So, I’ve been keeping secrets…

Dear Pink Enthusiasts,

I apologize for my subterfuge. I have been keeping something from you. You know how Lauren celebrated the launch of The Lure of the Moonflower with an event at Word in Brooklyn last week?

Well…

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I was there.

Don’t throw things at me! I did it for you all. (Okay, admittedly, I did it for me – but I carried you all with me in my heart!)

I did not get any pictures from the event for two reasons:

  1. The event was basically in Word’s basement, and the lighting was not great.
  2. Lauren is like a hummingbird. If you’ve ever seen her, you know what I mean. She is tiny, super energetic, and continually in motion. Trying to capture her in a still moment proved completely impossible. So rather than trying to take pictures, I put my camera away and just listened. I knew you would want a report!

There was wine. There were pastries. Beth (of Pink III fame) was with me.  Lauren wore an awesome flowery dress, and Beatriz Williams and Sarah MacLean were there to help Lauren celebrate and to facilitate discussion. I think the event was planned to last an hour, but between reader questions and author shenanigans, we were there for two hours. I’d love to share every last juicy moment with you, but you probably haven’t got all day to read this, so I’ll try to stick to the highlights.

First of all, Lauren is by no means swearing off Pink projects forever. She was asked if her characters belong to her or to her publisher, and she was emphatic that Jane and the Pink crew are hers and hers alone. In the future, if she writes another Pink story, she would give Penguin the first opportunity to publish it, but if they chose to pass, she could take her characters and her new story and go wherever she wanted. She also said that she has another idea for a Pink book that she’s interested in writing someday. Don’t start digging out your calendars to mark down pub dates – “someday” is probably several years down the road. But it’s comforting to know that we could have an opportunity to catch up with our favorite flowery spies in the future.

If you’ve already read to the end of Moonflower (no spoilers, y’all!), you know that Lauren included various goodies at the end of the book. In one section of her Q&A portion of the Readers Guide, she talks about bringing the series to a close. But she brought up a really good point at Word that I hadn’t thought about. While her historical heroines have moved from 1803 to 1807, Eloise has been living in 2005 for quite some time, and Lauren said it was becoming increasingly difficult to write her there convincingly. Just think about how much our world has changed in the last 10 years! Could you even imagine the mess that Eloise would have made of Facebook or Twitter? Nightmare scenario.

One of the other things I had never heard Lauren say before was that, after her publisher convinced her that Pink I needed a modern frame in order to get published, they were trying to sweet-talk her into getting rid of Eloise by Pink III. Evidently, chick-lit was in its heyday for Pink I but died an agonizing death by Pink III, and historical fiction was on the rise. Lauren said that several different times over the course of the series she had to fight to keep Eloise and Colin a part of the story. At this point, several people at the event chimed in about how outraged they would have been. More than one reader mentioned that, when they got new Pink books, they read all the Eloise chapters first and THEN went back and read the book cover to cover. What? Did any of you do that? I know I’ve admitted this before (and again, please don’t hurt me), but it took me several books to get invested in Eloise at all. If she and Colin had disappeared in Pink III, I would probably not have cared. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very fond of them now! But it took a while. Was that just me?

There was also the inevitable question for Lauren – WHAT’S NEXT? Well, we already know that she has two projects being published in 2016:

  1. The Forgotten Room, a collaboration with Beatriz Williams and Karen White. I didn’t know this, but evidently each of the authors was responsible for one time period in the book, and they aren’t telling anybody who wrote what! According to Beatriz, even their editors have not been able to tell their sections apart. Do you think we’ll be able to tell? The pub date is January 19.
  2. A Fall of Poppies, an anthology of World War I novellas by nine different authors, obviously including a novella from Lauren. The pub date for this one is March 1.

In addition to these two official projects, there are two other things in the works – HOORAY! First, Lauren is working on something she calls her MGFS: a Multi-Generational Family Saga. She says it will be like The Thorn Birds, only not as depressing and not set in Australia, so on second thought, nothing like The Thorn Birds. I’ve forgotten each of the time periods she mentioned, but Belle Époque Paris and World War I Paris were definitely in the mix. The other project is a second collaboration with Beatriz and Karen. Nothing is set in stone yet, but Beatriz dropped a hint that she’s recently been reading Dead Wake by Erik Larson. If you follow Lauren’s Weekly Reading Round-Up posts, you’ll remember that Lauren just finished reading this too. While there was no “Here’s our plot!” announcement, Lauren and Beatriz did hint that the next book would have something to do with the Lusitania.

One of the most fascinating parts of the event for me was listening to Lauren discuss the divide that can exist between “passion projects” (writing the book that you are on fire to write) and writing what your publisher and editor tell you there is a market for. Lauren says The Ashford Affair was a passion project, and she was just lucky that a publisher wanted to take it on. Her next idea for a passion project was a gothic novel set in the Caribbean – but she was told that gothics don’t sell, and no one wants to read about the Caribbean. Seriously? I would read anything Lauren wrote – after 15 books, I totally trust her. Wouldn’t you? Lauren says that she has been incredibly lucky to have a publisher that encourages her to try new things, and that she is looking for projects that scare her. But she also said that “try new things” seems to be limited to “new books set in England.” Why would any publisher think we wouldn’t follow Lauren to the Caribbean, to Russia, or anywhere else she wanted to take us? We are small, but we are mighty, y’all. I say next time Lauren gets an idea for a book that doesn’t get approval up front, we start a letter-writing campaign.

At the risk of continuing on for another thousand words or so, I will leave you with those impressions. But to wrap up, when I spoke with Lauren briefly after the event, she mentioned that she’s been following along with Pink for All Seasons in a behind-the-scenes way – she said she has really enjoyed having the chance to see the series through all of your eyes. So thank you for all the ways that you have participated over the last year!

Top Five Friday: Summer Reads

Wrapping up my week of excitement for Lauren Willig’s new release, That Summer, I thought I would devote today’s list to summer books! Some of these books are set in the summertime, and some of them just seem like great choices to take to the beach.

lost lake 1. Lost Lake, by Sarah Addison Allen. This is a great read about a young widow named Kate who takes her daughter Devin for a spontaneous and much-needed vacation to Lost Lake, GA. They meet a charming and eccentric cast of characters, most of whom have been spending their summers at Lost Lake for years. The cottages on the lake are owned by Kate’s aunt Eby, and when Kate realizes that Eby is planning to sell the place at the end of the season, she and the other vacationers know they’ve got a limited amount of time to change Eby’s mind.
 grown-up 2. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, by Joshilyn Jackson. It may be best to let Joshilyn describe this book for you herself: “Every fifteen years, trouble comes after the Slocumb women. Now, as their youngest turns fifteen, a whole new kind of commotion is chasing all three generations. Mosey’s desperate to know who used their yard as a make-shift cemetery, and why. The oldest, forty-five year old Ginny, fights to protect Mosey from the truth, a fight that could cost Ginny the love of her life. Between them is Liza, silenced by a stroke, with the answers trapped inside her. To survive Liza’s secrets and Mosey’s insistent adventures, Ginny must learn to trust the love that braids the strands of their past—and stop at nothing to defend their future.” It’s a mystery and a coming-of-age story all wrapped into one. Also, the chapters written from Liza’s perspective were fascinating. This book feels summery because, thanks to the southern setting, there are lots of descriptions of hot days and sunshine.
 south of broad  3. South of Broad, by Pat Conroy. This was my first Pat Conroy novel, and I read it with my book club a few years ago. I keep meaning to go back to it. This is the story of Leopold Bloom King, the eclectic group of friends that he gathers in high school, and the ways that they continue to impact each other’s lives (for better or worse) twenty years after they graduate. Conroy’s publisher calls this book “a love letter to Charleston.” With all the references to the beach and Charleston life, this is a great summer book (although, perhaps not for you, Laney).
 forgotten garden  4. The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. This is (another) one of my favorite time-slip books. In modern England, Cassandra’s beloved grandmother Nell has passed away. Cassandra feels like she’s lost everything that matters to her, but then she finds that Nell has left her a book of strange and dark fairytales by Eliza Makepeace, a Victorian authoress who wrote this one book and then vanished. Cassandra decides that her best hope of getting her life back on track is to take her book of fairytales and revisit Nell’s past to answer the questions she’s always had about her family. A great read for any time of the year, but any book that has a garden as such a central feature feels distinctly summery.
 hundred summers 5. A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams. Lily Dane decides to spend the summer of 1938 with her family in the oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island. What Lily wants is rest and relaxation, but what she gets is a blast from the past: Nick and Budgie Greenwald. Budgie and Lily were best friends when they were girls, and Nick and Lily were a serious couple for a long time – until Budgie decided that she wanted him, too. Lily, Nick and Budgie stumble through a summer of awkward interactions, with Budgie trying to act like the past doesn’t exist and Nick doing his best to avoid both of them. Lily tries to understand Budgie’s betrayal and the many secrets that she’s hiding, unaware that a powerful hurricane is about to make a sudden and devastating landfall right in the heart of their town. No explanation necessary for why this one makes the list!

 

Happy Friday!

Happy Release Day, Beatriz Williams!

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Beatriz Williams’ third novel The Secret Life of Violet Grant is out today. I’ve read her second book, A Hundred Summers, and also one of the romance novels that she writes under the pen name Julianna Gray. RT Books praises her writing for her “smart characters, snappy dialogue and ingenious literary devices that turn the ordinary into extraordinary.”

Ms. Williams’ newest book falls into the time-slip category that is so near and dear to my heart. The description reads like a Kate Morton novel, which is also a win for me.

Here is what Putnam has to say about The Secret Life of Violet Grant:

Passion, redemption, and a battered suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale. 

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Madison Avenue world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over “crime passionnel” of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.