Saturday, October 1, 2022

Q&A with Alli Frank and Asha Youmans

 


 

 

Alli Frank and Asha Youmans are the authors of the new novel Never Meant to Meet You. They also wrote the novel Tiny Imperfections. They both live in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Q: What inspired the plot for Never Meant to Meet You, and how did you create your characters Marjette and Noa?

 

A: Never Meant to Meet You sprung from the collective grief we experienced during the heart of the pandemic. It may seem odd to be inspired to creativity during a difficult moment in time, but we discovered that our humor could indeed be sparked by a global calamity.

 

We needed somewhere to channel all the emotions we were experiencing as individuals, as well as processing the effect the pandemic was having on our children, husbands, and parents.  And we just needed some joy, something to make us laugh, some girl time, together, during the long, solitary months of the coronavirus.

 

The lead characters, Marjette and Noa, are loosely based on us. Like them, our friendship developed at a mature stage in our lives. We have each come to terms with the importance of our respective religions. We have settled into a relationship – one which extends to our husbands and children -- that is the awesome gift of found family.

 

Q: How would you describe the dynamic between the two women?

 

A: The dynamic in the beginning is based on assumptions by Marjette that she and Noa would have absolutely nothing in common.  It takes a tragedy to bring these two neighbors together, to learn about each other, to come to respect and care about one another and ultimately become true friends.

 

Their story ends with them being closer than they ever thought and finding space in their relationship to encompass their loved ones. Marjette and Noa personify the notion that our similarities vastly outweigh our differences.

 

Q: On your website, you write, “In an entertainment era marked by Black trauma, our mission is to bring stories of Black and Brown joy, love and laughter amidst the challenging topics of race, religion, privilege, parenting and education to readers.” Can you say more about that, especially as it relates to this new novel?

 

A: When telling the story of Black and Jewish experiences, film, television, and books often gravitate to the trauma these two groups have faced. Slavery, Russian pogroms, Holocaust, Civil Rights history, and ghettos for both groups rule the headlines, as if those are the only ways to learn about and understand the Black and Jewish experiences, through their darkest days. 

 

There is so much joy, love, and humor in the everyday lives of Black and Jewish people that rarely gets explored or shared as a tool for our country to educate themselves. Humor and joy are powerful tools that are so rarely used to bring people in, enlighten them, and send them on their way feeling kinship and kindness towards those who may be different than they are.

 

Q: How did the two of you collaborate on the book?

 

A: We start with any “business of the books” we have outstanding. This is not always an author’s favorite part of the writerly life, but it is easily half of the work, needs to be tended to, and we actually enjoy it. 

 

This time may include anything that ranges from our LLC finances, action items to follow up on for our PR agent if we are in book launch mode, deadlines we may have coming up with our editor if we are in editing mode, and reaching out via email for promotion possibilities we may be working on for ourselves.


Social media “to dos” (which really means Asha’s “to do” because Alli would rather pull weeds than post) and then calls with our literary agent who is in New York while we are in the West.

 

There are days when our work varies, dictated by where we are in each book’s progress. We basically have three formats in which we work. Sometimes it’s in person, sometimes it’s on FaceTime, sometimes we are working solo. 

 

When kicking off a new book we have already brainstormed and loosely outlined together, Alli begins by emailing three rough chapters to Asha with a ton of notes attached. The storyline is there but the depth of emotion is barely an inch deep. 

 

Asha takes those chapters and brings the characters to life with more authentic dialogue, inner thoughts, emotion, and believability. Alli moves on to getting the next three chapters down on paper. 

 

We are deep in our divided work, but both committed to the deadlines we have agreed upon to constantly be passing chapters back and forth. There is crossover in all our work, but we endeavor to stay in our respective lanes and support each other’s strengths.

        

If we get stuck on where the story should go, we rely on FaceTime or sitting together, for hours, building the next chapter word by word.

 

Usually when this happens Alli is freaking out that the story is impossible to rework, our past books have been a fluke, we are doomed, it’s all over. Asha tolerates the freak out, but always with a slightly raised eyebrow, and they calmly move the chapter forward. Miraculously, words get down on paper, we survive another day as writers and Asha is always right, we can do this.

 

After chapters have gone through Alli’s world building and Asha’s character building, it’s time to read out loud. Asha is always the voice as her intonation brings the characters to life.  Alli is the scribe and keeps all electronic files in order. We negotiate and agree upon EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. 

 

Most times this is easy, and we are on the same page. Sometimes, because we are writing about race, religion, class, privilege, love, heartache, and parenting through it all, our conversations are hard, heated, and we must give our work the time and deep discussion it deserves. 

 

Neither of us gives into the other because we have committed to getting to a place of agreement on every aspect of what we create. This is our non-negotiable. 

 

We read our books, out loud, all the way through at least four times if not more. It may sound tedious, and it can be, but we have found it is our most proven method to bring our stories to a level we are proud of when submitting to our editor and ultimately when our books end up on readers’ shelves.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: Our third novel, The Better Half, is done and is waiting for feedback and a haircut (it’s too long) from our fabulous development editor, Tegan Tegani. We adore the story! 

 

Also, we are deep in the struggle of the first 100 pages of our fourth book. The early stage of writing a new book is like wearing tight jeans, it’s never easy when we first try on a new story and the discomfort always results in the same question, “Why are we doing this?” But we do get over that hump, eventually…

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: We are so deep into the cancel culture era where people feel stifled to say anything for fear of being attacked and dismissed.  If we want to know people better, particularly people different than ourselves, we must enter conversations with the assumption of good will for all who are gathered to talk and listen. We need to speak bravely and listen fearlessly. 

 

If the questions you ask or the answers you give are not met with an open heart and mind, but with derision, do not let that stop you from reaching out to another person. And another. And another until you find the understanding you seek.

 

We are speaking less to one another right now, rather than more, and that is not the way to bring our country together. It can only divide us further. Words can be powerful, words can be emotional, but in the end, they are what we rely on to connect with our fellow humans. We should not use them to dismiss each other.

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alli Frank and Asha Youmans.

Q&A with Sarah Adlakha

 


 

 

Sarah Adlakha is the author of the new novel Midnight on the Marne. She also has written the novel She Wouldn't Change a Thing. She lives along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

 

Q: What inspired you to write Midnight on the Marne, and how did you create your cast of characters?

 

A: Midnight on the Marne was a novel written around one character, and, if you’ve read the novel, it’s probably not the character you would expect.

 

I think most people would guess Marcelle Marchand was the driving force of the book, since she’s the main female character, but it was actually written around George Mountcastle.

 

George played a very small role in my debut novel that came out last summer, She Wouldn’t Change a Thing, and he was such a crowd favorite that I felt compelled to tell his story.

 

Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

 

A: I spent about six months researching and learning about WWI – the battles, the strategies, the weaponry.

 

Most of my research was done online and through written texts about the war, but since the story has an alternate history, I also got involved in some group chats with historians who liked to debate what might have happened if the Germans had won the war.


So, not only did I have to learn the real history of WWI, but I also had to really understand the dynamics of the rest of Europe during that time, as well as around the world, and how a German victory would have impacted all of that.

 

Q: The writer Kristin Harmel said of the book, “Midnight on the Marne is an extraordinary tale of ‘what if,’ which cleverly explores how both fate and personal choice can change the course of the world.” What do you think of that description?

 

A: I love that description. And the fact that she pulled that from the story really shows how closely she read it.

 

On the surface, I think it would be easy to read this as a tale of fate and how one small act from one person could change the history of the world. But underneath this premise is the idea that fate is the result of personal choices from many different people.

 

It also explores human nature to a certain extent, and the human psyche. How knowing the possible outcome of a decision – having seen it in real life - can really test your moral fortitude.

 

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

 

A: I typically know how my novels will end before I write the first word. There are always changes along the way, but the basic premise of the story doesn’t vary much. I see my writing as a sort of a journey from one place to another. I know where I’m starting, and I know where I’m ending. But the route I take may not be the one I thought would get me from point A to point B.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: Right now, I’m working on book three, which will be a historical fiction novel set during WWII in the Philippines. It’s about an American nurse who is there when the Japanese bomb Manila and the secrets she’s brought with her. I probably shouldn’t say much more about it since I’m in the early stages of writing and things might change a bit along the way.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: I try to keep my website up to date, so if you have any interest in what I’ve been up to with my writing – recent releases, articles, press, or events – you can find it at SarahAdlakha.com. I’m also on the usual social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook where I’m fairly active with the handle @sarahadlakha.

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Oct. 1

 


 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Oct. 1, 1924: Jimmy Carter born.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Q&A with Julia Scheeres

 

Photo by Christopher Michel

 

 

Julia Scheeres is the author, with Allison Gilbert, of the new book Listen, World!: How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America's Most-Read Woman. Scheeres' other books include A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown. She lives in Northern California.

 

Q: What inspired you to write this biography of journalist Elsie Robinson (1883-1956)?

 

A: The project kind of fell into my lap. I was approached by Allison Gilbert, a former CNN producer who’d been researching Elsie for years and wanted help turning Elsie’s story into a narrative. Once I started learning about Elsie’s incredible life drama, I was hooked. Allison and I made a great team; she researched, I wrote, and together we hammered out a book.

 

Q: How well known was she in her time, and why do you think she's so little known today?

 

A: One hundred years ago, Elsie Robinson was a household name – she was the highest-paid female columnist employed by Hearst.

 

I think she’s fallen into oblivion for many reasons. She didn’t have any heirs to keep her memory alive. She didn’t donate her “papers” to a university archive. Also, the public has a short memory. Who remembers the great columnists from 50 years ago, much less from 100 years ago?

 

Q: The historian Debby Applegate said of the book, “If you are a fan of spunky, spitfire heroines in the tradition of Hester Prynne, Elizabeth Bennett and Jo March, you will love the true story of Elsie Robinson.” What do you think of these comparisons?

 

A: I’m incredibly flattered! And yes – it’s true. But the cool thing – as she notes – is that Elsie Robinson was a real-life heroine, not a fictional character.

 

Q: How did you research Robinson's life?

 

A: Allison and I divvied up the labor. Allison used her producer acumen to conduct interviews and track down primary sources, I figured out the narrative puzzle to present the information in a compelling fashion. It was a fun collaboration.  

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: I’m juggling a few projects – including one that returns me to the Jonestown story. That’s all I can really say at the moment.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: I started a soap business with my daughters during the pandemic called “Sustainabar.” We make zero-waste bars of common household products including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc., to reduce plastic pollution. We’re now in five local retail stores.

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Julia Scheeres.

Q&A with Cheryl J. Fish

 

 


 

Cheryl J. Fish is the author of the new novel Off the Yoga Mat. Her other books include the poetry collection Crater & Tower, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Iron Horse Literary Review and CheapPop. She teaches at BMCC/City University of New York.

 

Q: What inspired you to write Off the Yoga Mat, and how did you create your characters Nate, Nora, and Lulu?

 

A: The characters appeared to me as characters often do. They are struggling but full of passion.

 

Nate’s a perennial graduate student with a hostile adviser. Nora wants to have a baby with Nate, but he isn’t ready. She gets the chance to work in Finland and seizes it. Lulu is a successful yoga teacher, beautiful and spiritual, but she’s having nightmares of someone who harmed her in childhood.

 

The concept of thresholds appealed to me. What prompts a person to move past setbacks, inching closer to their true self? Age 40 now seems young to me, but it’s a time we realize we won’t live forever. My characters face that crossroad. How do they find healthy relationships and work where they can thrive? What does it take to heal?

 

I was inspired to draw on humor, grit, and the irony of repeating patterns in our lives. I wrote about how Nate, Nora, and Lulu face their challenges in ways that were often uncomfortable yet liberating.

 

How could these characters interact with and impact each other, even as each one takes a separate physical, geographical, and emotional journey? Those tensions kept me coming back to the story.

 

Q: You tell the story from all three characters’ alternating perspectives--did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character before turning to the others?

 

A: I worked on all three in various sections, not necessarily in order. I kept a notebook with backstory, ideas, and preferences for each character, small details that helped me distinguish their beliefs. Many times, I rewrote and switched the sequences and chapters around.

 

My fiction seems to be shaped by more than one narrative voice at a time. Juxtaposing characters reveals who they are in relation to the others and deepens my ability to show contrast and diversity.

 

Q: Why did you choose to set the book in 1999?

 

A: I set the book in 1999 mainly because I didn’t want to deal with the ways in which 9/11 impacted these characters. It has been a significant force in many of our lives. I live near ground zero of the attack on the World Trade Center. My novel starts and ends in New York City’s East Village neighborhood.

 

I had PTSD from 9/11; I have published a book of poems that deals with my displaced reactions to 9/11 by using another disaster, the volcanic eruption in 1980 of Mount St. Helens to reflect on environmental and societal impacts.


For Off the Yoga Mat, I chose the proximity of a new millennium and the anxiety it provoked along with the Y2K threat of crashing computers, technology disrupted, and the ways we envisioned time keeping. In retrospect, 1999 feels like a gentler period than what has followed. As we age our sense of time changes too and that is a theme that runs through the novel.

 

It just so happens 1999 was also the year the Columbine High School shooting took place. When Nora is in Finland, she hears the news and has a strong reaction to what’s happening in her country. Of course, Prince’s famous rock n’ roll riff on 1999 is also reflected upon near the ending of the book.

 

Q: The author Lee Upton said of the book, “Fish’s deep knowledge of yoga and of the psychological, geographical, and sensory terrain renders this ambitious novel absorbing and impressive.” What do you think of that description, and what impact has yoga had on your own life?

 

A: Lee Upton’s generous description of the novel pleases me a lot. I hoped to reveal the ways in which psychological, geographical, and sensory experience are related and ever shifting through the characters’ journeys, so I am grateful that Lee came away with that impression.

 

Humor is also essential in my writing. It’s a pleasure to write and read something that makes us smile (humor, like taste in music and books, is subjective).

 

I am a sporadic practitioner of yoga. My mom watched a TV yogi and practiced asanas on the living room floor we found amusing; my sister is now a yoga teacher.

 

The array of easy poses I do helps me with flexibility and balance, and in Off the Yoga Mat, I illustrate the humor and competition to be found in some Western practices of yoga, while also respecting and reflecting on yoga’s roots in India, Hinduism, and Sanskrit.

 

My character Lulu Betancourt, a long-time hatha yoga teacher, mixes asanas, pranayama, and mantra chanting in her classes and she finds solace through them in her own practice. Over the years I have had inspiring yoga teachers in various places and wish I was more disciplined to stick with it. Like Nate, I laugh at some metaphors teachers come up with when giving instructions.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: I am working on a number of projects. I have had two recent writing residencies in Iceland, and have been inspired by the geology there, as well as by Norse mythology and the isolation and quirkiness.

 

I am working on fiction that features young international workers who come to Iceland to work in the service and tourism industries and get caught up in various intrigue. I also am working on series of poems about Iceland.

 

In addition, I have several nonfiction essays I am working on, and a new collaborative project with a Swedish Sami friend of mine. I also write flash fiction and am considering a flash novel or novella, and I am revising several short stories.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: I want to thank you for featuring me on your blog, and I’d like to let you readers know I am available for book club visits, readings, book signings and events, possibly live or virtual.

 

My website is cheryljfish.com where you can find information on events, order the book, and check out my other activities.

 

 I’d like to mention some upcoming events (more to come!)

 

Free Virtual Reading at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, Michigan on Wed., Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. EDT

https://pwpl.info/events/

 

Panel discussion with Cheryl J. Fish, DeMisty Bellinger, and Celia Jeffries, “Mighty/Small: Publishing a Debut Novel with Independent, University, and Hybrid Presses,” Women’s National Book Association virtual event on Wed., Sept. 21, 2022 at 7 p.m. EDT.

 

I will be appearing at the Livingston Press booth at the Brooklyn Book Festival all day on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022 signing copies of Off the Yoga Mat. Come on by!

 

Virtual reading and conversation between Cheryl J. Fish and Christy Alexander Hallberg, sponsored by Malaprops Bookstore, Ashville, NC, 6 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 27, EDT. Virtual events require you to RSVP from the event page on the Malaprops calendar. 

 

Thanks again. I’d like to hear from readers—get in touch.

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Eileen Joyce Donovan

 


 

 

Eileen Joyce Donovan is the author of the new historical novel A Lady Newspaperman's Dilemma. She also has written the novel Promises. She lives in Manhattan.

 

Q: What inspired you to write A Lady Newspaperman's Dilemma, and how did you create your character, Alex?

 

A: I wrote A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma because I wanted to tell the story of the first, and only, time the US Army bombed a US city.

 

I knew I had to construct a story around that incident, so I thought about how people got the news at that time, then focused on newspapers, then narrowed that down to a reporter covering the story. I wanted the bombing to be the climax of the story, so I had to imagine what Alex’s life might be like prior to the bombing.

 

I created Alex as the reporter for two reasons. I wanted to show the prejudices women reporters faced in the newspaper business at the time, and I wanted to write a story of a strong independent woman who goes after her goals against all odds.

 

Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

 

A: I initially wrote the entire book set in 1940, which is when the actual bombing took place. But I decided to change it to the 1920s after realizing that there were lots and lots of books being published that were set in the World War II era.

 

Even though this story is not connected to the war, I knew it would be lumped in with all the WWII books and get lost in the shuffle. So, I decided to rewrite the entire manuscript and set it in 1926.

 

All the research I had done on what WWII life was like here at home had to be scrapped and instead I had to start reading books about the 20s, fashion, food, speakeasies, women reporters, lifestyles in general.


I was very surprised by the amount of attention newspaper gave to what we would call everyday murders, although that term seems callous at best. A murder in a small town and the subsequent trial could occupy the front page for days, sometimes weeks. And in large metropolitan papers too, not just the local weeklies.

 

It seemed after WWI, people were anxious to read anything out of the ordinary, or sensational. And the papers thrived on sensationalizing crime.

 

Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

 

A: I had no idea how it would end. I don’t outline my novels, so the writing process becomes an adventure and I find out what’s happening to my characters as I’m writing, in much the same way my readers do when they’re reading.

 

Q: What do you think the novel says about life for women journalists in the 1920s?

 

A: Life for women journalists was tough. They were usually assigned to society pages, community news, as Alex was, or advice columns, home hints, anything domestic that didn’t involve solid reporting.

 

In fact, I’m reading The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul right now, and one of her characters is a lady reporter who has gone through tough battles to be taken seriously. She’s still called Fluff by her male colleagues, due to her time covering the “fluff” news of the day. It was a hard job to be recognized as a serious reporter, even for Alex.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: I’m working on a romance novel, which is a totally new genre for me and surprises even me to be there. It started as a possible short story to get away from constant research on my next historical book and has morphed its way into a novel. I don’t know what will happen with it, but I’m having fun writing something that’s pure imagination, no research involved.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: I have another book coming out in March 2023, working title: The Campbell Sisters. It’s set in 1956 New York City and tells the story of three sisters, all in their early 20s.

 

The eldest one wants the conventional life of wife and mother, the youngest one wants to become a doctor—a tough road even in the 1950s, and the middle sister wants to become the “toast of the town” adored and treated like a princess by all the men of New York City.

 

After that release, and maybe the romance, I’m planning on a story about a woman prospector in the old West of the 1800s.

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Suzanne Feldman

 


 

 

Suzanne Feldman is the author of the new story collection The Witch Bottle & Other Stories. Her other books include the novel Sisters of the Great War. She lives in Frederick, Maryland.

 

Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in your new collection?

 

A: At least one of these stories is at least 10 years old—The Lapedo Child—which was published previously in Narrative Magazine. Another one, Goat Island, took me about 10 years to get right. Those are the two novellas in the collection, and novellas, I find, take a long time to get right.

 

The other stories are shorter and took a LOT less time, but overall, I’d have to say I spent the last decade putting this collection together—slowly but surely. It was so gratifying, especially after the pandemic, to win the Washington Writers’ Publishing House 2022 Prize for fiction with this collection. I feel like all that work has gotten some wonderful recognition.

 

Q: The writer Dennis Danvers said of the book, “The self, art, the self as a work of art--The Witch Bottle explores these journeys with wisdom, humor, compassion, and more often than not, hope.” What do you think of that description?

 

A: Well, I like to think of myself as wise, humorous, and compassionate, and as long as I stay off Twitter, I’m fairly optimistic.

 

Many, many of these stories are about artists struggling with the choice between making a living or making their art, which is a struggle I’m pretty familiar with. I went to art school in the ‘70s, and it wasn’t until I was ready to graduate that I realized I had zero job skills. I went into teaching (high school) art because there were so few options at the time.


Over the 30 years I spent in the classroom, I tried to convey to my students that they could pursue both a career and their artistic path, but I’m certain that some of them faced the exact same problem I did—how do you make a living doing what you love when there’s no way to make a living? It’s a persistent conundrum in the arts.

 

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear in the book?

 

A: The title story, “The Witch Bottle,” used to be first, but the wise folks at Washington Writers’ Publishing House suggested I move it to the middle and put the novellas at the end. I think the pacing of the stories works better now. Plus you have the hilarity of the title story followed by the sorrow of “The Stages.” There’s a nice contrast between the pieces the way they’re arranged right now.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: Currently I’m finishing a novel called The Marble Art Palace (it may eventually be called something else) which revisits the theme of young women in art school in the mid-1970s, trying to make a name for themselves in what was a male-dominated art world.

 

There are three characters—two young women who’re students, and one who was a student—but because it was the only job she could get in the arts, she’s now a model. The three of them are out there on the front lines of fame against a background of wonderful, gritty Baltimore, and a world of punk rock. It’s a fun book to write…and not quite autobiographical.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: Come to a reading! Anthony Moll, who won the WWPH prize for poetry, and I will be reading in DC, Baltimore, and Frederick during the month of October. Here’s the schedule:

 

         10/2 - Politics & Prose (Connecticut Ave) 3 pm

         10/13 – The Ivy Bookshop (Baltimore 7 pm

         10/18 – Inner Loop Bookstore (DC) 7 pm

         10/25 – The Writers Center (Bethesda) 2 pm

         10/30 – Gravel & Grind (Frederick, MD) 3-5 pm

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Suzanne Feldman.

Sept. 30

 


 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Sept. 30, 1924: Truman Capote born.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Q&A with Christine Nolfi

 


 

 

Christine Nolfi is the author of the new novel A Brighter Flame. Her many other books include The Passing Storm. She lives in South Carolina.

 

Q: What inspired you to write A Brighter Flame?

 

A: For weeks a question kept popping into my head. What would happen if estranged sisters—unexpectedly living under the same roof—were forced to reexamine their shared past?

 

A Brighter Flame explores the unreliability of memories as Vale and Blythe examine the secrets that tore their family apart. In many ways, they’re both victims of a past hidden since they were children. Together they forge a surprising path forward. I hope readers will be surprised—and delighted—by the choices they make to heal their relationship.

 

Q: How did you create your characters Vale and Blythe?

 

A: In all the novels I’ve written, the key players appear fully formed before I nail down the plot. I have four sisters and three daughters, and for some time now I’ve wanted to write a sisters’ story.

 

Although Vale and Blythe weren’t directly inspired by personal experience, they were colored by past interactions within my family. There’s something deliciously competitive about sisters. At the same time, there are few relationships as close and devoted.

 

Our closest relationships are often the most nuanced, frustrating, mysterious—pick your poison. And finding solutions for past grievances (whether real or imagined) takes effort. A Brighter Flame also required medical research and related interviews that were quite fascinating. I hope the story will have book clubs debating the novel’s secrets long into the night.


Q: The author Kerry Anne King said of the book, “In this layered family drama, Nolfi explores the unreliability of memories and how perceptions of past events impact the present.” What do you think of that description, and what role do you see memory playing in the novel?

 

A: Kerry’s description captures the essence of A Brighter Flame. The memories of childhood carried by Vale and Blythe ignite the story and highlight the reasons why they’ve never been close. Their memories are utterly divergent.

 

As the story progresses, they must discover how past events affected each other. And once they begin to compare those memories, they both realize there were undercurrents in their childhood that they were both unaware of.

 

Coming to grips with those undercurrents—and learning how to forgive the hurts of the past—made for some very poignant scenes that will carry readers through the gamut of emotions.

 

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make changes along the way?

 

A: Before writing any manuscript, I have a general idea of the book’s pivotal scenes including the ending. However, I never attempt to flesh out those scenes during the outlining stage. Once I begin writing and the characters lead me through the story, I know they’ll guide me in how to craft those scenes. It’s a nearly magical process I’ve learned to trust.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

 

A: My current WIP is a bit darker than A Brighter Flame, with a cast of complicated and deceptive characters. The book will feature a dual timeline and lots of surprising twists. It’s a story with similar drama and tension as my 2021 bestseller, The Passing Storm.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

 

A: I love hearing from readers! They can find me at:

 

https://christinenolfi.com

 

https://www.facebook.com/christinenolfi/

 

https://www.instagram.com/christinenolfi/

 

https://twitter.com/christinenolfi

 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb