Author Interview: Three Questions For Author Lorrie Thomson Who Explores Writing & Inspiration For Her Third Novel

A Measure of Happiness_TPI’m such a rebel. Not really. But today I am sharing something a little different with you, my WFW friends. In celebration of the release of Lorrie Thomson’s third novel, A Measure of Happiness, I’ve asked her THREE things I was very curious about. When I interview any author I ask questions I really want the answers to, figuring if it’s interesting to me, it might be interesting to all of you too.

Since I’ve read all Lorrie’s books and have interviewed her before, I wanted to dig deeper — a theme of writing women’s fiction, right? So today Lorrie shares with us real insights into how and why she wrote this story, which takes a character from her second novel, What’s Left Behind, and makes her the focus. 

Please welcome Lorrie back to WFW and enjoy everything she shares with us today!

Amy xo

Three Questions For Author Lorrie Thomson Who Explores Writing & Inspiration For Her Third Novel 

A Measure of Happiness_TPAmy: I’d love to know more about plucking a character from one novel and placing her into the spotlight in another, without the book being a prequel or sequel.

Lorrie: Thanks so much, Amy, for asking me back to Women’s Fiction Writers to discuss A Measure of Happiness!

In A Measure of Happiness, small-town baker Katherine Lamontagne has spent the last twenty-four years giving out cakes and comfort to the citizens of Hidden Harbor, Maine, and keeping the secret of the son she gave away to herself. Until that son comes looking for her, making her reconsider her life and the meaning of family.

This is the first time I’ve returned to a story location and written a novel that contains characters from a previous work. But, even though A Measure of Happiness takes place fifteen years before What’s Left Behind, it’s not considered a prequel. The books are stand-alone novels. And although you’ll likely remember Abby Stone’s best friend, Celeste Barnes, from What’s Left Behind, this is the first time you’re privy to her point of view.

I adore A Measure of Happiness, and I’m so excited to share it with you. But if it weren’t for my agent and editor, I might never have imagined this story. You see, when I passed in the partial manuscript for What’s Left Behind, my agent, Jessica, suggested I come up with an additional story idea. Could I perhaps feature one of the characters from What’s Left Behind? Was there someone from that story I wanted to get to know better?

Celeste, with her fierce loyalty to Abby and her snarky mouth, was the first person who came to mind. In fact, I enjoyed Celeste so much that originally in A Measure of Happiness, hers was the first voice you heard. That’s where my editor came in. While Celeste is a fascinating character with personality to spare, secrets, and lessons to learn, she’s only twenty-two years old. For that reason, during a phone conversation with my editor, Peter, to discuss opening scenes, Peter shared his concern that A Measure of Happiness might be considered NA, New Adult. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll start over.” To that Peter replied, “Don’t start over. Just flip the scenes so that Katherine’s point of view comes first.”

I flipped the scenes.

I’m really glad that I took Peter’s advice. Because even though I’d spent a lot of time thinking about Celeste, her issues, and her back story, I hadn’t yet fully considered Katherine. Luckily, when I asked Katherine nicely, she was more than willing to share her secrets with me, too. She told me about the son she gave away for adoption, and the way that one event had shaped her life. She told me the real reasons she’d divorced Barry, a man she so obviously still loved. And she told me about the ghost from her past, the legacy of shame from a childhood that haunted her.

In A Measure of Happiness, Katherine isn’t the only character with secrets and shame. We all walk around with voices in our heads. Sadly, those voices often tend toward the negative, and Celeste’s inner monologue is no exception. For Celeste these voices, also known as the not-so-nice lies we tell ourselves, lead her to seek relief that’s neither healthy nor uplifting. Yet through it all, she keeps her signature snark and sense of humor.

In addition to Katherine and Celeste, you’ll get to know Zach Fitzgerald, a newcomer to Hidden Harbor, Maine. Just weeks after Zach’s mother kicks him out of the house—she has her reasons—Zach eats his way through two dozen Casco Bay bakeries, wanders into Lamontagne’s, and changes the course of both women’s lives. But make no mistake, in the end, each character finds his or her own way of making peace with the past.

Amy: So did your thoughts change about the town and characters as you wrote this new novel and ostensibly learned the backstory? 

Lorrie: I had great fun going back to Hidden Harbor, Maine, and the events and relationships alluded to in What’s Left Behind. In What’s Left Behind, Celeste is married with two children, and the hardworking owner of a bakery called Sugarcoated. In A Measure of Happiness, she’s young, single, and a long-time employee of Lamontagne’s. Yet same as in What’s Left Behind, one of the most important relationships in her life is with her best friend, Abby Stone. Their conflict comes from Abby’s on-gain, off-again romance with boyfriend Charlie Connors and Celeste’s instinct to protect Abby. In A Measure of Happiness, Celeste is also protective towards Abby’s three-year-old son, Luke. Yes, I had the bittersweet responsibility of bringing Abby and Charlie’s son back to life: the teenager who dies before the opening pages in What’s Left Behind. It should come as no surprise that in A Measure of Happiness, little Luke is quite a flirt.

Amy: Next, I asked Lorrie to share places that inspired A Measure of Happiness and she answered with both words and pictures!

1. Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine, where a pivotal scene takes place.

2. View from Fox Island to the Atlantic Ocean. During low tide at Popham Beach, the seas part and you can walk out to Fox Island. But don’t linger too long!

2. View from Fox Island to the Atlantic Ocean. During low tide at Popham Beach, the seas part and you can walk out to Fox Island. But don’t linger too long!

3. View of the Morse Tidal River in Phippsburg, Maine, from the real-life 1877 House. The house and its view inspired the home in Hidden Harbor where Katherine and her ex-husband, Barry, once lived—and where Barry now lives alone.

3. View of the Morse Tidal River in Phippsburg, Maine, from the real-life 1877 House. The house and its view inspired the home in Hidden Harbor where Katherine and her ex-husband, Barry, once lived—and where Barry now lives alone.

4.      Barry’s back porch. Strange, but it wasn’t until I read through proofs that I realized I’d even included the 1877 House’s green metal chairs.

4.      Barry’s back porch. Strange, but it wasn’t until I read through proofs that I realized I’d even included the 1877 House’s green metal chairs.

Lorrie Thomson (1)Lorrie Thomson lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their children. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, her family lets her tag along for camping adventures, daylong paddles, and hikes up 4,000 footers.

Visit Lorrie at her website. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Guest Post: Debut Author Kristin Contino On Making An Old Story New Again

TLOU_Perfect_364_PRINTLooking back through a long thread of emails, it seems I met Kristin Contino in 2012 when we were both members of the same author group. Then Kristin reviewed The Glass Wives and came to my Philadelphia area book signing in 2013! I also worked as a freelance editor on one of Kristin’s projects.

I’d say we’re intertwined the way only authors can be.

And now Kristin is a debut author!

WAY. TO. GO. KRISTIN!

Today you’ll read how Kristin persevered, wrote through the madness and disappointment, and how THE LEGACY OF US is an old story turned new again— and is published TODAY! 

Please welcome Kristin to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Diana Bletter Talks About Making Up Words, Writing What You Know, And Living Your Life

remarkableKindness pbOne of the best parts of being an author is reading other authors’ books before they’re published — and sometimes being asked for an endorsement (a compliment, indeed). Such was the case with Diana Bletter’s A Remarkable Kindness. This story — and Diana’s story — are indeed, remarkable.

Here’s my quote: 

“A REMARKABLE KINDNESS, is a story about the bonds of friendship and family; how they are made, broken, and come full circle. Diana Bletter writes with such lush and insightful prose that a foreign landscape and culture becomes warm and familiar. A REMARKABLE KINDNESS explores the power of friendship, love, and ancient traditions, and Bletter’s characters makes you wonder just how far you would go (literally and figuratively) for the people you love.”

Please welcome Diana to WFW! 

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author and Scientist Catherine Haustein Combines Women and Science In Her Debut Novel

NaturalAttractionCoverAs you know, I love bringing you interesting authors who write extraordinary books with many different things motivating them. Today we have Catherine Haustein, scientist and author, sharing her decision to pursue writing in combination with her career as a scientist, and how she came to write her debut novel, Natural Attraction.

Please welcome Catherine Haustein to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: The Inspiration And Irony Of “Annie Aster” by Scott Wilbanks

Read this essay by THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER (which releases today!) author, Scot Wilbanks. You won’t be sorry.

You will be engaged, heartbroken, and inspired. 

Amy xo

Inspiration And Irony

by Scott Wilbanks

High Res bookcoverI head down to Los Angeles next week for the second leg of my cross country journey, and while I have no intimate connection to that city, other than a smattering of friends, it will be, by far, the most poignant stop on my tour, because of a particular young woman.

You see, there’s a story I must share while I’m there, and I’m afraid it will make her sad. It’s about the inspiration behind my debut novel The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster, and she really needs to hear it.

I still find it baffling that my book—and my career, for that matter—owes its life to such humble and awkward beginnings. But there you have it.

And yet it had all begun so charmingly.

I’d never seen him before that peculiar weekend when our paths crossed five times at my local haunts in San Francisco’s Castro district.

The first of our encounters was so vivid that it even found its way into Lemoncholy’s pages. The passage is a wee bit melodramatic, I’m afraid, but I was walking down the street with my head in a book, had glanced up from the pages just as he walked past, and, well, time kind of stood still.

The cars crawled. A hummingbird inched forward like a slow-motion sequence in a National Geographic special, its wings undulating in the exquisite fashion of a Japanese fan dancer. A dog floated upward in the park across the street, a look of pure joy frozen on its face, eye focused on a Frisbee hovering inches from eager jaws and spinning so slowly that you could read the word Wham-O on it. Then, whoosh… time repaired itself and Christian was walking all too quickly past the face with the secret smile.

It was all a bit of a mystery, those encounters, and as the narrative indicates, I quickly dubbed the object of my fascination “the face,” while finding myself building a story in my head as to who he might be in those odd moments when I wasn’t doing business-y things, or washing dishes, or nodding off in bed with a book in my hands. All I knew for certain was that he was stupidly handsome, a condition that was offset by some pretty ridiculous sartorial choices.

Note to self: NEVER wear an orange flannel button-down over fade brown corduroys.

That face, combined with those clothes, fascinated me. Who was this guy?

In my book, Annie Aster suggests that he could be a “third cousin, twice removed,” or “a killer for hire” who has marked her best friend Christian for liquidation, which only prompts Christian to respond that those options need not be mutually exclusive, considering that he comes from Texas. (Many apologies to any proud Texans reading this. It’s an inside joke, and I do the state proud in the end.)

The fifth of my encounters with “the face” was a perfect illustration that Kismet does, indeed, have a sense of humor. Clearly annoyed that I’d wasted four good opportunities, the universe took a much needed break from its attempted match-making and my life had gotten on with the business of the humdrum for a good week or so, leaving “the face” little more than a memory; that is, until I’d felt a light tapping sensation on my shoulder at the gym. I turned around to find him staring me down with his trademark smile, the one that went through me like catnip. To my surprise, he pointed at my tank top, unraveled a kink in one of its straps, and simply wandered off.

Okay, the universe was not to be denied this time.

I quickly re-tangled the very same strap, tracked him down (politely interrupting the conversation in which he was involved, in the process), and suggested that his efforts lacked conviction.

That got me a laugh and his phone number, and, truth be told, I’d thought everything was going swimmingly, but then my date made it clear that we had separate agendas by rocking back in his chair to declare, “I think we are destined to be great friends.”

Great… friends.

Definitely not the response I was looking for.

Thirty minutes and a cataclysmic decline into tragically boring conversation later, I found myself driving home with my tail tucked firmly between my legs when it occurred to me that things are only inevitable if you accept them as such. By the time I’d pulled into my drive, I’d concocted a pair of characters in my head—Annabelle Aster and Elsbeth Grundy—pen pals who write one another between contemporary San Francisco and Victorian Kansas, depositing letters in a brass letterbox that stands in some common magical ground between the two.

I ran upstairs, whipped up a letter from Annie to Elsbeth in which she asked for advice regarding her love-struck friend—me—and promptly emailed it to my date. I know, right?

Within a couple hours, I received a call. Apparently, my email had made the rounds at his office and was a bit of a hit. More were demanded.

“Sadly, I cannot,” I said.

“Why’s that?”

“Elsbeth hasn’t written back,” I responded, as if nothing could be more obvious.

The next morning, I found an email in my inbox with Elsbeth’s name in the subject line.

Our correspondence became a regular thing. I would write as Annie, talking about Scott’s feelings, my feelings. He would write as Elsbeth, talking about his. Somewhere around the sixth exchange, we’d become an “item.”

A year later, we’d moved in together.

Five years later, his prophecy came true. We found that we were much better suited as friends than lovers. And we became the best of them, very nearly inseparable.

I began writing the first horrible draft of Lemoncholy the following year, a story that, at its heart, is about five misfits who are seeking understanding and enlightenment in an unforgiving world.

Of course, Annie and Elsbeth play the lead—one an eccentric in contemporary San Francisco who refuses to wear anything but Victorian clothes, the other a truculent., old schoolmarm living in turn-of-the-century Kansas.

But there’s also Christian. He’s Annie’s best friend; a young man burdened with a secret buried so deep within his subconscious that it leaves him with a stutter. And there’s Edmond, the charismatic, sweetheart who is weighed down by a demon—drug addiction.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I based Christian off my own life experience, and Edmond’s off my nearly failed date, turned partner, turned best friend.

And… this is the point where I suspect I’ll struggle a bit while sharing my story with the audience.

You see, four weeks after The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster went into production, and just two weeks after I’d spent an hour on Skype, discussing my date’s first international trip to visit me and my husband in New Zealand where I’ve been living for the last six years, I received an email from the young lady who will be attending my reading.

She is my date’s sister—Edmond’s sister.

And she wrote to inform me that he’d passed away. His demon had gotten the better of him.

She’s never heard this story. But she loved her brother fiercely, and deserves to know.

As for me? There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.

And for the curious. He’s in the dedication.

Scott's bio photoScott is the author of THE LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER, a commercial fiction novel with a fantasy premise releasing August 4, 2015 that tells the story of two pen pals who are fighting against the clock to solve the mystery behind the hiccup in time connecting their homes before one of them is convicted of a murder that is yet to happen… and yet somehow already did.

Scott’s website: http://scottwilbanks.wix.com/scottwilbanks

More about the book: http://scottwilbanks.wix.com/scottwilbanks#!books/cosk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/scottbwilbanks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scott.wilbanks.7

Author Interview: Colleen Oakley Shares Her Hardest Scene And Straightforward Advice For Writers

Before I Go paperbackToday we’re celebrating the paperback launch of Colleen Oakley’s BEFORE I GO. And before I go on — let me tell you that Colleen has four (coughFOURcough) little kids. And by little I mean two of them are twins. And they’re babies. So when you say or hear someone say (and by say I mean whine) “I don’t have time to write,” tell them about Colleen. Tell them you (and she) have the same 24 hour days that they do. Then tell them to read BEFORE I GO to see what can be accomplished.

Below you’ll learn about a paperback vs. a hardcover launch, Colleen’s favorite and hardest scene to write, and her straightforward advice for writers. 

Please welcome Colleen to WFW!

Amy xo

Author Colleen Oakley Shares What Readers Have Taught Her About Her Own Book 

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A WFW Book Review: My Very Best Friend by Cathy Lamb

cathy lamb mvbfToday is the book birthday for Cathy Lamb’s latest novel MY VERY BEST FRIEND. It’s Cathy’s ninth book, and had me turning the pages late into the night. And if you know me, that’s no small feat. I’m an early-to-bed kinda gal.

Sometimes I have an idea what a book is about before I start reading, sometimes not. Even when I do, my expectations of story seem to vanish on page one as I allow the author to do his or her (oh, who are we kidding, usually HER) job.

That’s definitely the case with MY VERY BEST FRIEND.

I was whisked away to the Oregon and the life of Charlotte Mackintosh, a romance writer who has no romance in her life. She’s an odd duck, to say the least, which made her completely endearing. Charlotte is also generous and kind and while she hadn’t traveled in years, she sets off to Scotland to sell her parents’ old cottage, where she lived until she was about twelve. The story takes us then to Scotland–and that’s where the whirlwind begins!

Cathy is a master at pacing. I sometimes felt like I couldn’t keep up with how fast I wanted to read. I’m not sure that makes sense but so much is happening I wanted to take it all in. There’s friendship, heartache, mystery, romance, and some real growth by Charlotte, and all the other characters, by the end of the book.

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