Sunday, May 28, 2023

Q&A with Erik J. Brown



Erik J. Brown is the author of the new young adult novel Lose You to Find Me. He also has written the YA novel All That's Left in the World. He is based in Philadelphia.


Q: What inspired you to write Lose You to Find Me, and how did you create your characters Tommy and Gabe?


A: I always wanted to write a book that takes place in a retirement community because it was my after-school job during high school.


It wasn't until 2020 that I realized what the story would be: teens in their last year of high school trying to figure out their future. With the pandemic, everything was up in the air and no one had a clue what our future would look like, so I took that unsure future and turned it into high schoolers figuring out their lives.


Tommy and Gabe are both a combination of me from high school, making silly mistakes and being very slow learners. Thankfully they grow a lot faster than I did!


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The original title was In the Weeds, referencing restaurant slang for a server being in over their heads. But Lose You to Find Me came about because of the Selena Gomez song "Lose You to Love Me."


The book does deal with romance, but it's more about figuring yourself out. And sometimes we do need to lose someone to find out who we truly are. I think that's why so many people connect with the lyrics for that song. 


Q: The writer Jason June said of the book, "Erik J. Brown perfectly captures how heart-warming and cringey falling in love for the first time can be." What do you think of that description?


A: It's a billion percent correct, unlike my math skills.


You know those nights when you're having trouble sleeping and all of a sudden a cringey memory from your past pops into your head and you just marinate on it in the dark and can't believe you did that? That's most of the choices the characters in this book make for a good 7/8ths of the book.


They all have main character energy and think things are going to work out for them, so they make the worst decisions thinking they're the best. And that's what falling in love is. You make very dumb out-of-character decisions because you're blinded by your romantic fantasies.  


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: Things don't always work out, but that doesn't mean your hopes and dreams are over. My friend, Erika Gabriel, is a psychic medium who says the universe conspires to help all of us, and I actually believe that.


Even when things don't go our way, maybe it means we are still chasing our purpose in life, but we'd fail miserably at it if we got everything right away. Sometimes working for it along the journey is more important to who we are than where we end up. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm writing the sequel to my debut, All That's Left in the World! It should be out next year... as long as I hit my deadlines. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes! Be kind. Also, butter and eggs should be room temperature if you're going to bake with them and flour should be spooned into your measuring cup and leveled off. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Chris Campion



Chris Campion is the author and editor of the new book The War Is Here: Newark 1967, which features photographs by photojournalist Bud Lee (1941-2015) of the protests in Newark, New Jersey, in the summer of 1967. 


Q: How did you become involved in writing and editing this book?


A: A few years ago, I was working on another collection of Bud Lee’s photographs, covering his career working for Esquire, Rolling Stone, Life, and other publications in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when the publisher suggested starting with the Newark images instead.


Bud Lee’s photography is not widely known. The photos he took for Life magazine of events in Newark in the summer of 1967 offered a more tightly-focused body of work, as well as the possibility of constructing a narrative and a context around the images, which sat with my background as an author and journalist.


Looking at Bud Lee’s photos of Newark in 1967—which depict gun violence, police killings, and a militarised response to civilian protests—the parallels with things that are still happening in America today were clear and unequivocal. 


Q: How would you describe Bud Lee's images, and what do you think they captured about Newark in 1967?


A: Painterly, reflective, still. Even though he was there as a photojournalist, the photos in The War Is Here are not the kind of news pictures you would expect to see of an event like this. The reason being is that Bud Lee was primarily a fine artist, with schooling at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Columbia University in New York, who fell into photography.


Photo by Bud Lee

So when Lee came to Newark in July 1967, on his first major assignment for Life, he had an aesthetic atypical of a documentary photographer and managed to capture scenes of people and places that have qualities we associate more with the painted image.


The portraits, especially, that he took of the people of Newark show Bud Lee as an artist of great empathy and sensitivity. These are images of a city turned into an urban war zone, and a population attempting to maintain and survive in those extraordinary circumstances.


Q: What do you see as the legacy today of the events depicted in the book?


A: The events of July 1967 scarred the city of Newark for decades, but also brought about a tremendous sea change in the city's administration. In 1970, Newark elected the first black mayor, in Kenneth Gibson, for what was then, as now, a black majority city. This has continued through the administrations of Sharpe James, Cory Booker, and the current mayor, Ras J. Baraka. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from The War Is Here?


A: I would like for people to look at the images in the book and realise they are more than historical record. That they speak also to the issues and news stories of today, and trace a current that runs through American history from then to now.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently completing a very different project, a long-in-the-works biography of John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, and making a documentary film about the history and pop culture mythology surrounding Joshua Tree and the high desert, which is has been my home for close to a decade.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The War is Here is bookended by an introduction written by Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the current mayor of Newark, whose family was intimately connected with the events of July 1967, and a powerful afterword by Ellene Furr, about how she was affected by the shooting death by police of her then-husband of two years, Billy Furr, images of which were captured on film by Bud Lee. Those photos ran in Life magazine in 1967 and still resonate today.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 28



May 28, 1908: Ian Fleming born.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Q&A with Caroline Hagood




Caroline Hagood is the author of the new novel Filthy Creation. Her other books include Weird Girls: Writing the Art Monster. She is an assistant professor of literature, writing, and publishing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.


Q: What inspired you to write Filthy Creation, and how did you create your character Dylan?


A: This book has a rather odd origin story because I have this weird habit of needing to work on two books at the same time. I think part of it is a defense mechanism, or a strange hope that maybe one of them will survive.


It also relates to a rebellious tendency in me to want to work on what I’m not supposed to be working on, so then I rebel against the writing of one by turning to the other. But it also has to do with my love of experimenting/playing with genres.


So, basically, I was working on what would become my book-length essay exploration of the concept of the art monster, Weird Girls: Writing the Art Monster, while I was writing the fictional version that explored some of the same concepts, Filthy Creation.


At first my protagonist was the mother figure, but then I started to see that the character I really found central was the daughter. Dylan is in high school, and she’s trying to find out what it means to be a fiercely dedicated artist at such a young age.


To create Dylan, I thought a lot about how I was at that age (and still am now), but also how I wasn’t. What I mean is that Dylan is and isn’t me. The aspect that we definitely have in common, though, is the drive to be part of something wildly creative.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: It’s a quote from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein refers to the place where he makes his creature in this way: “In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation.”

I loved this idea of a space of a sort of dirty creativity that needs to be separated from the rest of the apartments. I have always wanted a workshop of filthy creation for myself. In this novel, I wanted to reflect on these sorts of spaces and the extremes people go to in the name of creativity.


Frankenstein is also Dylan’s favorite book, she’s reading it in class in the novel, and its themes figure deeply in the book.


Q: The writer James Tate Hill said of the book, “It's a shame Mary Shelley isn't around to offer a blurb for this tender, luminous portrait of the art monster as a modern teen.” What do you think of that description, and can you say more about how you see Filthy Creation connecting to Weird Girls?


A: James Tate Hill’s blurb is the kind writers dream of. It gets to the heart of what I was at least attempting to do.


Filthy Creation is sort of the fictional sister of Weird Girls. I wrote them at the same time. Then, after years of rejection, both books were accepted by different presses within a day of each other. I don’t even know how to explain it.


A recent review of Filthy Creation suggests reading the two books together. I don’t know who has that sort of patience, but I’d certainly be interested to hear what this patient, ideal reader gets out of that experience.


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 didn’t know how it would end. I do remember the moment I realized how it had to end, though. Few parts of the novel fell into place easily, but that is one part that just felt like it could be no other way.


I would say it wasn’t until the second total overhaul of the novel, after radical outlining (where the first version had little, and it showed) that I really visualized this ending.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m really not sure where this project is headed, but for now it seems to be a work of autofiction. I’ve written poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction but I haven’t done a book yet that really plays with the boundaries between nonfiction and fiction in the way I’d like to. Here’s hoping this mess coalesces one day.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m excited about the cover of Filthy Creation. This, too, has a little story. After the wonderful photographer, Alice Teeple, took my headshots, I was looking through her portfolio, and I saw a photo that just felt like it had to be the cover of Filthy Creation, as though she’d created it for this purpose, although of course she hadn’t.


The photo also happened to be of my friend, the very talented writer Patricia Grisafi, so that’s the fun plotline behind my cover.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Caroline Hagood.

Q&A with Hannah Dolby




Hannah Dolby is the author of the new historical mystery novel No Life for a Lady. She works in the public relations field, and she lives in London.


Q: What inspired you to write No Life for a Lady, and how did you create your character Violet?


A: I knew I always wanted to write a novel set in the Victorian era (such a rich backdrop for stories!) but Violet was originally having quite a miserable, serious time - it was only when I realised I wanted her to have fun and overcome some of the restrictions placed on women in that time that she really came to life. 


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


A: I love original books and magazines from the Victorian era, so I hunted down ones on everything from marriage advice to health cures. I read a lot about the history of Hastings & St Leonards and spent several weekends there walking the streets, checking old maps and soaking up the seaside atmosphere - once even staying in a Victorian-themed guest house!


I was surprised to discover that many of the ideas I came up with turned out to be true when I researched them, from the scandal of naked men bathing in the sea to the terrible advice women were given on their wedding nights.  


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I worked with my publisher's to pin down the title and I absolutely love it - it symbolises how much my main character, Violet, is living life in her own way, navigating the challenges that women faced at the time with her own brand of verve and cheekiness. And as readers will find out, she definitely finds her own life, even if it's not one for a lady! 


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 knew roughly where the story should go but it definitely evolved into something much better along the way. I love that process of adding layers and complexity. But it was only a year from getting my book deal to publication, so it's been a bit of a whirlwind!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am... drum roll... working on the sequel! So this isn't the end of Violet's story, and I'm currently wrestling with a whole new roller-coaster of adventures for her. It's fun to take her story further and bring back some of the characters that people loved in the first book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If you haven't been, Hastings and St Leonards is well worth a visit - only an hour and a half from London and it overflows with history and life at every turn. As well as a three-mile seafront promenade, you have grand Victorian buildings designed by the same architect who built London Zoo, a Norman castle that dates back to 1067, narrow, winding streets crammed with Tudor houses... the possibilities are endless.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 27




May 27, 1894: Dashiell Hammett born.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Q&A with Beth Ann Mathews


Photo by Star Dewar



Beth Ann Mathews is the author of the new book Deep Waters: A Memoir of Loss, Alaska Adventure, and Love Rekindled. She taught at the University of Alaska Southeast for 20 years, and she lives on an island in Puget Sound, Washington.


Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about your family's experiences following your husband's stroke, and how long did it take to write the book?


A: I didn’t set out to write a book, but a blog site called CaringBridge, designed to help families communicate during a health crisis, catalyzed that journey. I’m a marine biologist and I’d published scientific papers, but before a simple household chore triggered a rare type of stroke in my healthy, fit husband, I’d never shared personal writing beyond our families.


After being medivacked from Juneau, Alaska, to a medical center in Seattle, Washington, I needed to notify our families—and my boss and colleagues at the university where I was expected to show up for work that day—about what had happened. 


Sharing that first emotional description of that alarming day so broadly at first made me feel too vulnerable. But I didn’t have time to write a second, less personal version and so I pressed the SEND button.


Supportive responses to my writing poured in and shored me up—as much as my husband, Jim. Finding the CaringBridge website was a communication godsend. Feedback inspired me to keep writing.


Later, in critique groups, I discovered classmates were engaged by my stories of how Jim’s determination to walk, swallow without choking, and ride a bike—bolstered and strained by our family’s sailing expeditions in Alaska—pushed me to eventually choose a more adventurous, connected path over a safer, more secure life.


After I had a full draft, I realized Deep Waters was not simply a stroke recovery story, but a tale of relationship resilience. Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage, sailing and fishing with our son, facing my issues with workaholism, and navigating threatening situations at sea, are all part of the book. The hurdles we overcame had the potential to help other couples and families navigate a health or other relationship crisis.


Writing Deep Waters took nine years, depending on when I start the clock. I consider that moment the day I joined my first critique group in La Paz, Mexico.


My husband, son, and I were living and traveling on our sailboat when a fellow boater invited me to join the Sea of Cortez Writing Group, hosted by George and Roz Potvin. Roz had been a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The Vancouver Sun. George was also a writer, and the couple generously hosted six or seven writers in their historic home.


During my first session, insecurities about reading in front of skilled writers built. Fortunately, I overcame self-doubt and read that day, and every week until we left to continue our expedition. Seated at the Potvins’ dining room table was when the idea of writing a book gathered steam, but for years I kept that aspiration to myself.


Q: The writer Lynn Schooler said of the book, “Mathews has penned a deeply personal love story with the careful rigor of the scientist she is, free of any giddy prose or rainbows. Instead, Deep Waters comes at the reader with the gloves off and goes a full twelve rounds, documenting in granular detail the fears and conflicts attending a life-altering event that can drive even a strong relationship onto the ropes, and the endurance, commitment, and deep love that can save it.” What do you think of that description, and what impact did your experience as a scientist have on your writing of this book?


A: When I received Lynn Schooler’s endorsement of Deep Waters, the power of it almost knocked me off my chair. He’s an accomplished author of critically acclaimed books, including The Blue Bear and Walking Home. His words made me feel as if he had lived that year with us—a profound sensation.

What he wrote captured so much—that even strong relationships have highs and lows, and people who love each other don’t always see eye to eye, and that working through disagreements is hard but if the underlying connections prevail, the debate can create a new, fulfilling path forward. Schooler’s review might lead prospective readers to assume that my husband and I had physical clashes which is not the case, but I think it’s clear he’s using the fighters’ ring as a metaphor.


Being a scientist influences my creative writing in many ways. Mostly positive, I think, but I’ll mention two, one positive and the other a limitation I had to overcome.


While doing field research and when I go boating with my family, I keep journals. As a field biologist, recording unusual events is in my blood. Soon after my husband’s stroke, the compulsion to document what was happening, as well as my emotional turmoil, began and those entries provided rich material for my writing.


But it’s not simply the words that rekindle memories so vivid they burn. Seeing my hand writing and sketches, or a spaghetti-sauce stain on a page, can open a trapdoor to what I was feeling, smelling, and experiencing in that moment. Was I in awe of a killer whale that zipped in close to our boat, turned on its side, and stared at me looking back at him?  Or, was I heart-pounding fearful during a night storm when our sailboat home was about to go aground?


As a scientist, I came to the essay-writing table with a reasonable understanding of grammar and sentence structure. During a memoir-writing class, after I read an early chapter, the instructor, Steve Boga, nodded, cleared his throat, and said, “Well. Now we know you can write,” which was his standard response to most new students.


He went on to say, however, that I needed to learn to incorporate more dialogue into my writing. That recommendation helped me enliven my creative nonfiction more than any other.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book, and what do your family members think of it?


A: Learning how to write a book that strangers might want to read has been challenging but also fulfilling. I’ve taken classes, read books on writing, participated in critique groups, attended workshops and conferences, and worked with gifted editors. Telling the story of how our lives were jolted and redirected by my husband’s medical situation has given me insights to who I am and helped me make sense of some of my reactions to our circumstances.


My husband has been remarkably supportive of my writing a book that shares our close, vulnerable moments, and moments in which we each, at times, are not at our best. Even though he has encouraged me, reading certain chapters of Deep Waters triggers him to re-live that difficult year.


If he did, however, read those chapters without an emotional response, I would question the quality of my writing. His support stems from his belief that our experiences and what we struggled with and learned can inspire readers to live more full and engaged lives.


Our son has been a steady champion of my writing endeavors, and he’s provided helpful feedback on a handful of scenes. Still, while he was young, I did not ask him to review chapters about harrowing events the three of us experienced. Now, in his 20s, he’s let me know he’s proud of how I’ve persevered and of my creativity, and that he’s excited to read my book.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from your story?


A: I hope Deep Waters inspires readers to invest more in worthwhile, but neglected, relationships. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve completed the manuscript for my second book, which I’ve set aside to work with my publicist to get the word out about Deep Waters. I had my first radio interview, which was with Suzanne M. Lang on KRCB/NPR’s  “A Novel Idea.” My book tour began a week ago in California and I’m now in Juneau, Alaska, where we lived for 20 years. My next author events are in Washington, Indiana, and Ohio and I’d love to meet readers at one of these events


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: To learn more about Deep Waters: A Memoir of Loss, Alaska Adventure, and Love Rekindled, I invite readers to visit my website and Facebook author site To schedule a virtual Book Club Reading, Q&A, or Discussion of Deep Waters send me an email.


Thank you, Deborah!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Jeffrey Weiss



Jeffrey Weiss is the author, with his brother Craig Weiss, of the book Fighting Back: Stan Andrews and the Birth of the Israeli Air Force. They also wrote the book I Am My Brother's Keeper.



Q: What inspired you and your brother to write this book about Stan Andrews, a Jewish American who flew for the Israeli Air Force in its early years?

A: It was a combination of things. He was such a fascinating figure - artist, writer, bomber pilot, fighter pilot, and even a diplomat. He was seemingly alienated from his Jewish identity yet engaged in the most Zionist act imaginable - risking his life to fight for the creation of a Jewish state as one of the first fighter pilots in Israel's history.


We wanted to find out who he actually was, what drove him, and to share that story with people who are passionate about Israel and its history.

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: We started by locating family (including a 93-year-old sister and an 86 year-old sister-in-law) and then located friends from high school, college, World War II, and Israel.


 From them we were able to track down not just great memories about Stan but also his high school essays, college essays, and letters from World War II and Israel's War of Independence. We built on that with archival research in Hebrew and English - primarily in Israel's military archive, which required a great deal of declassifying of documents.


Our biggest surprise was that he had so purposefully set out to write a book about his experiences in the war - and we have hoped that through Fighting Back, we have in some way helped him to achieve, posthumously, that literary ambition.

Q: How would you describe Stan's relationship with Judaism?

A: It was a conflicted one. He was never Bar Mitzvahed, apparently never set foot in a synagogue in his life, and once refused to admit that he was Jewish to a World War II tentmate who was himself a Jew. Yet 1940s-style antisemitism drove him to claim his Jewish identity and, by flying for Israel, strike back against the enemies of the Jewish people.

Q: What do you see as his legacy today?

A: I think his legacy is a proud, independent State of Israel with an air force that, pilot for pilot, is perhaps the very best in the world. And, very appropriately, one of that air force's fighter squadron's still flies into battle with planes that carry the logo that Stan crafted some 75 years ago.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A book about Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the person most responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language and its status as the official language of the State of Israel.


The bringing back to life of Hebrew was something that even Theodor Herzl, perhaps the greatest visionary of modern Jewish history, thought impossible. (As he famously wrote in The Jewish State: "We cannot converse with one another in Hebrew. Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language?")


Ben Yehuda's vision and heroic sacrifices - at one point he was imprisoned by the Ottoman Turks, then the rulers over what was then known as Palestine - are part of the modern-day miracle that is the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile and only three years after the extermination of one out of every three Jews then alive in the world during the Holocaust.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Anyone interested in learning more about the story of American Jewish volunteers in the Israeli Air Force in 1948 would enjoy watching Nancy Spielberg's award-winning 2014 documentary Above and Beyond, available on Amazon Prime.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 26




May 26, 1895: Dorothea Lange born.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Q&A with Todd Milliner and Carlyn Greenwald


Todd Milliner, photo by Chris Haston


Todd Milliner and Carlyn Greenwald are the authors, with actor Sean Hayes, of the new young adult novel Time Out. Milliner is a TV producer and writer whose shows include Grimm and Hot in Cleveland. He lives in Los Angeles. Greenwald also has written the novel Sizzle Real. She also lives in Los Angeles.


Q: What was the inspiration behind Time Out, and how did you create your character Barclay Elliot?


Todd Milliner: It’s funny, Sean [Hayes] and I always talk about developing something that is our story - something that is authentic to us. And this story is a version of our own personal journeys.


I was always a bit more of the athlete and Sean was a bit quirkier and more fun. Even though I was never close to being as good as we describe Barclay to be, I feel like I went through a lot of the same things he does here. There’s a lot of fiction here, but there’s also a lot of truth in these characters.


Carlyn Greenwald: The process for writing Time Out was quite different from writing a book solo. In this case, I came into the project when Sean and Todd had already fleshed out and developed Barclay as a character in their pilot script.

Carlyn Greenwald, photo by Molly Pan

When it came time to work on the novel, we had to take a character that we only know through seeing him and his dialogue and form an entire inner world.


So, we used the emotional beats from the script, most notably Barclay talking about his grandpas death and how he wanted to come out to start living his authentic life that he never got to while his grandpa was alive (which is now the first chapter) and really expanded that.


From there, I really loved the way that Barclay lived and breathed basketball and had touches of the jock who skates by in school but has an unending well of sports knowledge” so we combined that with this guy whos also able to adapt to those who are vastly different around him (namely his best friend, goth, indie rock music lover and activist Amy and later romcom king and aspiring journalist Christopher) and find bits of himself from being with these very different people.


It was so fun to take scenes from the pilot and really dig into what would Barclay be thinking and feeling in this moment.”


Q: How did all three authors collaborate on the book?


Todd Milliner: Sean and I started out to make this a TV show or a movie. We took our story to the folks at Simon and Schuster who recommended we work with someone not so… well, old.


So we read a few great writers and the one that made the most sense to us was Carlyn. The moment we read her stuff, we knew she was the one writer that would not only elevate the story we wanted to tell, but also capture the authentic tone and spirit.


Carlyn Greenwald: As I mentioned above, I came into the project when Sean and Todd had a pilot and were developing it into a book adaptation. Ive been writing contemporary YA for years, and the story was so clearly ripe for a novel adaptation that when they asked me to partner with them it was an easy yes.


The pilot itself had material up through only the first couple chapters though, so there was a lot to think about past those pages and what different kind of story could happen to these characters.


Wonderful S&S editor Alexa Pastor and Sean and Todd worked together to draft a generously detailed outline of that story that I then used to lay out the groundwork for a first draft of the novel.


The overall story and emotional beats were laid out pretty clearly for me, but so much of the magic comes from finding Barclays voice in the novel, developing all the side characters and their arcs, digging into the romantic tension between Christopher and Barclay, and really letting us sift those Barclays denial and grief in a way novels shine at.


From there, the draft went back to Sean, Todd, and Alexa, where I got notes and did a couple more large revisions. It actually worked a lot like a writers room with me being assigned to write that weeks script with the story beats, guidance, and vision of Sean and Todd.


It was an amazing collaborative experience where you can really see everyones touches to make the book something special.


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


Todd Milliner: We made a lot of changes along the way. We knew the way into the journey, and the three of us found the finish line together. 


Carlyn Greenwald: The ending, including some key images and scenes from the pilot, stayed in from the very first draft. Funny enough, what ended up changing a bunch was the beginning.

Pilots sometimes drop you right into the central conflict that will make up the rest of the story because of limited page-space, but with books, we had the opportunity to really expand. So, we ended up adding all these events — I think about four chapters’ worth - before the events of the pilot.


But, after a few more revision rounds, we found that the pacing was lagging, so those chapters mostly got slashed/integrated into other parts of the book. The read is a lot quicker and smoother now, but I do think about those lost moments sometimes.


Q: What are you working on now?


Todd: Sean and I are working on a Broadway play that opens in April of 2023 called Goodnight, Oscar. We are also working on a lot of different TV and film projects. We just started talking about what the rest of the journey could be for these characters.


Carlyn Greenwald: Hah, I’m always all over the place. In adult, I have another queer rom com set to come out in 2024. In YA, my agent and I are trying to sell a YA thriller with a bi Jewish girl lead and all-queer main cast. Hopefully it could appeal to my adult readers and Time Out’s as well.


Q: Anything else we should know?


Carlyn Greenwald: I don’t think so! Other than I’m so so excited for readers to pick up Time Out and I hope they fall in love with Barclay and Christopher and Amy the way I had while working on the project. We’re all so, so proud of what we’ve made.


Todd Milliner: Only that we are extremely grateful that people are finding these characters interesting enough to come on the journey with us. When we put something out in the world that is a little revealing about ourselves we hope people will support us and ultimately enjoy the ride.


In a way the journey we went through writing this book parallels that journey that Barclay is on. Here’s hoping we can hit a couple baskets.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Aisha Saeed




Aisha Saeed is the author of the new children's picture book The Together Tree. Her other books include the middle grade novel Amal Unbound. She lives in Atlanta. 


Q: You note that The Together Tree was inspired by an experience your son had in kindergarten. Can you say more about that, and about how the idea for the book evolved? 


A: During his first week of kindergarten, my eldest son was bullied by his peers. It was an incredibly stressful time for us. One day, I went to the school during his recess time and saw firsthand just what he was experiencing. It was crushing.


That day, I also saw children who were looking on at the events that were unfolding. They were not participating. They were concerned, but they were clearly unsure about how to help. 


The Together Tree explores what it is to experience bullying, and importantly, what bystanders can do to help someone who needs that help. The Together Tree is also a story about imagination.


Rumi, the main character in this story, loves to draw. He draws on his sneakers. He draws illustrations in the dirt beneath a shady Willow tree. For me, creativity and art are how I cope with difficult situations and make sense of things. I loved showing Rumi doing the same throughout this story.


Q: What do you think LeUyen Pham's illustrations add to the book?


A: LeUyen Pham is an absolute genius, and her illustrations are absolutely incredible. She brings the text to life in beautiful and heartbreaking ways.


The main character, Rumi, is shy and withdrawn when we first meet him, but thanks to Pham's illustrations, we can glimpse his interiority through the drawings we can see him imagining in his mind's eye.


Additionally, the climatic peak where the bully inflicts harm upon Rumi gains additional depth and magnitude by the grayscale that Pham uses to lend greater emotional weight to that scene. 


Q: You’ve written for different age groups--do you have a preference?


A: I am guided to each story I tell by the voice that is (for lack of a better word) speaking to me. Some stories that come to me require an older narrator and some voices that inspire me feature younger characters.


I am incredibly grateful that I get to write books for young people of all ages and follow the voices where they lead to tell the stories that are calling to me.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from The Together Tree, and how was the book’s title chosen?


A: I love the outdoors and I love trees in particular. They are our silent living companions on this earth who give us clean air and the coolness of their shade. The thought of a tree as a place for children to convene together and build their community felt like a fitting title.


I hope this book will give kids (and their parents and teachers) ideas for how to create similar safe spaces to grow community and compassion. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Coming up next for me is a young adult novel, Forty Words for Love, which is another tale with a tree as a backdrop (I really do love trees!)-- it's my first time writing an original story set in a fantasy world and I am excited to see it make its way into the world soon!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Many years ago I was an educator. I taught second grade. Our first few weeks of school, I would seek out books that would encourage community building within my classroom and among my students.


It is my hope that The Together Tree can be a book that will be utilized in first day of school readings to serve as a starting off point for how to grow community and look out for those who need a helping hand.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

May 25



May 25, 1938: Raymond Carver born.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Q&A with Margaret Klaw




Margaret Klaw is the author of the new novel Every Other Weekend. She also has written the book Keeping It Civil. An attorney, she is a founding partner of BKW Family Law in Philadelphia.


Q: What inspired you to write Every Other Weekend, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: I’m a practicing family lawyer. I’ve always been convinced that the world I inhabit through my work is a fascinating one—the tangled relationships, the emotions, the fast-changing state of the law (think gay marriage, open adoption, assisted reproductive technology, to name just a few) and the inherent drama of the courtroom.


I also live in a neighborhood where many of my clients do as well, and our lives frequently overlap and intersect.


In keeping with that time-worn but extremely valuable instruction to “write what you know,” I created a set of characters who all live in a progressive, urban (and perhaps a bit self-satisfied) neighborhood very much like mine, where the personal and the professional get mixed up together, for better or for worse; where groups of people—at the coffee shop, the yoga studio, the food co-op—gossip, process and pass judgment; and where the telling of events can become the truth of the events themselves.


The best tag line for the book is probably “there is no one truth.”


Q: You include a variety of points of view in the novel--did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character before turning to the others?


A: I wrote the book pretty much in the order in which it appears, starting with my protagonist, Jake, and expanding the circle around him to include his wife, his kids, his dog, his friends, his lawyer, the judge who ends up presiding over his custody case, and some additional characters that I’ll let readers find out about, some of whom did get added later on in the writing process.

What I changed after the book was written though, based on some excellent developmental editing, was the timeline. Instead of strict chronological order, I open with a trial scene and then go back a year and bring the story forward.


Q: Why did you decide to include polyamory as a theme in the novel?


A: Polyamory seems to be everywhere now, at least in my world, and without giving away too much, I thought it would be interesting to explore that culture and the tension between polyamorous relationships and more traditional ones.


Q: You’ve also written a nonfiction book focused on some similar issues--do you prefer to write fiction or nonfiction?


A: My first book, Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-Nup & the Porsche and Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer (Algonquin, 2013) is nonfiction. It is essentially a series of vignettes, drawn from my daily work life, with identities painstakingly disguised but all details true.


However, my editor very wisely had my create one narrative story, woven throughout, which would bind it together as a cohesive book. That story was a fictionalized custody trial. It was based on a mashup of several cases I had tried, but it was definitely fiction. Meaning, I got to make everything up! I found that I loved that process—going deep inside my head and inventing people.


So when I decided to write a second book, I tried my (completely untrained) hand at a novel. It turned out to be a long road, and I needed lots of help along the way, but I did really enjoy it. I pretty much love writing anything, including legal documents (not kidding!) but on balance, for me, fiction has been the most interesting and, when it’s going well, it’s thrilling.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m embarrassed to say: nothing. I’m busy with my day job, my family, and getting Every Other Weekend launched. However, I do have some ideas for a second novel, which involve stepping beyond the family law context. I feel like I’ve covered that territory in nonfiction and now in fiction so it’s time to branch out, which is both intimidating and exciting. I’m hoping to get started this summer.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: It’s never too late to start writing! I began blogging after my youngest left for college and that ended up turning into two books.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb