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Author On the Bookcase: Summer Wood, Author of Wrecker

Author On the Bookcase
Summer Wood

Summer WoodSo pleased to welcome Summer Wood, author of Wrecker to On the Bookcase. Summer's novel tells the story of Wrecker, a lonely and confused boy, and the eccentric relatives that raise him and, somehow, create a family. Set amid the giant trees of northern California's magical Lost Coast, Wrecker charts the ups and downs of a real, ragged, joyful and painful life -- a tribute to the unconventional family and the truest kind of love.

Wrecker "grew out of a rank stew of personal experience, literary experiment, political inquiry, and meandering imagination." 

Summer, please share with us more of this "rank stew." 

As a reader and a writer, I love stories that challenge my ordinary perception. As a mother, on the other hand, I find I’m perfectly okay with the status quo. I don’t need surprise or revelation in that job description. I like it when things go smoothly. I don’t like to have my feathers ruffled.

Except, of course (Mothers? Can you confirm this for me?) – they never do go completely smoothly, do they?

Wrecker came about because of an unexpected bump in my personal motherhood curve. And even though my writing rarely follows the contours of my life, the experience of being a foster parent was so emotionally acute that I turned to fiction to see my way through to a clearer understanding.

We entered the experience innocently enough. We had trained to become emergency foster care parents, thinking that if a local kid needed someplace to stay briefly while the family was in trouble, we could harbor him or her for a weekend or so. With our three sons and their friends, our place was overrun with kids, anyway. The screen door kept slamming as one neighbor child or another came or went. What was one more for a couple of days?

One, maybe; but the first call we got was for four small brothers who needed a family to stay with. Their parents were both battling drug problems, in trouble with the law, and the authorities had removed the kids upon confirmation of neglect. Sally, the social worker, said that if we couldn’t take these boys – aged 4, 3, 2, and not-quite-1 – they’d be split up and sent to different homes.

You want us to take them for the weekend?

Indefinitely, she said, and coughed politely into her hand.

We thought hard. We consulted our sons. And then we said yes, and for nearly two winter months, these small boys – who came to us with pneumonia, an amazing roster of aberrant behaviors, a black trash bag of shorts, t-shirts, and ill-fitting sneakers, and the most cherubic little faces – lived in our home and rapidly took up residence in our hearts.

It’s a long story, the saga of their journey back and forth, into and out of their parents’ custody. We became friends of the family, kind of informal kin to the boys. We were on hand to help when a fifth child was born with medical complications. We rooted for the parents, celebrated with them, wept with them, and when, at last, the whole house of cards came tumbling down, we felt our hearts break for them as their parental rights were terminated and the boys were adopted out to separate families.

I didn’t write this novel in conscious response to having fostered those children. As any novel will, it grew out of a rank stew of personal experience, literary experiment, political inquiry, and meandering imagination – with a good dose of love, whimsy, fear, humor, and warped psychological obsession thrown in. This imaginary child, Wrecker, arrived in a public playground one June afternoon in 1965, and I wanted to know what would happen to him. I wanted to know his mother, and how she lost him, and who would come to love and raise him, and what kind of man he would turn out to be.

Writing his mothers into being – both the one who gave him his start, and the one into whose arms he fell – meant coming to terms with the power of parents. It meant coming up hard against the truth that no parent, not one of us, is perfect. It meant facing head-on the fact that the mistakes we make can have grave consequences. It meant learning forgiveness as a kind of survival strategy.

I’ve come to believe that it is a radical expression of love to parent any child.  And that there’s no right way to do it. It can only be done by trial and error, and error, and error, and trying again. And, yes; there will be unexpected bumps. There will be ruffled feathers.

And writing Wrecker himself? Writing Wrecker into being was a way for me to believe again in the possibilities open to children. I needed to reconnect with the hope that led us to step forward and say:  yes.  With whatever we can offer, for as long as we can, we’ll welcome these children into our lives.

It was an honor to have the chance to know those boys and their parents. And the best way I knew to pay back that honor was to bring this other boy, Wrecker, into the world, and let him muscle his way, with grace and love and a good share of noise, into his future.

Thanks so much, Summer, for sharing your real life experiences and your ability "to reconnect with the hope that led us to step forward and say: yes."

Reading Group Alert! Wrecker brings together great topics to discuss -- motherhood, family, identity, community, coming-of-age, sense of place. What more can you what in a discussible book?!

Praise

"Wood succeeds with surefooted prose; a lush, earthy California backdrop; and a sensitive story of nurturing and family."—Publisher's Weekly

Summer Wood is the author of Arroyo. In 2007, she received the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation for her work on Wrecker. She teaches writing at the University of New Mexico's Taos Summer Writers' Conference, and in 2009 she directed the first NEA/Taos Big Read. She is currently the director of Voices from the American Land, and has lived with her family in Taos for the past twenty years.

Find out more on Summer.

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Teaser Tuesday 2/1 The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Teaser Tuesdays
The Lotus Eaters

I'm re-reading The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli to prepare for the Reading Group Choices panel on March 18 at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Tatjana, Carolyn Parkhurst (The Nobodies Album, Lost and Found, The Dogs of Babel), Myla Goldberg (The False Friend, Bee Season), and William Cobb (The Last Queen of the Gypsies) are the panelists. I'm so excited to be moderating these great writers and reading group favorite authors.

The Lotus Eaters"Helen looked back and watched soldiers swarming over the station wagon. Such a terrible mistake to come." p 377, The Lotus Eaters  by Tatjana Soli.

 

 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

What is your TT?

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Around the Bend: Exposure by Therese Fowler

Around the Bend
Exposure by Therese Fowler

Around the Bend is an On the Bookcase Feature bringing attention to upcoming reading group-appropriate titles.

I'm so excited! Random House sent me an ARC of Therese's new title, Exposure (May 2011). I met Therese at the Virginia Festival of Books (VABOOK) 3 or 4 years ago. (Time flies when you have having fun!) She was on the Reading Group Choices' panel. Therese is a great writer and a fun person. Her previous novels are Souvenir and Reunion - both excellent reading group picks. And, I get to see her next week in DC for the Association of Writers & Writing Progmans.  

Here's the scoop!

Publisher Summary

Amelia Wilkes’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows—and keeps—their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

Despite Amelia’s frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against “sexting,” the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.

As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all.

A captivating page-turner, Therese Fowler’s Exposure is also a deftly crafted, provocative, and timely novel that serves as a haunting reminder of the consequences of love in the modern age. 

Praise for Souvenir

“Compelling . . . The characters are likable, troubled and human, and they’re well worth following on their journey.”—USA Today

Souvenir is indeed one of those books you want to sit down and finish all at once. . . . Fowler’s storytelling is what makes this novel shine.”
Durham Herald-Sun

Therese has worked in the U.S. Civil Service, managed a clothing store, lived in the Philippines, had children, sold real estate, earned a B.A. in sociology, sold used cars, returned to school for her MFA in creative writing, and taught college undergrads about literature and fiction-writing -- roughly in that order.  With books published in nine languages and sold world-wide, Therese writes full-time from her home in Wake Forest, NC, which she shares with her husband, four amiable cats, and four nearly grown-up sons.

Reading group alert! Family, relationships, current events, coming of age, believable characters. Perfect topics for a lively discussion.

Look for Exposure in May and see here more details about Therese.

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Mailbox Monday: Viking's Excellent Box of ARCs

Mail Box MondayMailbox Monday was created by Marcia of The Printed Page and is being hosted by Rose City Reader during the month of January.

I received one big box of Advance Reader's Copies from Viking Books! Here are the treasures.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (February 2011) heard excellent things about this one.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (May 3, 2011) so excited to read her new one

Mice by Gordon Reece (August 2011) first American novel

Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson (February 2011)

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Juy 2011) first novel

The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice (April 2011) love her

Emily Alone by Stewart O' Nan (March 2011) love him

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly (January 2011) heard excellent things about this one

Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin (February 2011) first novel

Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini (May 2011) title won Italy's Premio Campiella

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (June 2011) first novel

Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington (June 2011) first novel

Now, that's a lot of reading!

Thanks, Andrew D and Viking Books!

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Around the Bend: Galore by Michael Crummey

Around the Bend
Galore by Michael Crummey

Around the Bend is an On the Bookcase Feature bringing attention to upcoming reading group-appropriate titles.

Publisher Summary

When a whale beaches itself on the shore of the remote coastal town of Paradise Deep, the last thing any of the townspeople expect to find inside it is a man, silent and reeking of fish, but remarkably alive. The discovery of this mysterious person, soon christened Judah, sets the town scrambling for answers as its most prominent citizens weigh in on whether he is man or beast, blessing or curse, miracle or demon.

Though Judah is a shocking addition, the town of Paradise Deep is already full of unusual characters. King-me Sellers, self-appointed patriarch, has it in for an inscrutable woman known only as Devine’s Widow, with whom he has a decades-old feud. Her granddaughter, Mary Tryphena, is just a child when Judah washes ashore, but finds herself tied to him all her life in ways she never expects.

Galore is the story of the saga that develops between these families, full of bitterness and love, spanning two centuries.

With Paradise Deep, award-winning novelist Michael Crummey imagines a realm where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to discern. Sprawling and intimate, stark and fantastical, Galore is a novel about the power of stories to shape and sustain us.

Praise

"... Crummey lovingly carves out the privation and inner intricacies that mark his characters' lives with folkloric embellishments and the precision of the finest scrimshaw.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“...pitch-perfect, boisterous...Galore is an endearing romp. For the language alone—and there is so much more—I loved the book.”—National Post

Michael Crummey is a poet and storyteller, and the author of the critically acclaimed novels River Thieves and The Wreckage and the short story collection Flesh and Blood. He has been nominated for the Giller Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Award, and Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Canada for Galore. He lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Reading group alertfamily, religion, culture, eccentric characters, and a little bit of fantasy will create a lively conversation.

Look for Galore in April 2011. 

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Around the Bend: Prophecy by S. J. Parris

Around the Bend
Prophecy by S. J. Parris

Around the Bend is an On the Bookcase Feature bringing attention to upcoming reading group-appropriate titles.

Publisher's summary of Prophecy

S. J. Parris returns with the next Giordano Bruno mystery, set inside Queen Elizabeth’s palace and steeped in period atmospherics and the strange workings of the occult.

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrologi­cal phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some­thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

Just as in Heresy, S. J. Parris's gorgeous writing and remarkable sense of place fully transport the reader. This utterly gripping novel clearly positions Paris at the forefront of the genre.

S. J. Parris is the pen name of Stephanie Merritt, a contributing journalist for various newspapers and magazines, including the Observer and the Guardian.

Praise for Prophecy

"Parris looks to be an up-and-comer in the historical fiction/mystery arena ..."--Library Journal

Praise for Heresy, Parris' debut novel. The first in the series about Giordano Bruno. In paperback in February.

Set in the time of Elizabeth I, Heresy could happily follow on Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall about Henry VIII and his relationship with Thomas Cromwell. Both evoke the tensions, turbulence and cruelty of Tudor England.”The Oxford Times

Reading group alert -- perfect for historical fiction groups and mystery book clubs. Religion, history, occult, culture, political intrigue and murder.

Look for Prophecy in May 2011.

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Afghan Women's Writing Project Skype Chats

Give Afghan Women a Voice in February.

Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) empowers Afghan women to have a voice in the world despite a deteriorating security situation.

AWWP is sponsoring a series of Living Room Chat fundraisers around Valentine’s Day to build a bridge of support for the women and their newly opened AWWP Writers’ Hut. AWWP writers gather in this sanctuary, in an undisclosed location in Kabul, to share community and the written word. Sounds a lot like a book group, doesn’t it? AWWP will offer Skype conversations with team members in Afghanistan and the U.S.

Women, Writing, World!

Women, Writing, WorldHave a Skype chat with AWWP members in February. For details about how to join in, contact AWWP Special Events Coordinator Leanne Moore, lkmoore212@gmail.com. Read a powerful story written by one of AWWP writers. 

To give you a taste (Food by the Book!) of what the Living Room Fundraisers project has to offer, here’s one of AWWP’s writers favorite holiday recipe, a dish called biryani.


Reading Group Choices supports AWWP and its assistance to empower Afghan women to tell their stories.

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An Irresistible BookPerk

An IRRESISTIBLE BookPerk for reading groups in St. Louis.   

Susan Elizabeth PhillipsAttend a Private Cocktail Party with New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Elizabeth Phillips.                    

 

 

Chat with Susan during an intimate evening of hors d'œuvres, wine and desserts at The Four Seasons Hotel St. Call Me IrresistibleLouis in St. Louis, MO on January 17, 2011 from 7pm-9pm. Be among the first to get a signed, personalized copy of her latest novel, Call Me Irresistible, before it goes on sale!

Get your invitation now. 

 

 

 

 

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Author On the Bookcase: Teresa Medeiros, author of Goodnight Tweetheart

Author On the Bookcase
Teresa Medeiros

Teresa MedeirosI'm excited to welcome Teresa Medeiros, author of Goodnight Tweetheart, to On the Bookcase. Goodnight Tweetheart is a look (very humorous look, at times) at modern communication and the love game. The main character, Abby, is writing her second novel and is at an impasse. Will this new fangled social media site, Twitter, release her writer's block and find her love, as well? Told almost entirely in tweets and DMs, Goodnight Tweetheart is a truly modern take on a classic tale of love and loss — a Griffin and Sabine for the Twitter generation. But, no spoilers here!

Teresa writes that her "brain 'tweets' all of the time" so it was natural to write Abby and Mark's story. Twitter away, Teresa!

Can the human heart be mapped in 140 characters or less? That's the question I decided to explore when I wrote Goodnight Tweetheart, the story of a man and woman who meet and fall in love on the social media site Twitter.

I was dragged kicking and screaming onto Twitter in 2009 by my friend and fellow writer Connie Brockway. We had just ended our very successful blog Squawk Radio and I was looking forward to living my life on the private stage for a while. Despite my initial skepticism, it was love at first sight for me!

Twitter immediately became about more than me just promoting myself as a novelist. It was like the biggest cocktail party in the world where there was always some interesting conversation going on. My brain "tweets" all of the time anyway so it was wonderful to have an outlet for all of those observations, both ridiculous and sublime. If I had a burning desire to say, "Aging is God's way of making us look forward to death," then there was someone who would listen.

Before long, Mark and Abby started "tweeting" in my head and instead of having me locked away, my editor at Simon & Schuster offered me a contract to tell their story. At first I thought the book would be written entirely in tweets. But I quickly decided the story needed a "frame" so Abby's life became that frame. While the relationship is at the heart of the book, it's really the story of one woman's journey and the impact this encounter has on that journey.

Goodnight TweetheartWriting the tweets themselves felt very organic, like eavesdropping on a conversation between two very dear friends and potential lovers. Mark and Abby start out basically flirting but the intimacy between them deepens as they reveal more and more about themselves with each encounter. Then we discover that Mark is hiding a major secret that becomes a game-changer for them both.

 As I was writing, Mark and Abby's story began to mirror so many themes I'd been exploring in my own life since cyber-communication became the norm. Do sites like Facebook and Twitter enhance intimacy or make it more difficult to achieve? Is it easier to bare your soul to someone when you're not face to face? Do people tend to wear "masks" on-line—to present themselves as the person they would most like to be? Have we become a generation that communicates primarily in pop culture tidbits? Is it possible to fall in love at first sight…or first tweet? Is it possible to forgive someone for doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons? 

Writing Goodnight Tweetheart sometimes made me squirm because it's also my most intensely autobiographical novel. Abby is a writer who sometimes finds it easier to write tweets and Facebook updates than make progress on her latest novel. (I hope my editor didn't just read that!) Just like me, she's dealing with a mom who has had early onset dementia for years. I even gave my cats Buffy the Mouse Slayer and Willow Tum-Tum cameos in the book!

Am I glad I bared my own soul in Goodnight Tweetheart? Absolutely! Because I wouldn't have sacrificed a single moment I spent with Mark and Abby. I hope you enjoy eavesdropping on their relationship as much as I did.

Thanks so much, Teresa. Goodnight Tweetheart has many good discussion topics for reading groups. Intimacy on social sites -- an oxymoron? The whole idea of social sites and what they mean for future relationships and communications? Betrayal? Forgiveness?

Praise for Goodnight Tweetheart

"Goodnight Tweetheart is exactly the book to warm you up on a cold winter's night. Tender, funny, and poignant, this novel will make you laugh out loud one minute and reach for the tissues the next."—Kristin Hannah, New York Times bestselling author of Winter Garden

New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller Teresa Medeiros wrote her first novel at the age of twenty-one, introducing readers to one of the most beloved and versatile voices in women's fiction. She has appeared on every national bestseller list, including the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly lists. She currently has over ten million books in print and is published in over seventeen languages. She is a two-time recipient of the Waldenbooks Award for bestselling fiction who lives in Kentucky with her husband and her cats Willow Tum-Tum and Buffy the Mouse Slayer.

Learn more about Teresa. Go to Goodnight Tweetheart Facebook page, Teresa's fan page and, of course, follow Teresa at Twitter!

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Author On the Bookcase: Ruth Downie, Author of Caveat Emptor

Author On the Bookcase
Ruth Downie

Ruth DownieWelcome, Ruth Downie, to On the Bookcase. Ruth has written the fourth novel, Caveat Emptor, in her historical mystery Medicus series (Medicus, Terra Incognita, Persona Non Grata). The series centers around a doctor and defacto investigater, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, (now wife) Tilla, in 2nd century Roman-occupied Britain. Ruth's entertaining series is full of history, mystery, culture, and a little British humor! Ruth sets the reader directly and competently in the era and place of the period. Caveat Emptor's Ruso is hunting down a missing tax man and brings to life death and taxes in that intriguing time.

Ruth writes that she is "constantly surprised by the gulf that can separate different readers’ views of the same novel." That's definitely is a reading group!

One of the best discoveries I’ve made in reading groups is that many good things lie beyond one’s comfort zone. I’ve frequently ended up reading something I’ve never heard of and wouldn’t naturally choose, but usually it’s been worth the effort. Over the years there’s only been one book I absolutely couldn’t bear. I thought it was hideously pretentious, although on reflection my description of it as ‘like wading through a bowl of over-ripe fruit’ wasn’t much better. Needless to say, the book won heaps of prizes and was acclaimed as a great work of literature.

I’m constantly surprised by the gulf that can separate different readers’ views of the same novel. I was deeply puzzled when several people whose tastes I thought I knew well didn’t share my ecstasy over Kate Atkinson’s Behind the scenes at the Museum. They agreed that it was funny and well-written, but they simply couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Only later did we realise that most of the enthusiasts in the group had shared the British childhood that was depicted in the novel. Readers who had been brought up elsewhere found it didn’t resonate with them in the same way.

Lolita, on the other hand, resonated all too well with the parents of young daughters: several of them found it impossible to finish the book and we spent much of the evening discussing whether it should have been published at all.

I suppose that, consciously or otherwise, we all interpret what we read in the light of our own experience – and it’s a deeply personal affair. Perhaps that’s why it can be so uncomfortable to hear disparaging comments about a book that you absolutely loved. (So if you’ve read A Town Like Alice’and didn’t swoon over the romance, please be kind enough not to explain to me what was wrong with it!)

I didn’t tell people in my first reading group that I was writing fiction in my spare time. It seemed both irrelevant and embarrassing: like announcing to a group of opera critics that you like to sing in the shower. Nor did I tell my fellow-diggers on a Roman Villa site that I harboured a secret passion for creating tales about the people of Roman Britain. Although they were very kind when I finally confessed, a tendency to make things up is not highly prized amongst archaeologists, for obvious reasons.
Besides, I wasn’t a born writer who’d been scribbling since childhood. I’d begun it as a hobby: a way to create some private space amid the demands of family and work.

When I finally began to send material out for others to read, it went to ‘safe’ places: competitions run by strangers whom I’d never have to meet. That’s how the early chapters of the first Medicus story were born. Only after they were published in a magazine, and one or two people asked where the rest of it was, did it dawn on me that it might actually be worth trying to finish the book.

The route to publication involved lots of very small steps spread over several years, many of them backwards. When The Phone Call finally came– the one all writers are supposed to dream about – I was somewhere between ecstasy and shock. I’d passed the test! Somebody liked my story! After all those years of warbling in the shower, I was finally being asked to perform in public!

A few minutes after I’d put the phone down came the awful realisation. If the book was published, people might read it. They would have expectations. Worse, they would have opinions. The gift of seeing of ourselves as others see us may be useful, but it’s also a very scary prospect. After all, I knew how impossible it is to predict whether people will enjoy a book. What if everyone thought my novel was dreadful?

All of this may sound remarkably dimwitted. Obviously books are published to be read, but the chances of it happening to mine had been so slim that I’d put the fear of exposure to the back of my mind, rather like a looming dental appointment.

Caveat EmptorI was lucky. Enough people liked the story about a Roman doctor and his British partner for the publishers to want more. The fourth Medicus novel, Caveat Emptor, has just appeared and I’m now working on the fifth. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed the books and the honour of being confided in by one or two who have found them a cheering distraction during exceedingly tough times.

However, when I’m writing I still try not to think too much about who will read it or what they’ll make of it. Not because I don’t care, but because trying to second-guess other people’s reactions is a quick way both to drive yourself crackers, and to crush any small shoots of originality.

It reminds me of the day I naively took my thirteen-year-old shopping for a winter coat. As the morning progressed but we didn’t, it became apparent that we weren’t alone. It seemed the whole of my son’s class was in the shop with us, invisibly peering over his shoulder, eyeing up the offerings on the racks and making comments on his taste – or lack of it. We finally went home with frayed tempers and the safest possible option, a coat as near as possible to what every other thirteen-year-old was wearing at the time.

On the other hand, when I worked in our local library, one of my favourite customers was an elderly man who always seemed to select his large pile of books with incredible speed. When I remarked on it, he confessed that he never bothered to look at them before picking them up. "I do end up taking home some awful old rubbish," he admitted. "Some of them, I just read a couple of pages and put them down." So why did he approach his reading in such a haphazard fashion? "Well," he said cheerfully, "When you’re willing to have a go at anything, sometimes you get a lovely surprise."

It seems to me that both as readers and writers, we can stay in our own comfort zone where the risks are minimal – but sometimes, a deep breath and a small step outside can bring rewards beyond anything we’d imagined.

Well-said, Ruth! Sometimes, members of reading groups forget to go outside their comfort and read something new and different. Thanks so much for the reminder to "push the envelope" a bit.

Praise for Caveat Emptor

"Superb…Downie excels in bringing the ancient world to life as well as making the attitudes and customs of its inhabitants accessible to a modern audience."Publishers Weekly

"... Downie remains a peerless storyteller and a master entertainer. BBC's Masterpiece should take a long look at this series. It's a winner." Kirkus Review

Ruth Downie, a part-time librarian, is married with two sons and lives in Milton Keynes, England.

Find out more about Ruth and the series. And, LIKE Ruso and Tilla's Facebook page.

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