wakes up in her boyfriend Eli’s apartment and leaves him without warning.  It took a lot of revisions and rewrites to establish the tone of the novel, introduce the characters, and set up Eli’s sadness without slipping too far into melodrama.

Carrie:  Which character do you identify with the most in LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL? How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in the book? If so, while you were writing or only afterwards upon review?
Emily:
  I think that writers inevitably leave traces of themselves in the characters they invent and I’m sure there are elements of my personality in several of the characters in this book.  The book is emphatically not autobiographical, and I tried to keep myself out of it as much as possible, but the character I identify with the most is Eli.  Eli and I aren’t very much alike, but he’s possibly the most sympathetic one of the lot.  He’s trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances.

Carrie:  What are you reading right now?
Emily:
  In all honesty, nothing — I just finished a great novel called THE BOOK OF NEGROES, by Lawrence Hill (I read the Canadian edition, but I believe it’s being published in the United States as SOMEONE KNOWS MY NAME), and at the moment I’m feverishly revising my second novel instead of starting a new book.

Carrie:  Who are your favorite authors and who influenced your writing?
Emily:
  Vladimir Nabokov, Milan Kundera, Norman Mailer, Julio Cortazar, Michael Ondaatje, J.D. Salinger, and Saul Bellow are among my favourite writers, and I think they’ve had some influence on my work.

Carrie:  Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal life—Outside of writing, what’s important to you?
Emily:
  Real life ~ I live with my husband and two cats in Brooklyn, and I work part-time as an administrator at a university in Manhattan.  The cats were rescued as kittens and they each have one eye; Ralph has a right eye, and Louie has a left.  As for hobbies, I like to take photographs, play the piano, and go for long walks through Brooklyn.

Carrie:  Tell us something surprising about you and/or something very few people know about you.
Emily:
  A lot of people know that I don’t have a college degree, but far fewer are aware that I don’t have a high school diploma either.

Carrie:  What has been one of your biggest struggles and/or successes (professional/personal) and what have you learned from it?
Emily:
  I think of the sale of my first novel as my greatest professional success.  The experience of working with my editor has had an enormous impact on my work. I’ve learned a lot about attention to detail.

Carrie:  Have you ever had a nickname? If so, please tell us about it.
Emily:
  I have a nickname, but it’s a secret.

Carrie:  What was the best advice you’ve ever received—do you follow it?
Emily:
  “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  I fail occasionally, but I try to follow it.

Carrie:  What is your favorite literary turn-of-phrase?
Emily:
  There’s a quote from ALICE IN WONDERLAND that I write on the first page of all my notebooks, in an effort to discourage snooping: “‘If everyone minded their own business,’ said the Duchess in a hoarse growl, ‘the world would go round a deal faster than it does.'”

Carrie:  What did you learn about yourself while writing LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL that you may not have expected?
Emily:
  I hope this doesn’t sound obvious or as if I’m glibly dodging the question, but I learned that I can write a book–which was by no means clear to me when I first started writing it. 

Carrie:  What’s next for you?
Emily:
  I’m delighted to report that I’ve just sold my second novel to Unbridled Books for publication in Spring 2010.  The title is THE SINGER’S GUN.  I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with Unbridled on another project.

An excerpt of LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL’s Chapter One:
He told himself to stay calm, and realized in the telling that he’d been waiting for this moment. He told himself that she’d just been distracted by a bookstore. It was entirely possible. Alternatively, she liked trains: at this moment she could be halfway back from Coney Island, taking pictures of passengers, unaware of what time it was. With this in mind, he returned reluctantly to the chase; a particular sentence had gotten all coiled up on him, and he spent an uneasy half hour trying to untangle the wiring and making a valiant effort not to dwell on her increasingly gaping absence, while several academic points he was trying to clarify got bored and wandered off into the middle distance. It took some time to coax them back into focus, once the sentence had been mangled beyond all recognition and the final destination of the paragraph worked out. But by the time the paragraph arrived at the station it was five o’clock, she’d left to get the paper before noon, and it seemed unreasonable by this point to think that something wasn’t horribly wrong. He stood up then, conceding defeat, and began to check the apartment. In the washroom nothing was different: her comb was where it had always lived, on the haphazard shelf between the toilet and the sink. Her toothbrush was where she’d left it, beside a silver pair of tweezers on the windowsill. The living area was unchanged. Her towel was lying damply on the bedroom floor. She’d taken her purse, as she always did. But then he glanced at the wall in the bedroom, and his life broke neatly into two parts.

She had a photograph from her childhood, the only photograph of herself that she seemed to own. It was a Polaroid, faded to a milky pallor with sunlight and time: a small girl sits on a stool at a diner counter. A bottle of ketchup is partially obscured by her arm. The waitress, who has a mass of blond curls and pouty lips, leans in close across the countertop. The photographer is the girl’s father; they’ve stopped at a restaurant somewhere in the middle of the continent, having been traveling for some time. A slight sheen to the waitress’s face hints at the immense heat of the afternoon. Lilia said she couldn’t remember which state they were in, but she did remember that it was her twelfth birthday. The picture had been above his bed since the night she’d moved in with him, her one mark on the apartment, thumbtacked above the headboard. But when he looked up that afternoon it had been removed, the thumbtack neatly reinserted into the wall.

Eli knelt down on the floor, but it was a moment or two before he could bring himself to lift an edge of the duvet. Her suitcase was gone from under the bed. Later he was out on the street, walking quickly, but he couldn’t remember how he’d ended up there or how much time had passed since he’d left the apartment. His keys were in his pocket, and he clutched them painfully in the palm of his hand. He was breathing too quickly. He was walking fast through Brooklyn, far too late, circling desperately through the neighborhood in wider and wider spirals, every bookstore, every café, every bodega that he thought might conceivably attract her. The traffic was too loud. The sun was too bright. The streets were haunted with a terrible conspiracy of normalcy, bookstores and cafés and bodegas and clothing stores all carrying on the charade of normal existence, as if a girl hadn’t just walked off the stage and plummeted into the chasm of the orchestra pit.

Click HERE for more of Chapter One, Emily St. John Mandel’s Bio, and MORE!

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