Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Author Interview: Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay's Dear Mr. Knightley is one of my favourite books of the year. Bar none. I knew immediately I had found a kindred spirit as DMK reminded me immediately of Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster and The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery ( you all know that is a fav of mine).  Katherine and I began having little chats on FB and then the book was released and I realized EVERYONE ELSE WAS DYING OF LOVE for DMK too!  My official review is posted on Breakpoint and  here is a Q and A Katherine Reay was kind enough to take part in :-)

And note: this is by far far NOT another Jane Austen pastiche. So don't you worry about having to read Knightley's secret diaries---capiche? capiche.
And another note: I AM SO PEEVED I never got the chance to meet her for REAL at ACFW --- rats! next year

Find her on Facebook

1.) Epistolary novels. Few and far between these days. What were some of the challenges of writing in this format? Some of the pleasures?

You are so right. It’s a highly under-appreciated form and keeping DMK in letters was my greatest challenge. Everyone who read it said it was “too tough,” and “wouldn’t sell.” Thomas Nelson never said that. *cheer* Now I will admit, a final edit change compelled me to write that last section outside a letter – great symbolism there – and it worked for Sam’s journey.

As for the pleasures – every writer should attempt at least one epistolary novel. They are so fun! Letters are unique – the reader almost feels like it presents a first person view, but it does not. It’s even better. There’s a delicious layer we see that Sam can’t – there is what she is willing to tell Mr. Knightley, what she tries to withhold and how she interprets events – any or all of which can look to different to us than to her. The epistolary format allowed me to really explore Sam’s limited perspective and twist it about occasionally. I especially loved playing with Mr. Knightley’s anonymity, Josh’s subtle selfishness and Professor Muir’s feistiness.

2.) Daddy Long Legs obviously informs Dear Mr. Knightley in lovely homage. Can you tell us about your reading experience with that--and some of your other favourite novels?

I fell in love with Daddy Long Legs when I was about twelve and never let it go. Other favorites? Obviously Austen – all of them. I admit Catherine Moreland bugged me for years, but we’ve reconciled and I call her a friend now. I also have a fantasy side to my personality, a mystery side, a non-fiction bent, a… I love to read. Tough to pin me down.

3.) What's next in the pipeline?

Lizzy and Jane is next and it’s in the editing process right now. It will be out next fall and I’m so excited. Lizzy had more humor and confidence available to her than Sam did. But she’s got some struggles ahead of her as well – can’t make life too easy on her.

This story has all the big guns: sisters, conflict, food, Jane Austen, Hemingway (threw you there, didn’t I?), love, and breast cancer. I know that last one is a bummer, but it’s a reality that so many of us experience either personally or walking the journey with family and friends.

Basically Lizzy and Jane is the story of a young woman, Lizzy, who has excised love from her life and, as she helps her sister through chemotherapy, she starts to put it back in – in all its wonderful and varied forms.

4.) If you could sit down with any author---dead or alive---and chat it out at Starbies, who would you choose?

So tough… I think today I would choose G.K. Chesterton. I’ve been digging into him a lot lately and there is such breadth, wisdom and joy in his writing. He’s also terribly quotable. I found this gem this morning: “Thanks are the highest from of thought. Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Lovely. And this one is good too: “If a man does not talk to himself, it is because he is not worth talking to.” Very important for me as I am often my own best conversationalist.

5.) Can we be friends? Like, bestest watch-Emma-in-our-pjs-while-giggling-friends?
We’re well on our way already! We only lack a singular time zone, popcorn and M&Ms to dump in the bowl.

6.) Darcy or Knightley (please say Knightley. You can take him places and present him in a social situation without rolling your eyes or cringing at his lack of social aptitude)
Absolutely Knightley, no question. And while you bring up good points, there’s something else to consider… You can be yourself around Knightley. He will love you for who you are and not expect anything more. Darcy might look into your eyes someday and find them not so fine or your figure not so pleasing or your wit not sobright and sparkling. I don’t know about you, but that’s too much pressure for me.

7.) Have you read the Blue Castle? What did you think ;)
Okay… Seriously? I was absolutely blown away by the ending. I would like to go record here as stating that I did not even know about Blue Castle until last month. I have the Facebook conversations to prove it. J But the ending felt so much like the ending to Dear Mr. Knightley that my jaw dropped – fell to the floor to be hoisted up in awe. They felt the same! How is that possible?

8.) You do something amazing: you write a CBA novel while threading the themes of grace and Christianity subtly--making it one of those rare books that can be easily read by non-Christians who wouldn't usually pick up a Christian novel. Was this a conscious decision?
I so want to say that I’m just that brilliant – but that’s not true.  I will admit that when I tried to lay a more seeking heart into Sam, she rebelled and it came off heavy-handed and preachy. Now, that said, such a heart was not my original intention for her – I’m just saying that I did try it.

What I intended to do and what won out in the end – was the story of a young woman seeking for answers, a place to stand, a voice of her own, people to love and something to believe. And I think we can all relate to that. I truly believe we all believe something. Even if we say we believe nothing – that in and of itself is something.

So before I get too long-winded – Yes it was conscious and I am so deeply grateful it worked and Sam’s story speaks to people.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In which I am elsewhere ....


My review of The Book Thief ( which opens in wide release today) is up at Breakpoint 
My review of Melissa Jagear's A Bride for Keeps is up at Novel Crossing

Can I just please just note that The Book Thief was a hard review to film.... but I really liked it. Nice homage to the film.

Geoffrey Rush will rip your heart to shreds

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

30 deep thoughts on 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries'

1.)    Miss Fisher knows EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG so is always at the scene of the crime  because there is always a crime
2.)    Miss Fisher knows EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG so she always knows someone who is somehow involved/witness to/victim of said crime
3.)    Miss Fisher is always wearing red lipstick; except when she is in bed when she is not
4.)    Jack is always like: You! Get outta here!  But, then he relents because he LOVES HER
5.)    Hugh is always amused by Miss Fisher
6.)    Miss Fisher is amused that Hugh is amused
7.)    Miss Fisher has “not taken anything seriously since 1918)
8.)    Dot is the Catholicest Catholic
9.)    Hugh is the Protestantiest Protestant
10.) Burt and Cec are…. Ernie and Bert, Aussie style
11.) I never understand who Jane lives with—Miss Fisher? Miriam Margolyes? Where
12.) Butler’s name is Mr. Butler. Obviously
13.) Okay seriously. When does Phryne have time for her obviously excellent exercise regime. Have you seen her arm muscles?
14.) I want Miss Fisher’s cheekbones
15.) These Australians –well the higher class professional ones, like Jack and Phryne, don’t really sound Australian
16.) Where is Miss Fisher’s money from?
17.) Miss Fisher hooks up with EVERYONE!  Because she knows everyone --- some of them in the biblical sense
18.) If Jack and Miss Fisher do not end up together married and happy, I will seriously consider ending my existence
19.) I don’t wanna read these books because there won’t be enough Jack
20.) The way Jack looks at Miss Fisher.
21.) The way Miss Fisher looks at Jack
22.) The way Miss Fisher says Jack’s name
23.) The way Miss Fisher nonchalantly shrugs: “ I was attacked” and Jack is flummoxed and so concerned; but it passes over his face like a momentary shadow
24.) The shoes
25.) Her shoes
26.) Jack’s shoes
27.) Her HAIR!
28.) She  can fly a plane and scale a wall and her nails are perfect and she is always beautiful and brilliant
29.) Miss Fisher has a glossy sheen. Her whole being.
330.They had better kiss and get married

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Author Interview: CC Humphreys

You know those books that landmark and pinpoint a certain moment in your life?  Like a favourite song, they take you immediately back to a time or a place....
When I was in undergrad,  Jack and Ate were my literary boyfriends. I devoured the trilogy and waited FOREVER for the next release.  I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Absolute Honour (back when it was first published in Canada) and I think I just sat and looked at it and clapped.

The Blooding of Jack Absolute is one of my absolute FAVOURITE historical novels and as you all know I read historical fiction like it's going outta style, that says a lot.

Humphreys is an epically well-rounded author. In fact, I don't think he can write anything subpar or mediocre: from his YA forays to his exploration of the Anne Boleyn period to Vlad the Impaler and even to Constantinople and Shakespeare!  He kinda does it all.  The rest of us should just hang our heads in shame.

But for me, it's JACK! ... always Jack! And Ate, of course.  These books taught me as a developing writer ( far more in the beginning of my formative years when I first read them ten or so years ago) that the best books spark and sizzle with personality. That you should write what you love. It is so obvious that there is so much of the author in these books ---sense of humour, passion for Hamlet! and history and staged flourish-- that the books, in turn, are bright and sparkling and wonderful to read.  Ack! here I am again....waxing loquaciously about Jack and Ate...

this happens a lot, mea culpa.

Instead, CC Humphreys was kind enough to answer some questions !

1.) You paint a myriad of historical backgrounds in your fiction often featuring real-life personages from the times of Anne Boleyn, Vlad the Impaler, Shakespeare and---- in the Jack Absolute books---Richard Brinsley Sheridan. How difficult is it  to blend fact and fiction in this way and seamless integrate real-life characters into the action of the novel?

After you do a ton of research, you have to take a deep breath and just plunge in. I am a novelist, not a historian and my first duty is to tell a good story. That said, I do try to honor a real historical personage, basing my characterization of them on a variety of sources. However – and it’s a big however! – they are also characters at the service of my plot. As long as I feel I haven’t insulted them, or made them do things that seem implausible or simply wrong, I feel they are mine to use. Some of their descendents might feel differently though! Strangely, on my recent tour of ‘Jack Absolute’, I read at the Ear Inn, in New York City. The owner was a descendent of Sheridan – and he seemed rather pleased with the take I had on his ancestor.

2.) What drew you to the Plains of Abraham for Jack's second (first chronological) adventure? This is a well-known subject for Canadian history students; but unfamiliar to a greater reading populous.

When I was at school (back in pre-history!) the battle was still well taught. But ‘empire’ as a concept has gone out of fashion, the negatives outweighing the positives. But it was so important in North American history – and just so dramatic! The last roll of the dice. The midnight climb up those cliffs (which I did as research, though in the middle of the day). Irresistible to Jack – and to me, of course.

3.) How does your passion for theatricality and your stage background (including the sword fighting! ) inform your literary choices?

Hugely. I always feel I create characters that, if they were ever to make it to the screen (and I hope they do!), would really stand out. Even the minor ones have something ‘to play’, some trait, some objective to pursue. Also, I love to advance the action with dialogue. I can hear my characters speaking the lines. As for swordfighting – well, I love swords, so love depicting them being wielded.

4.) You are  one of the few authors who can successfully transition between Young Adult fiction and adult Historical; are these writing experiences different? How?

They are – but not as different as you might imagine. Its all storytelling and it’s more in the choice of subject and character that they might differ rather than in the execution. I think teens are able to handle most things grown ups can. I don’t tend to linger much in my writing, but perhaps I do cut to the chase even more quickly in my YA books.

5.) Do you like Game of Thrones?

I actually can’t read the books. I tried but they are just too… scattered. I appreciate the skill of the world building but like to follow certain characters and hate to see them vanish for 150 pages at a time. I am hooked on the series – it distills it all down, and the acting and script are excellent.

6.) When do we get to see Jack and Ate again? 

Alas, Ate only makes a brief appearance in the next Jack adventure, ‘Absolute Honour’. Sad, because I love writing him. But if I get the chance I will definitely write more of the Mohawk. I have the sequel to the first novel a quarter written and he’s big in that.

Apparently you can buy a free preview on amazon kindle; but you don't want the free preview--- just buy the entire trilogy. now.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Litfuse Blog Tour: Snow on the Tulips

Confession time:  I really, really struggled getting into this book.  For me, the first three chapters read as over-writing and ( full confession) I just wasn't in the mood to go further because I have had a lot on my plate. I mean a LOT!

Now, that being said, I love the unique setting and original canvas --one that I think we can all agree is not often found in the CBA market. Further, from the get-go, I could tell Tolsma  had done more than her fair share of research. Her passion for this sparked from the first page.

It's difficult as a reader when you have eighteen things on the go to settle in and make yourself plod further with a book that doesn't immediately catch you---we have all had those moments I am sure.
So, fair readers, the most I can do for you at this interval is direct you to all the information you could possibly want about the book and leave it up to you to pick it up and soldier on.

From the Publisher:

A stranger’s life hangs in the balance. But to save him is to risk everything.
The war is drawing to a close, but the Nazis still occupy part of the Netherlands. After the losses she’s endured, war widow Cornelia is only a shadow of the woman she once was. She fights now to protect her younger brother, Johan, who lives in hiding.
When Johan brings Gerrit Laninga, a wounded Dutch Resistance member, to Cornelia’s doorstep, their  lives are forever altered. Although scared of the consequences of harboring a wanted man, Cornelia’s faith won’t let her turn him out.
As she nurses Gerrit back to health, she is drawn to his fierce passion and ideals, and notices a shift within herself. Gerrit’s intensity challenges her, making her want to live fully, despite the fear that constrains her. When the opportunity to join him in the Resistance presents itself, Cornelia must summon every ounce of courage imaginable.
She is as terrified of loving Gerrit as she is of losing him. But as the winter landscape thaws, so too does her heart. Will she get a second chance at true love? She fears their story will end before it even begins.

Litfuse Landing Page
Liz on the web

Monday, November 04, 2013

a Veritable Hodge-Podge of Things

 Guys, I have been off the radar here because I have been out doing lots of stuff.  My friend Sonja was visiting from BC and that was a good time.   I reconnected with a ton of people who got shelved due to  life being busy and the days are getting colder and shorter and the big tree is up at Queen’s Park.
I have been spending a lot of time in the distillery, in old town toronto, at the archives and in Corktown for research for my lovely new book that I am SO enjoying writing.  A lot of writing happens at Artisano and I love the King West staff for their multiple outlets and great wireless internet.

I have had numerous social butterfly shenanigans and have been enjoying my gorgeous city in the fall
I’ve also been writing and at the gym a lot ( the last time I wrote a book I put on 5 lbs. That is not happening this time ) and I have been--- oh yah! --- at my real job.

So blogging has been on the back-burner somewhat and I apologize. BUT WHO AM I TO KEEP SOME OF THE THINGS WORTH NOTING FROM BEING NOTED?

On the theatre front: I saw Les Miserables again ( YAY! )

I also saw Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio as performed by the always-amazing Opera Atelier accompanied by the always-amazing Tafelmusik. I really noticed the clash between the cultured Europeans and the “uncivilized”  Turkish moors this time around: Konstanze is reading complete with specs
from the beginning while Blonde is seen to write.  The primitive moors on the other hand, especially the torturously-minded Osmin are instead perpetuating the stereotypes so rampant in Commedia dell’ Arte of ultra comedic violence and exaggerated movements.
The Seige of Turkey by the Viennese propelled Mozart’s 1782 piece: the opera being the most widely performed of Wolfgang’s in his lifetime.  There is a ton of historical resonance here and puts one in mind of that gorgeous little scene in Amadeus where the Emperor proclaims that there were just “too many notes”

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair!  Went Friday! Had a blast! Tried some good beer, ate a yummy Italian sandwich, held a three month old Nigerian dwarf goat named Daisy.

Daisy and Rachel
I went to the New Zealand/Canada Rugby game yesterday which probably woulda made a lot more sense if I knew anything about Rugby.  The best part was the Haka: the traditional Maori tribal dance performed by the New Zealand team at every game ever.   Besides that, it’s a lot of huddle-huddle-huddle-fall over- huddle-huddle-huddle-fall-over. Sometimes they pile on top of each other.  I don’t get it . We lost. But the company was good.

Last week’s White Collar  was stupid

Does anyone watch Reign? I am thinking of watching an episode so I can laugh myself silly at its inauthenticity.


When Calls the Heart complete with screenplay by Michael Landon Jr. is a sappy, kinda-retelling of the Janette Oke book by the Hallmark channel. This might have been a LOT MORE FUN if it actually stuck to Wynn and Elizabeth’s story. But, guys, it doesn’t: a lot of it is framed by this new girl—Elizabeth’s niece, who tosses her Edwardian curls over her Edwardian gown and holds her chin up defiantly and wants to be an INDEPENDENT WOMAN ( even though she is scared to hysteria by a mouse).  As is,  there’s no Wynn-in-red-serge on the prairies, no Elizabeth and Wynn surviving a fire… basically it coulda been awesome ( as in awesomely cheesy) but it wasn’t. But Wynn and Elizabeth looked the part.

Celeste in the City was on ABC Family late one night on the weekend ( but earlier because we set back our clocks ) and it is pure tv movie GOLD! In fact, it is really gearing me up for all the crappy Christmas movies I anticipate watching. So, this girl Celeste who is pretty in a “I am wearing glasses and hiding under baggy sweaters a la She’s All That” kinda way moves to New York to start a job as a writer for some magazine and upon arrival learns that her apartment is a hovel but she has a CUTE neighbor who is played by Ethan Embry, whose dimples and receding hairline should be in everything.  She also has a gay cousin ---Xander from Buffy who helps her find herself in several makeover montages with his ultra stylin New York friends.  Meanwhile, Celeste thinks Ethan Embry is cute but  (I AM SERIOUS ) because he likes champagne and is an interior designer she thinks he is gay ( even though he wears overalls with nothing underneath, sings karaoke badly and rides a skateboard which make her generalizations a little odd to her). Ethan helps her decorate her apartment with leftovers from this studio and it is LE AWESOME.   She repays him by setting him up on a date with Xander.   Ethan Embry is all “WHAT! How can you think I am gay?  I am so into you!”  -àthis is an actual plotline

Anyways, she starts trying to move her way up the corporate writing ladder by fraternizing with this slimy boss while the typical Hallmark keyboard soundtrack clangs mournfully in the background.

I mean Ethan’s cute, Xander’s helpful, CELESTE IS DUMB!

She ends up with the right guy and well….. there it is .

I bought the new Sense and Sensibility by Joanne Trollope and mean to read that soon. Guys, my reading. Holy Cow! So behind.  Umm, I have also been dipping into the Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Everything: which is like an early 20th Century how-to and is quite delightful. I am also wading through a ton of CBA book reviews I am behind on.

I am too lazy to provide links for these things.

Next week I am off to Halifax for a Rachel-cation and cannot wait to be back in my favourite province.

My new book ( the one I am ploughing away on ) is  quite a lot of fun!