Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review of The Goddess Inheritance and Q&A w/Aimée Carter

Aimée, welcome back to the B&N General Fiction forum. (for those of you who weren’t here Aimée was my guest last March when Goddess Interrupted was released)

Debbie - Aimée, this is your third published full length novel in the Goddess Test series plus you have two in-between e-books out.
Does release day mean the same now that you’ve had a couple under your belt? Is it still nail-biting, exciting?
Aimée - It’s still nail-biting! I can’t imagine a day when the release of a new book would be anything but. In a way though, this is extremely different from the other releases, because this is the last book in the series. It’s the conclusion that all of the other books led up to, and there’s a finality to it that’s a little heartbreaking. I’ve been reading reactions from readers who have had the opportunity to get the book early, and I relive a little bit of that sadness each time.

Tell us a little about The Goddess Inheritance.
The Goddess Inheritance is the conclusion of the Goddess Test series. I don’t want to give too much away, especially for readers who haven’t yet picked up the first book (The Goddess Test), but I will say there’s a whole lot of love, war, conflict, and heartbreak, Olympus-style. Kate, the protagonist, is finally coming into her own, and she has everything on the line. Not just the love of her life, Henry, but her family and the fate of the entire world as well.

In our last conversation you mentioned that The Goddess Test series was originally meant for a trilogy and that if there was demand for it there might be more.
So will there be more?
I would love to write more! Readers will notice I did leave room for a spin-off at the end of The Goddess Inheritance, and if the stars align, I would be all for writing additional books.

I’ve noticed on your website that you have a title “Pawn” coming out in December 2013. Tell us about this. Is it also in the YA genre?
PAWN is the first book in the Blackcoat Rebellion series, my dystopian series coming out in late November 2013. It’s also a young adult novel, and I can’t tell you how excited I am for everyone to have the chance to read it! I can’t say too much about it just yet, but it’s about a girl who lives in a society where your rank is determined by a single aptitude test. When she’s forced to take the place of the Prime Minister’s dead niece, whom he had assassinated for leading a rebellion, she must choose to either settle quietly into her privileged new life or pick up the reins and fight for what she believes in.

You write about fantasy fictional places. In real life where would your dream vacation be?
London is pretty much my favorite place in the world. Last time I was only there for three days though, and I’ve been dying to go back and spend more time there. The culture, the history, the accents – something about it appeals to me like nowhere else.

Your series is based on Greek Mythology, but with a twist. Where do your “twist” ideas come from?
Most of the twists came from me trying to envision how the myths may have changed over the years. For a long time, the myths weren’t written down – they were oral traditions, passed from one generation to the next. Much like a game of Telephone, I tried to think of how storytellers may have embellished them either to make them more interesting or to create a moral to the story, as that’s what many myths were – ways to explain the unexplainable, or ways to demonstrate morality. But if the gods really existed, as they do in my series, then not everything they did could have been a lesson to mortals. Storytellers would have had the opportunity to adapt those tales into something more “educational,” leading the way for there to be a schism between the myths and what had really happened in the gods’ lives. Once I had those thoughts down, I worked backward from there depending on what the series demanded. The twists allowed me to write something fresh for the reader that’s still firmly grounded in Greek mythology, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do from the beginning.

Aimée, as an author of YA fiction, why do you think the genre is so popular right now with all ages of readers?
That’s a great question. I think there’s something about the teenage years that appeals to everyone – the endless possibilities, the openness to new experiences, the first time you fall in love, etc. YA allows teens and adults to explore all kinds of worlds and lives they may have only dreamed of having. You can save the world, get the guy, and (mostly) have a happily-ever-after, all while figuring out where you belong. There’s a weight to a lot of YA that some non-readers are quick to dismiss or ignore, but YA is about making choices. It’s about choosing who you want to be and what the rest of your life is going to be, and it’s both scary and exhilarating at the same time. And there’s such a wide variety. No matter what appeals to you – romance, mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, etc. – there’s something for you on the YA shelves.

When my forum and I are discussing a novel I often time warp forward five years in the lives of the characters. On that same line, where do you see yourself in five years?
I very much hope to still be writing and publishing! I can’t imagine being me and not writing. Maybe married, maybe not – we’ll see if the right guy shows up. But either way, above all else, I see myself as happy, whatever that happens to mean at the time.

Aimée, do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned?
Not at the moment, but I drop into my local B&N often and sign stock!

Thank you so much for taking the time to reacquaint us with you. Good luck with the new novel. And Happy New Year!!
Thank you so much for the opportunity, and Happy New Year to you as well!

My Review of The Goddess Inheritance 
Amiée Carter
Kate Winters fall down the rabbit hole when she first learned of her heritage, the Goddess test and her perspective role seems like ancient history. She’s now happily married to Henry (Hades), loves sharing the Underworld rule with him and is settling in nicely to her new status. Things on Mount Olympus however are anything but happy and Kate’s determined to seek help to avoid an all out war of the Gods, before Cronus, king of the Titans finally escapes his godly prison and the battles begin. But her plans are foiled and she’s abducted by Cronus and his Olympian traitor, transported to his prison and held captive, but worse she’s pregnant and her abductor wants the child. Now she must find a way to escape herself and warn Henry and the rest of Olympus about the impending doom Cronus has planned for them and save herself, her child and the entire world while she’s at it.

Carter’s Goddess Test series, her modernization of Mount Olympus and it’s residents, comes to an explosive end in The Goddess Inheritance. This episode is non-stop action of epic proportion and an enthralling plotline that keeps the pages turning. Her heroine Kate is as irreverent as ever as she goes about saving the world, and it’s nice to see just how far Henry’s attitude and perceptions have come since the series started and baby Milo makes three. Her other characters help tell her incredible story and give a modern face to ancient divinity. This will appeal to fans of urban fantasy and paranormal and don’t let the “teen” moniker fool you, this novel is well suited for the adult reader too.
Ms. Carter I’m sad to see this series end but I’m excited about where you’ll take me next.

onyonet photo studios

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Release feature 2-19-2013 Q and A with Deborah Crombie

Q&A w/Deborah Crombie
The Sound of Broken Glass

Debbie - Please welcome New York Times best selling author Deborah Crombie.
Deborah, it’s an honor for me to host this Q&A with you as you are one of my all time favorite authors and your Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid series is my all time favorite.
DC: I’m so pleased you like the books!

Tell us about the new novel The Sound of Broken Glass.
DC: While Duncan takes family leave from his post as a detective superintendent at Scotland Yard to care for the couple’s three-year-old foster daughter, Gemma is promoted to a new murder squad in South London. The bizarre death of a respected barrister in a seedy hotel takes Gemma and her colleague Melody Talbot to the historic area of Crystal Palace.  They soon learn that Duncan and Gemma have a personal connection to one of the suspects, and the case has very unexpected personal ramifications for Melody Talbot.

The Sound of Broken Glass is the 15th in the series.
How do you keep them fresh and interesting for us as readers as well as you the author?
DC: The lives of the series characters continue to grow and evolve in ways that often surprise me. And I get to explore new characters, new settings, and a completely new story in each novel. I always have more ideas than I can get in one book.

Your research must be extensive as the novels are so authentically British. Can you tell us how long you’re in country to research a novel?
DC: I usually go to England a couple of times a year for three to four weeks at a time. But no matter how long the visit, there is always more I could do.  I usually stay in a flat—my favorite is in Notting Hill—so that I really get the feel for living the way my characters live.

What is it about mysteries that intrigues you the most?
DC: The structure of a crime novel provides the protagonists with a ready-made goal, and that keeps the plot moving. But within the structure, you can tell such different stories!  Also, I think we humans love solving puzzles. And perhaps most of all, we have a need to impose order on our world, and the crime novel ultimately does that. The murderer is caught, or at least found out, and order is restored.

You have won many awards for your novels. Is there one or more that means something special?
DC: Oh, that’s tough. I love that Dreaming of the Bones received an Edgar nomination for Best Novel, because that’s a commendation from my peers. I’ve served on many an Edgar committee myself, so I appreciate the care and effort that goes into coming up with that short list.
But I’ve won three Macavity awards, which are given by Mystery Readers International, so I have a special fondness for them. What could be more fun than an award named after a poem by T.S. Elliott?

You are part of the Jungle Red Writers, Hank Phillipi Ryan; a General Fiction staple author is also a member.
Do you think social media is an important part of publishing and advertising novels?
DC: I think a social media presence is a necessity for authors these days. But it’s also fun, and I really enjoy interacting with readers.

Since you’re such a Brit-aholic. Are you a Downton Abbey fan?
DC: Yes, I’m a fan. But I’m a little less enthusiastic as the third season goes on for reasons that I can’t talk about without giving spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen it. I loved the first season, I think partly because we, as viewers, knew that the Edwardian idyll was coming to an end and that lent it enchantment.

What’s your favorite downtime activity to do while you’re in the UK?
DC: I always go to Portobello Market on Saturdays.  I love meeting friends for dinner. And just walking. Nothing beats walking in London.

If someone were planning their first trip to England and asked you to list one thing they shouldn’t miss. What would it be?
DC: One thing? Only one thing??  I guess I would have to say London. And I always tell first-timers to take the Big Bus Tour. It gives you a great feel for the city, and then you can pick and choose the places where you want to spend more time.

Are you planning any Barnes & Noble events or signings for this release?
DC: I am! I’ll be signing at the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Park in Dallas on February 27th, 7 p.m., and I’m so looking forward to seeing all my Dallas/Fort Worth area friends, family, and readers!

Deborah, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck with the new novel.

Review to follow very soon

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Release Feature 2-12 plus Q and A w/Jamie Brenner

 Q&A w/Jamie Brenner
The Gin Lovers

Debbie - Jamie, welcome to the B&N.com General Fiction forum.
Jamie - Hi Debbie! Thanks for taking the time to discuss The Gin Lovers. (BN.com is a special forum for me – I used to work at BN.com along with a great group of people who are dear friends to this day.)

Tell us about your new novel The Gin Lovers
The Gin Lovers is a sexy, historical novel about a dissatisfied young society wife in 1920s Manhattan who finds herself drawn into a world of intrigue and romance when her rebellious, flapper sister-in-law comes to live with her. 

What inspired The Gin Lovers?
A year ago, I was on a plane traveling to LA reading nonfiction book called Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and The Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz.  It tells the story of all the flapper era greats, like Zelda Fitzgerald and Coco Chanel. But the book also shows how dramatic the cultural changes were for just ordinary women. I had been trying to write a contemporary novel at the time, and it just wasn’t clicking. I knew in that moment I had to try setting a story in that dramatic era, and I knew it had to be about a woman who wants to change her life – and who falls in love, of course. The 1920s was truly the first era of “liberated” women in this country. People talk about the 60s and 70s women’s liberation movement, but really the 1920s was the most dramatic shift. Women got the vote. They started wearing short dresses. They smoked in public. They dated without chaperones. They cut their hair short and in a sense said, whatever men can do, we can do as well. This was a dramatic time for women. And of course – the clothes were gorgeous.

Your bio states that you started out on the other side of the publishing desk. Did that contribute to your becoming an author?
Yes, it absolutely contributed. Years of working in book publishing was like my masters program – it was invaluable.

I see that you are a contributor to Heroes and Heartbreakers, which I happen to love. How important do you think social media is for authors and readers alike?
It’s funny, I started with Heroes and Heartbreakers just doing a guest post, and I enjoyed it so much and felt so instantly part of a community, I just kept writing for them. I used to think social media was just about self-promotion, and in that sense was sort of a chore and not that appealing to me. Heroes and Heartbreakers was a turning point, because I realized that it truly does work both ways – writers get feedback, they “meet” people, they don’t work in a vacuum. I’ve discovered new writers through Heroes & Heartbreakers, I’ve been challenged to think about storytelling and marketing in different ways. I think that in positive forums, social media is great. Of course, as authors and readers know, not all forums are positive and there is a lot of negativity and tearing-down.  I’m hoping that in time that sort of discourse will fade, because it’s terrible for all of us. I also think the time-suck nature of social media is a pitfall for writers. Some days I can literally spend the entire afternoon keeping up with it all, or obsessively tracking numbers and posts. It can turn into something that makes us forget what our primary one job is, and that’s to get words on the page every day. My agent says the author has two jobs, both in equal measure: writing and promoting. With all of the social media outlets, it’s very easy to see the scales tip too much on the promotion side.

How other than the above blog do you e-connect with your readers?
I’m on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and Goodreads. I have my own website, jamiebrenner.com,  where people can email me directly. I think Twitter is my favorite. I had no idea what to do with it at first – it wasn’t natural to me. I’m a little reticent. But I’m coming out of my shell.

Speaking of romance. Tell us about your alter ego Logan Belle.
When I published my first novel, Blue Angel, I was also working as a literary agent. Blue Angel is erotic, very graphic sex. This was pre-Fifty Shades of Grey. Erotica was not mainstream, and frankly, I didn’t want people to judge me for writing it so I created a pen name.  Now I write all my erotic novels under that name. I wrote three books in the Blue Angel series, then I worked with the Bettie Page estate write a book called Bettie Page Presents: The Librarian.  In the spring I am publishing an erotic e-serial that is a modern day re-telling of the classic Lady Chatterley’s Lover called Miss Chatterley. I do social media under both names, but it’s getting tough to keep up with that. It’s a lot harder to have a pen name these days for that reason.

Do you belong to a writer’s group?
I don’t. My agent, Adam Chromy, is my creative partner. He is my sounding board, my first reader, and my first editor. We brainstorm and plot together. He is an army of creativity!

Are you a reader?
I’m a compulsive, voracious reader. My favorite thing to do when I’m not writing is to read.  I have family members who think that is crazy – “aren’t you sick of it?” No! Reading is like breathing to me.

Who are/is your favorite author(s)?
Right now, I’m obsessed with Alma Katsu and her “The Taker” trilogy.  The Taker is one of the best books I have read in years. In scope and sheer imagination and edge it reminds me of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour.  I read a lot of thrillers – Daniel Silva and Nelson DeMille. I loved Emily Giffin’s first three or four novels. My all-time favorite is Judith Krantz.

Jamie, thank you for taking the time to tell us about your new novel.
Do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned?
Not yet – I’ll let you know :)

Buy the book here, visit the author's website here.

photo credit: Trevor Laurence

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Release Feature 2-5 The Trouble With Charlie plus Q&A w/Merry Jones

Q&A with Merry Jones
The Trouble With Charlie

Debbie - Merry, welcome to the Barnes & Noble General Fiction forum.

Please tell us a bit about your new novel, The Trouble With Charlie.
Merry - --First of all, thanks for this opportunity to talk about Charlie, who was a hoot to write about.
THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE Harrison is, first of all, that he’s dead.  His soon-to-be-ex-wife Elle finds his body in her home, her kitchen knife in his back, after she’s been out drinking with her friends. 

But death isn’t Charlie’s only issue; he seems reluctant to pass on.  Despite his demise, Elle senses his presence everywhere.  A kiss on the back of her neck.  His aftershave scent wafting through the house.  A rose showing up in various rooms as if moving by itself.  Ultimately, she begins talking with Charlie, as if he’s still around.

Meantime, Elle has to explain both the kitchen knife in Charlie’s back and the gap in her memory surrounding the time of his death.  Under the advice of her buddy Susan Cummings, a defense attorney, she consults a psychiatrist who diagnoses her with a mild dissociative disorder, which means she spaces out from time to time, especially when under stress—a behavior her friends have long noted and dubbed, “pulling an Elle.” This disorder explains her memory lapse, but it doesn’t provide her with an alibi.

Clearly a suspect in Charlie’s murder, Elle tries to prove her innocence, and her investigation reveals even more of Charlie’s troubles.  She discovers his secrets, each of which put her in danger:  Charlie’s obsessed possible girlfriend, whose body Elle finds.  Charlie’s siblings who bear him bitter grudges.  Charlie’s slimy business partner who’s involved in unsavory and shocking schemes.  And Charlie’s cadre of wealthy clients who share twisted, depraved appetites. 

The deeper Elle digs to discover Charlie’s murderer, the more trouble she finds herself in.  And Charlie’s spirit—whether it’s there in fact or merely in her mind—doesn’t make life easier.
            Most of all, THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE is that it’s hard to put down.  It’s a gripping, fun and fast read.
In your bio it says that what you write now is shadowy mysteries. Can you tell us what that is?
--The phrase “shadowy mysteries” tickles me—I like it because, for me, shadows are places hidden from the light.  Places containing secrets and doubt, indefinite objects and shapes, hidden dangers.  I think that shadows also represent some of the scariest situations in life: not being sure what’s real or what’s imagined.  Not being able to trust your own perceptions.  Not knowing whom you can trust or what you’re facing. 

            Elle Harrison, the protagonist in THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, is caught in that “shadow” region.  She doesn’t know who her husband was since he’d kept so many secrets.  She doesn’t know how he died, or (because of her dissociative disorder) even if she killed him herself.  She doesn’t know if Charlie is haunting her or if she’s imagining him.  In some points in the story, she isn’t sure of her own sanity.  For me, this psychological tension—the protagonist’s own mind becoming one of her opponents—is what makes for particularly delicious shadows.

You’ve been writing for many years, it says that you’re now writing a genre that you really love. Has your writing career been a progression to find your niche or passion?
Even as a child, I knew that I wanted to write about the dark side of human nature, and I was drawn to suspense.  But when I started writing books, I was told it would be easier to get a publisher for non-fiction.  My first agent, in fact, urged me not to write fiction; she said it was “almost impossible” to sell to publishers.  So I wrote a couple of non-fiction books, then humor books.  Finally, after six books, I got up the nerve to write what I’d always wanted to: a mystery.  I found a new agent who would take it on—That took a few years.  But it ended up being the first Zoe Hayes book, THE NANNY MURDERS, and the series went on from there.  Another series, the Harper Jennings thrillers, began with SUMMER SESSION. So far, I’ve done nine suspense books, including those two series and, now, THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE.

I like how you describe mystery stories “a safe environment to approach the frightening aspects of life.” I find that very eye-opening as I myself love a good thriller but can not watch one on the big screen. Why do you think this is?
--Haha--I picture you in a movie theater, moaning aloud.  Obviously, I can’t explain exactly why thriller movies bother you as an individual.  But for me, yes, books do provide safe environments for exploring and confronting the darkness, the frightening, the underside of life—Part of that is because books allow the audience not just to see events and action, but also to delve deep into the minds of characters and experience their thoughts and emotions.  This internal reality of characters is very difficult to portray in film—especially action-type thrillers.  So thriller movies often focus on the surface of the plot--the car chases and gun battles—while ignoring the deeper, less visual conflicts faced by the characters.   

You belong to some very established writing organizations. What do these groups bring to you personally?
--Writing by its very nature is an isolating activity.  If you’re a writer, it’s important to connect with others who understand the issues you’re facing in your career.  I am fortunate enough to belong to Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The Authors Guild and the Philadelphia Liars Club.  Online, there are also a number of writing oriented groups I follow.

The human contact with colleagues who share a love of writing and a commitment to this solitary work is in itself a huge benefit.  I’ve been lucky to have made a few dear friends through these organizations.  And there’s been a valuable networking aspect to joining up.  Through these organizations, writers share with and lend support to other writers.  When I needed a new agent, for example, I was able to get references from other mystery writers.  When I was changing publishers, other writers’ shared their experiences with various houses.  Writers share anecdotes about acceptance, rejection, process, craft, self-publishing, marketing, and other aspects of the business.  We invite each other to panel discussions at conferences.  We share sob stories and victories.  We inspire each other, push each other to keep working when it gets tough, celebrate each other’s successes whenever there’s a chance, discuss ideas and opportunities, sometimes collaborate—It’s impossible to list all the benefits of involvement.   

Can you tell us if release day is still as nerve wrecking now as the first time? Or was it ever?
--Not jitters.  Just excitement.  These days, though, books like THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE can be pre-ordered, so that, by the actual release date, I’ve already been pushing its promotion for a while.  But the release date marks the start of focused publicity, so I change hats from writing to marketing.  Instead of nerves, I get a sense of, “Here we go—“ as if I’m climbing on board a bookselling/promoting train—ready for the ride. 

How do you feel about the role of social media in book selling and author selling too?
Well, social media provide endless ways to reach readers and stimulate interest, not only in books, but in everything—from politics to puppies, flash-mobs to medicine.   The problem, from my point of view, is that there are SO many options.  A zillion bloggers, broadcasters, websites, organizations, communities….

            As a writer, it’s possible to spend more time building relationships and creating a social media “brand” that actually writing books.  It’s like quicksand, taking more and more of your time.  And you’re never finished—There is always another guest blog to write, another group to join.  And, even if you post and join from dawn to dusk, it’s not clear that your contributions or posts actually correlate with book sales. 

            For me, social media are best considered as community builders.  I don’t look at them the same way I look at advertising or marketing.  I look at them as methods of connecting to others and creating relationships over time. 

Merry thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Good luck with your new novel. Do you have any B&N signings or events planned?
I participate in the Liars Club coffeehouses at the Willow Grove Barnes and Noble, the last Sunday of every month, 12-3 pm.  Authors can sign afterwards, but it’s not a formal signing.  As of now, I haven’t set up other signings, but I’m working on them. 
            Thanks again!  All best, MJ
Buy the book here, visit the author's website here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Interview with Katherine Howe and review of The House of Velvet and Glass


Monday starts the month long discussion of The House of Velvet and Glass on the B&N.com General Fiction forum with Katherine Howe visiting to chat, answer questions etc...
So to set you up for it please enjoy an interview she gave me.

Interview with Katherine Howe
The House of Velvet and Glass

Debbie - Katherine, welcome to the General Fiction forum.
Katherine - Thank you, Debbie. I’m so excited to be back on the boards at Barnes and Noble. Thanks for inviting me, and for taking the time to read and discuss The House of Velvet and Glass.

You are not new to the forums at B&N, tell us how your experience with FirstLook was.
Well, to begin with, it was terrifying. First Look, as you know, was a special program that allowed B&N readers to get advance copies of novels and discuss them before they’ve even been officially published. I was a first time novelist, so First Look was the first time that anyone would be reading my work other than my agent, publisher, friends, and husband.  I was worried about letting this weird story that had been living in my head for the past several years emerge into the harsh light of the real world.
In the end, my terror was unfounded, because I found the First Look community to be incredibly warm, welcoming, inquisitive, and engaged with what I was trying to do with The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I loved being able to observe quietly while people read and responded to the book, and to then jump into the discussion during the author participation period. First Look really gave me the feeling that I was part of a community of fiction lovers, and I felt an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who participated. That gratitude has since evolved into a sense of responsibility.

Tell us what inspired you to write The House of Velvet and Glass.
I’m particularly interested in time periods in which life for regular people is in rapid transition. I was attracted to the 1910s for a long time, in part because we have this specific, Gatsby-esque mental image of the 1920s, and we have a very particular conception of Victorian life, but I think we forget that those eras occurred right next to each other, and the same people lived through both. Sibyl Allston, the protagonist of The House of Velvet and Glass, has been brought up to live a cloistered bourgeois life in Victorian Boston, but when her family is shaken to the core by the sinking of Titanic, Sibyl finds herself standing at the cusp of the twentieth century, with all the changes that will entail. The story really concerns Sibyl’s struggle to figure out who she is going to be in this new era, when the rules of society, gender roles, family, and belief are all being completely rewritten in ways she never imagined.

When you were researching for the novel did anything really shock or surprise you?
Two things really shocked me while researching The House of Velvet and Glass. The first was how mainstream the Spiritualist movement was in the 1910s. I knew it was still practiced, but I didn’t realize that séances were advertised in the newspaper right alongside main line church services. Harry Houdini actually built a large part of his reputation by debunking famous mediums in the 1910s. When Sibyl Allston tries to reach her mother and sister through a medium, she is doing something completely normal for her time and place.  
The second surprise was how widespread opiate use was before the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, which was part of the same Progressive reform movement as the law that resulted in Prohibition six years later. Before that, everyone used opiates, all the time, for everything. Opiates were in nerve tonic, opiates were in syrup for “feminine complaints.” Opiates were in teething medicine for babies! I was interested that a period of time so in thrall to technology –  automobiles, the telephone, the first movies, photography – would also have been in thrall to a substance that changes one’s perception of reality, and brings on vivid dreams.

It’s timely that the novel released on the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Was this planned?
The timing of the release wound up being a happy accident. The House of Velvet and Glass, like Downton Abbey (to my shock, by the way, when I first watched Downton Abbey! I felt like Julian Fellowes had been reading my email in secret) opens with the sinking of the Titanic, and concerns one family’s unique journey in the aftermath of the ultimate Progressive-era disaster. But I had started working on the novel back in 2007, and it was initially scheduled for publication in 2011. I didn’t even think about the fact that the Titanic centennial was coming up until my writing pace meant that the book would appear in 2012. And even then, it was a scramble to release it that week. If you come across any Advance Reader Copies of The House of Velvet and Glass, you will see that they say the book is scheduled for publication on May 1, 2012. It came out on April 12.

How was writing The House of Velvet and Glass different than, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane how was it the same?
In one sense, it was a little easier, since I already knew that I would be able to write a novel. When I started working on The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I had no idea if I’d be able to do it or not. But with The House of Velvet and Glass, I knew what my method looked like, and had confidence that I could finish. In another sense, though, it was much more difficult. First, because I was traveling to support Physick Book so extensively that my time was hard to manage, but beyond that, the writing was difficult because I was holding myself to a higher standard. I felt responsible to the readers who had enjoyed Physick Book, and wanted very much to give them another story that they would enjoy.

Both your novels are Historical Fiction. What is it about this genre that speaks to you?
Maybe it’s because I’m trained as a historian, but I enjoy thinking my way into characters who live and operate under very different constraints from our own. I also enjoy learning how different periods of time fit together, and inform each other. Physick Book, for instance, is primarily about the Salem witch crisis of 1692, but spans all the way from the 1680s to the 1760s and into the 1990s, following women characters who have much in common, but are constrained differently by their time. The House of Velvet and Glass takes place in a time that looks very much like our own, with cars and subways and telephones and electric light, but which operated under a very different set of understandings and assumptions about how the world works. I’m interested in what it feels like to live in a different world from our own.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’m nearly done with a novel that I’m tentatively calling Conversion, about a teenage girl, Colleen Rowley, at a prep school in Danvers, Massachusetts who sees some of her popular classmates fall mysteriously ill. The school assures everyone that they’re on top of the cause, but Colleen starts to suspect that the school isn’t telling the truth, and goes looking for the answer in another incident of teenage girls falling mysteriously ill in Danvers 300 years in the past. It’s inspired by the real-life case of a “mystery illness” that befell some teenage girls in Le Roy, New York last spring. I’m keeping a public Pinterest board of brainstorms about the new book, called “What’s Happening to the Girls at St. Joan’s?” in case anyone wants to spy on me while I work.

Are you a reader?
Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Who is/are your favorite author(s)?
I like both fiction and non-fiction, though when I’m researching or drafting I tend to read things that aren’t very current. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Rudyard Kipling ghost stories, in part because I’m scheming up a ghost story of my own. My favorite author is Edith Wharton, her stories of Old New York. I find her observation of character and setting and her awareness of the subtle signals of class and social constraint to be masterful.
Katherine, thank you again for being a part of our little group. We all look forward to reading, discussing and chatting about the novel and all kinds of things.
It’s my pleasure! Thank you so much for having me, and I look forward to the discussion.
Also, I want to mention that I’m easily kept up with on Facebook, as Katherine Howe, on Twitter as @katherinebhowe, and on the web at www.katherinehowe.com
And I’ve finally learned how to have a newsletter, which will only announce new releases and nothing else, and will not share emails for any reason. Write to connieandarlo@gmail.com

Buy the hardback here, the paperback here and visit the author's website here.

 My review of The House of Velvet and Glass

The House of Velvet and Glass
Katherine Howe
Voice-Harper Collins
432 pages

What’s left of the Allston family of Boston’s Back Bay is still reeling from the loss of Matriarch Helen and youngest child Eulah who had the misfortune of being on the Titanic. Each remaining member is dealing with the loss and going about life in their own way. Sybil, the oldest has taken over running the house and furthering her spinster lifestyle, but it’s in the séance parlor of Miss Dee where she finds the most solace and closest to her lost family as she deals with the guilt she can’t seem to shed and knows that speaking of it to her stoic father Captain Lan Allston does no good. In the midst of all this it seems her younger brother Harlan has gotten himself kicked out of school, returned home only to get into deeper trouble. The troubles with Harlan also brings back an old family friend of the Allston’s, Benton Derby who was once much more to Sybil than just a friend and who is now in the position as a professor to help Harlan back in the classroom and out of trouble, but the complications continue as Harlan’s paramour Dovie arrives on the scene. Sybil joins forces with Ben to help her wayward brother but also turns to her faith in the occult for succor which has she and Ben butting heads. And as they seek answers journeying through the mystical psychic world they find only more questions and deeper puzzles, and some of those puzzles are leading back to a deep dark family secret.

Katherine Howe burst on the literary scene with her debut novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and now brings us another blockbuster in The House of Velvet and Glass. She took me on board the Titanic, through the streets of Shanghai and the elegant and eclectic Boston of early 20th century America and as she did so I could see in my mind’s eye the scenes, the people and the happenings around them. As she spun her tale of misfortune and of catastrophe she showed me also the lengths that we will go to find comfort, she showed me the strength it takes to go on in the light of loss and she once again went into the preternatural world and did it with aplomb. She introduced me to some amazing characters that will stay with me for a long time with Sybil, Ben and the Captain leading the cast but not foreshadowing her co-stars, Harlan and Dovie and finally her cameo appearances by Helen and Eulah and we can’t forget Baiji. Her narrative is all reminiscent of the era she’s portraying and done beautifully and vividly expressive with such attention to detail that her research is obvious not only in the industrial miracles of the times but also the costume and attitudes brought out in her characters. And finally this is a love story, of familial love and romantic love, it’s a story of the right thing to do in the face of opposition and the love of oneself.
If you’re a fan of historical literature, family drama, or just a great story this is a novel you should read. If you like just a little woo-woo with your big dose of reality you’ll also find what you’re looking for between the pages of this novel.
Ms. Howe thank you for another wonderful all expenses paid trip with your wonderful storytelling and imagination and I can’t wait for the next one.