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I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm scoping deals for a professional services company, hanging out with friends, or seeing some live theater.

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Author Interview: Meredith Schorr

Posted on 7 Dec 2017 In: Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve interviewed Meredith Schorr, and with the release of her seventh book, The Boyfriend Swap, I thought it would be fun to have another conversation.  Meredith, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. And to everyone else,  Happy Reading!

TBF: You just released your 7th book. Have you changed how you approach writing from your first to most recent?
MS: Absolutely. For my first couple of books, I started with only very basic information about my characters: name, age, appearance, general personality. Now, I do more in-depth character studies on my main characters before I write the first page. I know what they were like in high school, their relationship with their friends and family, relationship history, what extra-curricular activities they did in high school, their favorite season, their greatest accomplishments, biggest fears, strengths and weaknesses. It helps me keep their actions/reactions consistent. I also outline more than I used to. I doubt I will ever outline an entire book from start to finish before I start writing, unless I switch genres where it is necessary (mystery, suspense), but I like to plot out a few scenes at a time to ensure the story has a constant direction and to keep pacing in mind. I often stray from the outline, but at least I don’t stare at a blank page for too long. I’ve found that my novels have been tighter since I’ve been doing this.

TBF: Do you have a favorite character from your books?

MS:That is a difficult question since I consider all my characters my “babies” and I love them all equally. My favorite character is usually the one I’m writing at the time. If forced to choose a favorite, I’d probably pick Kim Long from the Blogger Girl series, mostly because I know her so well having written four books with her at the helm, including one from when she was fifteen years old. She’s grown up so much since the first book and I’m proud of all she’s accomplished.

TBF: What sparked your idea for The Boyfriend Swap?
MS:It all comes back to Kim Long again! In the first version of Novelista Girl, there is a scene where a literary agent is asking Kim what else she’s working on. Kim says she’s writing a romantic comedy about two women who swap boyfriends for the holidays and discover they might be dating the wrong person. It was just a throw-away line of dialogue that I didn’t think much about until several people read the book and said it was a brilliant idea for a chick lit novel. I decided to write it myself. I ended up deleting it from the revised version of Novelista Girl (re-edited for publication by Henery Press), but all the credit for the idea goes to Kim!

TBF: What do you say to people who denigrate Chick Lit as “fluff” or “not real books”?
MS: Honestly, I try not to concern myself with what people say about the genre in general and focus, instead, on what readers expect from my books. I work hard to create realistic characters with strong growth and development. Most of my fans appreciate that my books are light and humorous, but also smart. I’m trying to build my brand based on the traits I bring to each of my books and hope that readers will see beyond whatever label people want to call them—chick lit, romantic comedy, humorous women’s fiction—and read them because they were written by me. Fingers crossed!

TBF: eReader or physical book?

MS: eReader

TBF: Who is your author crush?
MS: OMG, I have so many of them. I have go-to authors in my genre whose books I will read when I need a swift kick in the butt to up my game: Kristan Higgins, Jill Mansell, Rainbow Rowell, and Sophie Kinsella, and Jennifer Crusie is a new addition.

TBF: If you could choose only one to watch, would it be Love, Actually or The Holiday?

MS: I love them both, but I think Love, Actually. I especially adore the Colin Firth storyline.

TBF: Pick one of your books and tell me who you would cast if it were turned into a film?
MS: Blogger Girl: Kim (Isla Fisher or Anna Kendrick); Nicholas (I change this one often, but my current pick is David Alpay); Bridget (Blake Lively), Jonathan (Adam Brody); Hannah (Odette Annable)

TBF: I read your post about Hallmark Channel Movies. I like the Good Witch series from Hallmark. Have you watched it?
MS: I have not. I stick mostly to the romantic comedy movies or the Hallmark Hall of Fame films. I don’t typically watch the mysteries either. But if you really enjoy The Good Witch, I might give it a shot!

TBF: Has writing in this genre – romantic fiction – changed how you approach dating?
MS: Not really, although it has provided me with ridiculously high expectations! Why can’t I meet a gorgeous widower under fifty, who also happens to be sensitive, funny and intelligent with a child desperate for another mother figure???

TBF: What are you working on now?
MS: I’m on final edits of my next novel, which comes out on April 24, 2018. It is called Bridal Girl and is the third book in my Blogger Girl romantic comedy series. My main character is planning her wedding and trying to acclimate to her new role as a published author. She’s not doing very well at either…
I’ve also started the first installment in what I hope will be a three-book romantic comedy series, each featuring a different main character. I don’t want to go into much detail since the book is not yet in contract and is less than 4000 words so far, but it deals with estranged high-school sweethearts forced together through work.

Killers of the Flower Moon

Posted on 27 Nov 2017 In: Reading

If you put one non-fiction book on your reading list, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI should be it.

Just about 100 years ago, the Osage in Oklahoma began dying mysteriously. When the numbers became too high to ignore, when the corruption of the local government proved that solving the crimes would be a long shot, a young and ambitious J. Edgar Hoover set out to change the face of the FBI and solve these heinous murders.

All the elements of a good crime thriller are here, but this is history, not the imaginings of a novelist.

Grann’s narrative is straightforward, yet compelling.  He treats the victims and their families with respect. At the same time he exposes the duplicitous killers with facts and still with a certain dignity.  The best thing Grann does, though, like any good reporter, is to continue to follow the story.  It all appears to be wrapped up, but there are loose ends to be tied, and Grann seeks to do that.

I was angry many times reading this book- the blatant racism towards the Osage. White people can be terrible, and in some ways we have not come very far in the century since these murders.  It is clear in Grann’s conversation with descendants of the victims that these murders still impact the Osage today.

The glimpse into the early days of J. Edgar Hoover was interesting. We know lots of the legend- the seeds of the person he would become were sown early.

And the FBI agents who did their level best to solve these murders- specifically Tom White.  These are the kind of people we need in law enforcement because he treated people as people first.

I know a few people who said they could not really get into the book, but I enjoyed it.  It exposes a part of history I had never heard of.  It reminds us that we still are not doing right by the Native Americans we so egregiously “displaced” and it shows how people are easily corrupted for a love of money.  The more things change, the more they stay the same indeed.

Put this one on your holiday wish list!

American Fire

Posted on 15 Nov 2017 In: Reading

A few months ago, my friend Kenneth suggested I check out Book of the Month and I chose American Fire as one of my selections.

On the surface, American Fire is an exploration of who set nearly eighty fires in Accomack Country, Virginia in 2012 and 2013. But it is so much more than that, too. It’s an examination of rural America. Accomack used to be one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Now, like so many other rural counties, it is more desolate as fortunes have shifted.

But there’s even more to the story, and that is the story of the arsonists, Charlie Smith and his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick.

American Fire is somewhat slow paced,  and didn’t have me turning pages at a frenetic pace, but it did keep me interested.  The sheer number of organizations involved in not only fighting the fires, but also trying to find the arsonist(s), is mind boggling.  We get insight into the approach of  the law enforcement agencies, the profiles they put together. The nearly overwhelming exhaustion of multiple volunteer fire departments fighting fires night after night. The home grown arson-finders.

And then, what is possibly the most interesting part. The motivations of Smith and Bundrick. How did they go from madly in love to setting 86 fires? And once you’re in an interrogation room, how far does that love go?

Monica Hesse began following this story for the Washington Post, and what she saw there sparked an interest in her that became American Fire. The writing is straightforward and clear.  She  includes first hand accounts where possible.  Without being dramatic, you feel the frustration of the first responders.

I don’t remember hearing about this case when it happened, although as I’ve done some googling, it was written up in the Washington Post, among other places.  I found the book to be fascinating, although as I said, a bit slow paced.  Still, this is one I recommend if for nothing more than its glimpse into the human psyche.

 

 

The Boyfriend Swap

Posted on 6 Nov 2017 In: Reading

Reading The Boyfriend Swap is like watching an entertaining chick flick unfold on the page rather than screen.  It has the feel of two of my favorite Holiday films, Love, Actually, and The Holiday.

By natured of its premise, you have an idea where the story is going to go, and its a fun ride getting there.

Schorr’s trademark, for me, is relatable characters, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Robyn is the kind of person I would want to be friends with. And Sydney would exasperate me sometimes.  Honestly, at first glance, she’s not terribly likable, but she grew on me.  But,  what made this book enjoyable is the chemistry that practically radiated off the page between a certain character and… well, I won’t give anything away here. You have to read this one for yourself.

While this is chick-lit, Schorr is not formulaic. Things happen that you expect, but a lot will surprise you, too. And I think it will make you smile. That’s something we all need more of.

The Boyfriend Swap will be released November 7. It’s going to be the perfect escape from reality and get you in the mood for the Holidays. Put this one on your to-read list!

What Made Maddy Run

Posted on 23 Oct 2017 In: Reading

Kate Fagan’s What Made Maddy Run is a heartbreaking, yet essential read.

“In interviews with Madison (Maddy) Holleran’s family and friends, and exhaustive reading of her texts, instant messages, and emails, Fagan reconstructs Maddy’s descent into mental illness that ultimately led to the elite athlete’s suicide at the University of Pennsylvania.

What emerges is a haunting recounting of a mental illness that probably had roots long before Maddy’s days in track at the University of Pennsylvania, but manifested itself there with the transition from high school elite athlete to a competitive college athletics program.”

I remember dreaming of college and what I thought it would be like.  I remember the transition being challenging in some ways- this only child had to learn to effectively share with other people and give up privacy- but it seems to be harder now than it was then. And it can be even more difficult for athletes or other elites, who were standouts in their high school world but just one of many in the college network.  Additionally, this generation has always been digital. Their whole lives are instagrammed or facebooked or snap-chatted in ways that show only the best. Filtered to show them in the best light. They text with their parents constantly, and are receiving immediate feedback on everything in the form of likes. Somewhere in the mix of it all, the transition to college is that much harder.

When a student also suffers from mental illness, the challenges of transition are only exacerbated.   What makes What Made Maddy Run so heartbreaking is that no one was in denial that Maddy was in trouble. Her parents were deeply concerned.  Parents of her friends noticed things. Maddy was seeing and finding a new therapist. She had a plan in place to get her through the semester at Penn when she could then look at other options for schools.  She seemed to be hanging on….until.

Fagan recounts Maddy’s story with sensitivity and unexpected insight. She shares text conversations between herself and others with insight into depression. She’s compassionate and respectful of both Maddy and her family.  Maddy’s story is heartbreaking because it is so relatable. And sadly, not so uncommon.  Many college and university coaching staffs and health facilities are not equipped to effectively deal with mental illness. By telling Maddy’s story, Fagan helps bring awareness to this issue.

And Fagan reminds us that what we see on the surface isn’t always what’s going on with someone.  A good reminder for us to be a little kinder to each other.

Although this one doesn’t have a happy ending, I consider it essential reading.

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