Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Loaded Questions: "Keeping the House" Author Ellen Barker

Keeping House by Ellen Baker
July, 2007 - 544 pages - $24.95

Keeping the House is the story of one family living in a small Wisconsin town. The primary drive of the story are the arrivals of two brides to the city of Pine Rapids. In 1896, fresh out of college, Wilma arrives, a bride-to-be for a man she's not yet met and promptly falls in love with the wrong man -- the brother of the man she's supposed to Mary. The other, Dolly Magnuson arrives in 1950. Unlike Willma, Dolly arrives having already married the man she wanted to desperately. The remainder of the book follows the forward and audacious Dolly into like as a house wife as she reclaims the family house that has not been lived in.

Ellen Baker has written a very good first novel which, she has informed me just today, has been selected by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Best Books of 2007. Ellen has been helpful and kind throughout this process, I would definitely recommend this books.

Kelly Hewitt: Your book, Keeping the House, takes place in a town called Pine Rapids -- a small town in Wisconsin. Your bio says that you lived in a number of states: Minnesota, Illinois, South Dakota and Wisconsin. What lead you to choose Wisconsin for a setting and not one of the other states you've lived in?

Ellen Baker: I started writing about some of the characters who ended up in Keeping the House – the Mickelson family – the summer after my junior year of college. I had just moved to a new area of Wisconsin for a summer job and I was fascinated by its uniqueness; I ultimately wrote a whole novel about the family spending a summer there in 1919. I had always imagined that the family’s year-round home was in central Wisconsin. Some years later, when I decided to shelve that novel and expand the family’s story to span fifty years, I found that most of the action needed to be set in that year-round home, so Pine Rapids grew from just an idea of a place on the map to a “real” little town, modeled after several of the towns in that area of Wisconsin. (The family’s summer home in Stone Harbor, Wisconsin, does show up in a couple of scenes in Keeping the House, too.)

Kelly: Keeping the House is story that spans a total of three generations and two World Wars. How did your background as a WW II museum curator help when writing the segments of the book?

Ellen: The veterans I met while I was working at the museum were the greatest help to my writing. By interviewing them about their experiences and just talking with them on a daily basis, I was able to come to understand their attitudes, values, mindsets, and the times they lived through. I’ve been so gratified to hear some (age 60 and under) readers comment that reading Keeping the House has helped them to understand their own parents and/or grandparents better than they ever were able to before. Also extremely gratifying are the comments from the 85-year-old readers who say, “You got it exactly right!”

Kelly: I have to say that your website is pretty amazing. There are some really great Keeping the House resources. Can you tell our readers a bit about what sorts of things they can find there?

Ellen: You’ll find the first chapter of Keeping the House, discussion questions (for your book group!), the “story behind the book” and an essay on writing (describing my writing process and how Keeping the House came to be), a Mickelson family tree to click on for more information about each of the characters, and reviews of the book. There’s also a “bookshelf,” where I write about books I’ve read and loved lately, a listing of all my events and appearances, a place to send me email, and a “letters” page with something new from me each month. Then there’s a page of some of the great 1950s recipes mentioned in Keeping the House (no, I haven’t tried making any of them myself…) and, of course, bunches of links so you can choose your favorite retailer and buy Keeping the House!

Kelly: Dolly Magnuson is a great character. A brand new bride in a small town she's striving to be the ideal woman and the perfect wife. That's not where Dolly ends, when she discovers an abandoned house the reader sees just how determined and insatiable she can be. Is there anyone in your life that you draw on as an inspiration for this character?

Ellen: No, not really. I actually had written much of the Mickelsons’ story before Dolly ever came on the scene, so when she did (with the purpose of being the person to whom the story was going to be told) I knew I needed a character who would be, as you say, determined and insatiable. Sometimes characters take a long time to become “real” in my mind, but Dolly seemed full and real right from the start. I had been working with the Mickelsons for something like eight years before Dolly showed up; within a year the book was done. The entire time I was writing about her I thought she was nothing like me; after I was done, I realized she’s the most like me of any of the characters, though she is a bit more foolishly brave than I am! (I would never break into anyone’s house, for example, even if the door was unlocked…)

Kelly: Do you do a lot of personal reading? What was the last book you read?

Ellen: Yes, I read all the time, usually one or two novels a week, and an occasional non-fiction book (memoir or history, usually). While writing Keeping the House, I was also working part-time as a bookseller, which was great; I loved getting excited about a book and telling everyone they just had to read it! The last book I read was Songs Without Words by Ann Packer, which I thought was quite wonderful. (To see my interview with Ann Packer, author of Songs Without Words, click here.)

Kelly: I read that you have worked as a costumed living history interpreter, it sounds really interesting. What does that entail?

Ellen: I’ve worked at two different living history jobs. The first was at a working 1850 farm (“The Homeplace”) on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, where I dressed in an 1850s farmwife costume and, along with a “family” of other interpreters, demonstrated the lifestyle of that place and time. The men grew tobacco and tended animals (oxen, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens) and the women mostly stayed at the house and cooked, gardened, and did handwork. Our first job was to “interpret” what we were doing to any tourists/visitors, but there were some quiet, cold autumn afternoons when we’d sit by the fire knitting and gossiping for hours without interruption. I learned how to cook full meals on a woodstove, quilt by hand, make candles and sauerkraut and sausage, and knit mittens. At this site we did “third-person” interpretation so I was always myself, a college graduate from Minnesota/Wisconsin, so, although I was dressed in costume, I could speak comfortably about what “people would have done” in 1850. (One of the most memorable comments I received: “You wouldn’t have nice teeth like that, if you really were living in 1850.”) My next living history job was at Historic Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. This job involved “first-person” interpretation, which is a bit like acting, but without a script. You have to internalize the lifestyle and speak as though you are really living it. The male interpreters were soldiers and officers and the women portrayed laundresses (who were lower class wives of enlisted men) or officer’s wives. One of the characters I remember portraying was Mrs. Green, an officer’s wife whose only child had recently died. After talking about my dead son all day, I would feel quite melancholy, even after I changed into my modern clothes and hopped into my car to drive home. I’m sure that “living” in other times and places helped me in my writing in terms of being able to fully imagine characters’ lives and emotions.

Kelly: I also read some of the reviews by your readers and, predictably, they are already waiting for another novel. Have you already begun work on your second novel? What can your readers expect?

Ellen: Yes, I’m working on my next historical novel. It will be a bit similar to Keeping the House in terms of some of the themes it deals with – war, memory, identity, love, history, family secrets. But it’s going to be quite different in terms of the problems the women characters are dealing with. Rather than housewives, they’re farmers, artists, and World War II shipbuilders.

Kelly: Keeping the House is your first published novel. Have you written other novels before this book?

Ellen: Yes, three of them. They are happily at home in my closet.

Kelly: I am always interested to hear about how first time authors get their books printed. What as the process of getting Keeping the House into print like?

Ellen: I sent out query letters to agents, got an agent within about six months, and within about two weeks she had sold my book to Random House. It was amazing! I don’t want to make it sound like it was easy, though. I’d worked and worked on rewriting prior to even starting to submit anywhere, which I’m sure made a huge difference as far as minimizing the amount of rejection that I had to face. Plus, I’d experienced plenty of rejection with my earlier novels; that coupled with reading many, many recently published novels showed me how far I needed to go with my writing to reach the goal of getting published.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Buy the Book: A Holiday Gift Guide Part One

There's not a lot of time left to get all that holiday shopping done! Can you believe it? Here's a gift guide that will help you make some of those tough gift decisions. I've drawn from all of the books that I've talked about the last twelve months, read and inspected all of the books publishers have sent, scoured publisher catalogs, and turned my personal library upside down to find what this book junkie thinks are the best books to give as gifts this year. In order to make things easier I have linked each of the mentioned books to their page on Amazon, simply click and order! Your purchases help support this site.

Here are some of the books that are excellently written, have received critical praise, and have sold well. These are standout books that would be perfect for anyone on your gift list.

A Free Life by Ha Jin

This novel, written by the exceedingly talented Ha Jin - winner of the National Book Award and other prizes, centers around Nan Wu. Nan is a Chinese immigrant, having come to the US in order to study. Wu is a graduate student headed for a PhD in political sciences. But everything changes after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in which countless numbers of protesting students were killed. Nan, feeling distraught, about the blatant oppression of democracy in his native country drops out of school, no longer wanting anything to do with politics. A Free Life follows the events that take place in the life of Nan Wu, his wife Pingping and son Taotao as a result of Nan's decision to end his education and his subsequent struggles to support his family and follow his dreams. Wu discovers his love of the English language and finds himself flying through books of poetry. Wu's ultimate dream is to write a work of fiction in order to fully embrace the language of his native country and to regain the passions he finds that he has lost along the way.

The other aspect that makes this book so interesting and powerful is fact that Ha Jin himself is a Chinese immigrant to the United States, determined to study the English language and express himself. Only twelve years after Ha Jin begins studying English does he win the National Book Award. You can feel the passion and depth in the main character of this book, Nan Wu because of the fact that Jin understands the characters, can deeply identify with Wu's struggles. Ha Jin has become one of the most powerful voices in American literature in just a few short years. This book is a great gift for anyone interested in the struggles to overcome, those who have a similar love for the English language and writing, as well as those who have interest in the politics of China and the cultural revolution taking place there.

Other Titles: Waiting, War Trash, Under the Red Flag,
The Bridegroom: Stories
, Wreckage, Ocean of Words: Army Stories

I will be doing an interview with Ha Jin the coming weeks. If there are questions you'd like me to ask or ideas you'd like to share for the interview be sure to email me with Loaded Questions in the title or reply to this message.

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

This novel by Canadian novelist Lawrence Hill is both stunning and astonishing. The book spans the life of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. The novel opens in 1802, as Aminata is wooed in London to the cause of British abolitionists, and begins reflecting on her life. Kidnapped at the age of 11 by British slavers, Aminata survives the Middle Passage and is reunited in South Carolina with Chekura, a boy from a village near hers. Her story gets entwined with his, and with those of her owners. During her long life of struggle, she does what she can to free herself and others from slavery, including learning to read and teaching others to, and befriending anyone who can help her, black or white. Hill has just what it takes to write a novel with such tension and hardship and has done a great job of pacing to book so that the reader is never left waiting. I appreciate this book a lot because it provides readers with a positive literary figure who, while living through events and conditions no human should be subject to, survives, intelligent and ardent.

Other Titles: Any Known Blood

I will also be doing an interview with Lawrence Hill in the near future. If you have suggestions or questions you'd like me to ask be sure to email or reply to this message.

The Pirate's Daughter
by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

This is another one of the great books that has come out in the last year. The Pirate's Daughter centers around two women whose lives are permanently connected no matter where life takes them. We follow the lives of Ida and her
daughter May. Ida, growing up on a small island near Jamaica, experiences a very fantasical sequence of events at the age of thirteen.the wrong direction, Hollywood heartthrob, socialite, and all around eccentric, Errol Flynn lands on the shores of the small island where Ida lived. Flynn, who becomes a friend of Ida's father who takes her to visit Flynn on Navy Island, the nearby island the star had purchased. As a result of Flynn's arrival Ida's life changes drastically, the most prominent result his her daughter May, the bastard child of the Hollywood star.

This story doesn't center around Flynn but focuses rather on the lives of Ida and May. Flynn purchases the island he landed on and uses it for posh Hollywood parties. The remainder of the story follows Ida who finds herself married and seperated from her daughter while May grows up without much parental support on Navy Island, the island owned by her father. The Pirate's Daughter is a multi-faceted story about two strong women who strive to survive despite the fact that they are colored women living in a male-dominated world. May, who appears at times to be out of control, ends up being a woman of compassion, is fierce, and entirely loyal. This book is a great gift for anyone drawn to the glamor and glitz of the sparkling Jamaican Islands, it deals with issues of identity and belonging, race and class, and the relationship between a mother and a daughter.

Other Titles: The True History of Paradise

Sometimes the best gift is a good laugh. Here I've selected some of the funnies books to have come out this year. You'll end up a hit with friends when you present to the a hilarious title. Plus -- you get to read, skim, and laugh before your wrap the book. Funny gifts will prove to friends that you have a sense of humor, even if you don't.

A Year of Living Biblically:
e Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
by A.J. Jacobs

I like AJ, I also really like this book. A.J. Jacobs isn't particularly religious. But he decides to find out what it would be like to live by all of the commandments of the Bible for one year. The result is a book that is hilarious, ironic, and inevitably insightful. Jacobs travels too, heading out to visit others who live strictly by the rules, visiting Samaritans in Israel, snake handlers in Appalachia, Amish in Lancaster County, Pa., and biblical creationists in Kentucky.

I turns out the the rules of the Bible are kind of hard, if not impossible to live by! There are restriction in clothing, mandatory cricket eating, and the practice of the ten-string harp. Did you just read crickets? Yes -- you did.

This is a great book for anyone with a sense of humor and maybe even those who don't! What I like is that Jacobs takes this serious, he does a great deal of research and studying -- learning about the different types of Bibles and ends up consulting dozens. Its a fun book and its what Christmas is all about, right?

Other Titles: The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

The Dog Says How by Kevin Kling

The author of this book, Kevin Kling, is fascinating guy. Kling is the kind of author who writes about the absurdity of the human experience. The Dog Says How is a small book full of a series of short stories from Kling's life. They range from dramatically funny, when the author writes about a motorcycle accident that nearly took his life to the light, funny and random, a story in which Kevin recounts the large number of men in his family that have been struck by lightening. Apparently its a rite of passage and, Kevin writes, some members of the family have experienced lightening strikes on more than one occasion. We chatted not long ago in an interview when he informed me that his mother had recently been shocked via the television. She was happy, he said, and called to tell him that she was officially a member of the family. Click here to view the entire interview with Kevin Kling. Kling is most certainly funny, he has spent the last couple of year working as a correspondent for "All Things Considered" on NPR. One of his fans writes that Kevin's quirk contributions to NPR are "pull over the car and listen" moments.

Kevin Kling's The Dog Says How is a perfect stocking stuffer gift or a perfect little gift for a friend who enjoys funny and quirky short stories that are perfect for reading while waiting in the lobby of the doctor's office, or on the bus, right before bed. This book is highly recommended.

On his website there’s this quote that I really like. When talking about his writing Kevin says: "I have a small command of the English language so I try to make each word a hero." I like that.

The Book of Vices:
ery Naughty Things (And How to Do Them)
By Peter Sagal

The moment I picked this book up I realized that it was ingenious and that I didn't want to put it down. Author, Peter Sagal, is the host of NPR's hilarious weekly radio game show, Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! which discusses funny and sometimes absurd news from the week. I am an avid listener and so was familar with Peter Sagal when I heard him talking about his new book with Terry Gross, also of NPR. The very basis of Sagal's book is that we as Americans are obsessed what kind of secret fun those around us are having -- worried and sometimes jealous that someone else may be enjoying themselves a little bit more than we are. Sagal's book aims at scratching that itch and I must say from reading the book myself, scratching never felt so good or was this funny. Straight-laced Sagal marches earnestly into the playgrounds involved in some of America's seedy vices.

It is important to understand that, while adult sex clubs and swap parties may have been played out by the media and aren't really all that fun anymore, the real humor comes from Sagal's studious and genuine responses to the situations he finds himself in. I am thinking of the beginning of the book in which Sagal takes his wife to a swinger's club, entering that underground world with what feels like very little information about what will unfold. It is Sagal's keen eye and honest inquisitiveness that makes The Book of Vices so funny. Another instance, often quoted, occurs when Sagal has spent the day on the set of a pornography being filmed for Spice TV. "I began to appreciate," he writes, "how very well Evan and Kelly did their work."

This is a great gift idea but not for the easily offended. Sagal's responses, ability to jump right in, and respectful reserve not to point fingers or speak ill of those he encounters make this one of the funniest, most interesting books of the year.

Other Titles: Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! Audiobook

I am a history nerd. After having done Loaded Questions for two years I decided in the last six months that I ought to be featuring and interviewing some of the great authors out there writing quality fiction. There's always a history book or two on my reading table. Here are just a few of some of the really great titles that have come out this year. Stay tuned for more interviews with talented history authors.

Henry the VIII's Last Victim:
The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
by Jessie Childs

This book just came out in the United States a few days ago but has been available in the UK for the last year. I started chatting with Jessie a few months ago, she's a really great lady. Henry VIII's Last Victim was a proposal for the 2001 Biographer's Club/Daily Mail Prize. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey is known to history for a few honors, some dubious. Henry was first and foremost a poet, Childs writes that Henry's verse and poetry had a lasting impact on both Shakespeare and the English Renaissance. Some of the more dubious claims to fame? Well Henry Howard was the first cousin to two of of King Henry VIII's wives both of whom were beheaded for various crimes of treason. The other interesting thing to note about Henry Howard is that he was, quite literally, the last person to be executed by the order King Henry VIII. The book contends that king signed Henry Howard's death warrant while in the final throws of his own death. In a real bit of irony, Henry Howard's father the Duke of Norfolk, also intended to be executed by royal order, was spared only because Henry VIII died before he could sign the warrant.
As a Tudor historian myself I have to say that this is quite a good popular history biography. Childs shows no signs of bias, reporting about Henry Howard and his enemies with equal attentativeness, without taking sides. It is important to note that Childs hasn't just written a book about Henry Howard's scandalous demise, she delves into the academic background of Henry Howard looking at his writings and scholarly work. The author also looks at Howard's military service and his role as a noble aristocrat. This is a great gift for the history buff in your family, because there has been so little written about Henry Howard you can count on the fact that your history lover doesn't have a pile of books about him. This biography is also a great way to learn more about Henry VII, Anne Boleyn, and other giants of English history because Henry Howard crossed paths with them all. I very much recommend this book.

The Far Traveler: The Voyages of a Viking Woman
By Nancy Marie Brown

While most medieval women didn't stray far from home, the Viking Gudrid (985–1050) probably crossed the North Atlantic eight times, Nancy Marie Brown writes in The Far Traveler. Gudrid wasn't just along for the ride, Brown believes that Gudrid served as an explorer on two different expeditions to the North American continent. Gudrid, Brown writes may have gone on expeditions with two of her husbands, one of which was the brother of Leif Ericson, who discovered America 500 years before Columbus.

Brown searches for information about Gudred by looking at medieval Icelandic sagas which recount that her father, a chieftain with money problems, refused to wed Gudrid to a rich but slave-born merchant; instead he swapped their farm for a ship and a new life in Greenland. Specifics about her life are sparse, so Brown, following in Gudrid's footsteps, explores the archeology of her era, including the splendid burial ships of Viking queens; the remains of Gudrid's longhouse in a northern Icelandic hayfield; the economy of the farms where she lived; and the technology of her time, including shipbuilding, spinning wool and dairying. This is a great book for anyone interested in history, offering a very indepth look into the Icelandic medieval world and literature. Give The Far Traveler to the history buff on your list who has an interest in New World exploration, women's history, and sleuthing the past.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Free Giveaway and Loaded Questions with "Signed, Mata Hari" author, Yannick Murphy

Dear Loaded Questions Readers,

The response to the first giveaway, featuring Lauren Willig's Seduction of the Crimson Rose, was really great. When I told a few publishers about the giveaway and how well Loaded Questions readers had responded they were more than happy to send along a few books for our next giveaway. This one is particularly exciting, introducing our Signed, Mata Hari Book Giveaway! We are not offering just one Advanced Reader Copy, but five brand new hardback copies of Yannick Murphy's Signed, Mata Hari. Why this book? Yannick Murphy's new novel I have been reading it and enjoying it quite a bit.

Contest Details: Getting yourself entered in the giveaway is easy! There are two ways:

1. See the box in the left margin of the blog? It says "Subscribe to Loaded Questions with Kelly Hewitt". This is a great way to receive email updates whenever new posts are made to Loaded Questions. Enter your email address in order to sign yourself up for the service. You will receive an email verifying you request to be signed up. It's as easy as that. Once you have signed up, your email address will automatically entered in the contest! Already signed up this way for a previous contest? Read Option #2.

2. Reply to this thread. This is an easy option, click the reply button and write a little something -- introduce yourself, share your favorite author or book with the rest of us, anything will do. Once you have written a reply and provided your email you are entered in the contest! This is also the best option to enter in the contest for those of you who have already signed up for the email list in the past.

Note: Those who are frequent readers are encouraged to continue to sign up for Loaded Questions giveaways! If you have entered one of our giveaways before you must do one of the above listed in order to be re-entered for the Signed Mata Hari Giveaway.

The final day to enter in the contest is December 30th, 2007. The contest winner will be announced on January 1st, 2008!

Good luck!

Below is a synopsis of the book and exclusive interview with the author.

Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy
November, 2007 - 288 pages - $23.99

Signed, Mata Hari is a fictional novel by Yannick Murphy that follows the life of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, the woman who reinvented herself to become Mata Hari. Margaretha, born in the Netherlands in 1876, went on to married a Dutch naval officer named Rudolf MacLeod and moved to Java. Margaretha moved to Paris, France where she worked as a circus horse rider named Lady MacLeod. In 1905, however, she changed her name to Mata Hari, which translated to "Eye of the Day". Mata Hari quickly became a famed exotic dancer and began to work as a courtesan to wealthy and powerful men from Russia, France, and German. In other words, this is a fascinating woman whose life was full of intrigue, secrets and transformation.

Kelly Hewitt: Margaretha Zelle, the woman who would later become the famed exotic dancer Mata Hari is a fascinating historical figure that has been portrayed in movies, on television, and in books. What was it that drew you to write about Mata Hari?

Yannick Murphy: If you had asked me who Mata Hari was before I had the idea to write about her, I would have been able to tell you that she was a dancer and a spy, but I wouldn’t have been able to give you specifics. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you which country she had spied for. I wouldn’t have even been able to tell you which world war her acts of espionage encompassed. So when I read a short article published in Smithsonian Magazine that provided a few details, my interest was peaked. I wanted to learn what the rest of her life had been like.

Kelly: What was your research process before writing Signed, Mata Hari like? What periods of Mata Hari’s life did you feel more important to study?

Yannick: I didn’t set out to research only one aspect of her life, and I didn’t feel as if one period of her life were more important than the other to study. The more I read about her, the more I knew it was going to be an exciting book to write. I was curious to see if my writing process could clue me in as to what events occurred in life that eventually had her facing a firing squad.

Kelly: History tells us that Mata Hari was eventually executed by a French firing squad at the age of forty-one because she was believed to have been a spy for Germany. It has been discussed and argued by a number of historians over the years who are unsure of Mata Hari’s guilt. What is your stance? Do you believe that Mata Hari was a double spy?

Yannick: My gut feeling is that Mata Hari did involve herself in some spying. Whether or not she did it for money or intrigue is anyone’s guess.I’d like to say that she dabbled in it. Dabbled doesn’t sound like a weighty enough word to describe an act of espionage that gets you shot, but I can imagine that Mata Hari’s own perception of her involvement could be described in that manner and that she might have even used the word “dabble”.

Kelly: I read on your website that you have had some good news lately about the upcoming publication of a children’s book Baby Polar. What can you tell us about this title?

Yannick: Baby Polar is about a polar bear who one day loses his mother in a blinding storm; don’t worry, he’s eventually reunited with her. The story illustrates to little ones that even though they may sometimes be afraid, they will eventually find some comfort, and in this case it’s the comfort of the warm Polar mama who when Baby Polar stands between her legs feels as if he’s standing protected in a warm cave, hearing the beating of her strong polar heart.

Originally, I wanted to illustrate the plight of polar bears since they are losing their ice floes from which they hunt due to global warming. In effect, I wanted to send a message. The idea, though, did not resonate enough with the everyday lives of children, so I changed it. No one likes to be lectured. I’m hoping that children who read the book will be able to relate to it and become enchanted with polar bears and feel a natural desire when they grow up to preserve the habitat in which they live and in which we live.

Kelly: Which do you prefer more, writing fiction novels or children’s books?

Yannick: I don’t prefer writing one or the other. A different kind of energy goes into writing children’s books than novels, but they are both challenging. With children’s books I always have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have to describe every action or detail, and that I should leave a lot of that up to the illustrator.

Kelly: Signed, Mata Hari has an interesting format. It consists of short chapters that often have different narratives. How did you come to write the book in this manner?

Yannick: I’ve always been drawn to the short form. I like how quickly I can get in and get out with a story and to see how much of a kick in the teeth I can deliver in a short time frame.Writing Mata Hari in short reveries was just a natural progression that developed from my fascination with the short form. The short chapters with different narratives created form and structure for the novel. It gave it its own kind of dynamic effect, as if there were a little engine running on every page, keeping me going, keeping me anxious to see what turns the story would take next.

Kelly: Signed, Mata Hari is a historical fiction but your other titles, The Sea of Trees and Here They Come don’t really fall into one particular category. Is there a particular genre of fiction that you feel you fit into as an author?

Yannick: I hope I don’t ever fall into writing a particular genre of fiction, that would mean some kind of death for me. I like knowing that, in the future, I’ll write about whatever strikes me. As a writer I like knowing that I can still surprise myself, because if I can do that, then I know I have the power to surprise you, the reader, as well.

Kelly: Is there a genre that you haven’t written in yet but would like to?

Yannick: I’ve written short stories, essays, plays, screenplays, novels and children’s books. I’ve never written poetry, and I’m curious to see if one day in my life I’ll feel compelled to write it. Right now, though, I see poetry as one of the most difficult forms. How can one say so much in so few words and make every sentence an event? Maybe one day, though, I will take on the challenge.

Kelly: I really enjoyed this book and think that there are plenty others out there who will really like it as well. And so I ask on behalf of all my readers, what can we expect your next novel to be about?

Yannick: I’m working on a novel about a young woman during the Mexican Revolution.

Friday, December 7, 2007

We Have a Winner Folks!

I emailed our winner Katie to let her know about the prize, she had this to say. "I was walking through a bookstore one day when the Pink Carnation caught my eye. I was hooked on the first page and haven't been able to put the books down since. Witty and comical, they are the perfect blend of history and romance!" Thanks for entering Katie and enjoy the book!

I want to take a moment to thank the more than 150 readers who entered in the Seduction of the Crimson Rose Giveaway at Loaded Questions! The response garnered from readers makes it clear just how important Lauren Willig's The Seduction of the Crimson Rose is AND that giveaways are a pretty good thing! I owe a thanks to Lauren Willig and the folks over at Dutton who unwittingly sent me more than one copy. I am happy that I can share this great book from a wonderful author with the readers of Loaded Questions.

Want to know more about our next big giveaway? It's the holidays and I can't bear to keep you waiting. Look for the next post and happy holidays.
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