Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters Reads

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris @StMartinsPress

Love a strong character, this one is for you and one not to be missed!!!

“She was the bravest person I ever met.” —Lale Sokolov on Cilka Klein, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Brenda’s review

Cilka’s Journey is a fictionalized story that is inspired by what Heather Morris discovered about real-life Cilka who is a character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Cilka survived Auschwitz and then was sent to a labour camp for collaborating and sleeping with the enemy. Heather Morris captures what it could have been like for Cilka and the other prisoners in the camp.

Cilka’s bravery and strength shine through here as we see her care for prisoners and her friends. It is an inspiring, hopeful story of an ordinary young woman who becomes an extraordinary woman under unimaginable circumstances. Cilka’s actions throughout the story show us the goodness in people at times of horror and the strength needed to survive. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley

Lindsay’s review

An engrossing, shocking and unsettling extension of this series. I read and loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year and was eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy of Cilka’s Journey. Although a very difficult novel to read due to the atrocities detailed within these pages, I found this book to be even more intriguing and informative than the first one. The writing is honest, brutal at times, but so important to read so we can honour those that lived through these devastating wartimes. Their voices cannot be forgotten.

Cilka is only sixteen-years-old when she is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1942. She is singled out by the commandant to be given separate living arrangements where she will be available for his pleasure. After living this way for three years, the camp is liberated, although Cilka is not freed. She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years at a Siberian prison camp where living conditions are not much different than they were at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I had not known about these Siberian prison camps prior to reading this novel. I was devastated to learn that these dreadful prison camps continued existing after the liberation of Auschwitz. The charges that Cilka faced were so extremely unjust. Had Cilka denied the commandant what he requested, she would have been killed. What other option did she have? My mind was spinning with this situation throughout the entire novel. What options did these prisoners have other than to accept what was demanded of them?

I loved Cilka’s character. She was extremely strong and inspiring in the face of so much pain. She gave strength and hope to many.

On a side note, I believe a large part of what made me truly connect to and love this book so much was that I had been advised by Brenda (who read this novel before I did) that not everything that happens to Cilka is based on fact. As with any historical fiction book, fact and fiction are weaved together to paint a broad picture of the time period/situation being examined. Although Cilka was a real person who could of endured much of what happens in this novel, not every circumstance is her personal story. I think knowing that ahead of time really enhanced my connection to the story as it stopped me from looking too deep into the reality of each scenario. As the Heather Morris mentions in the Note at the end of the novel, “There is a mix of characters inspired by real-life figures, in some instances representing more than one individual, and characters completely imagined.” I urge you to keep this in mind when reading this harrowing and unforgettable book. Heather Morris does a phenomenal job incorporating much detail into this gripping and emotional storyline.

I will leave you with one of the most powerful quotes from this book. “Everyone affected by war, captivity, or oppression reacts differently — and away from it, people might try to guess how they would act, or react, in the circumstances. But they do not really know.”

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this exceptional novel!

Posted in Behind the Pages

Behind the Pages Q & A with Eileen O’Finlan author of Kelegeen #behindthepagesgroup @EileenOFinlan

We had the absolute pleasure of having Eileen O’Finlan join us for an insightful hour answering our questions in our the Behind the Pages Goodreads group. I’m excited to share some of that discussion here with you today. Hope you enjoy the interview just as much as we did.

Hi Eileen, Can you please share with us how it feels knowing that the Pope has a copy of Kelegeen? Do you know if he has read it? Did you receive any feedback from him? Can you give us a little bit of insight into how it all came about?

Thanks so much for having me. I’m very excited to be interviewed by Behind the Pages. I greatly enjoy being part of the Traveling Friends so when you came up with this new group I knew it would be awesome!

Hi Norma, I work for the Diocese of Worcester, so I have a bit of an inside advantage. I asked the bishop (who’s office is across the hall from me) if he could get a copy to the pope. The bishop had already read Kelegeen and loved it, so I thought he’d be okay with that. He was happy to do it and a month or two after I asked him, a priest friend of his who works at the Vatican came to visit brought a copy back with him. I signed it and included a short note. The bishop assured me that his friend had brought it directly to the Pope’s residence.

I did receive a thank you letter from the pope – well actually from his secretary, but on his behalf.

I have no idea if the pope has read it or not. I sent it to him because one of the main characters, Father O’Malley, is a priest. His work among his people embodies what Pope Francis has been calling for more of in regards to pastoral care so I thought he might enjoy it. Also, there has, understandably, been a lot of negativity around priests and the Catholic Church in recent years, but I work day in and day out with many priests and I know that the majority are devout, dedicated, people striving to live out their calling. They’re not perfect, no one is, but they do their best to live a holy life and to live it for the people they serve. I hoped the pope would find it uplifting to see that acknowledged.

If you were to describe Kelegeen in three words which words would you choose?

That’s a difficult question! I’ve thought about it for a while. I think the best three words would be “evocative”, “tragic”, and “hopeful.”

This was an extremely hard book for me to read….it really got under my skin. Did you find while writing it that it deeply affected you as well?

Norma, I take the fact that this book got under your skin as a huge compliment, so thank you for that! It means, as a writer, I did my job. To write about something like the Great Hunger and not have it elicit a visceral response in the reader would be a failure. Not that I was trying to bring my readers down, but I did want to convey the reality of what happened, the massive tragedy of it, as well as the resilience of the people who endured it. I also wanted to show the undaunted spirit of a people immersed in faith and hope in the face of such an event.

It certainly did have an impact on me. Some of my own ancestors came to America to escape the Great Hunger. After researching the history and writing Kelegeen, I have developed a profound respect for them. I’m proud to have come from their stock.

What was the inspiration behind Kelegeen?

I majored in history as an undergraduate. When I was taking a course in Irish history and studying the Great Hunger (aka the Irish Potato Famine) my professor suggested that as a creative exercise I keep a diary as if I were a parish priest in Ireland at the time of the Hunger. After completing that project, I realized I had the basis for a novel and it grew from there.

What does your writing process or day look like?

I can’t describe a typical writing day because at this point, I don’t have one. I still work a full-time job so I fit writing in when I can. I do facilitate a writing workshop on Wednesday nights so I know that from 7-9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays I’ll be writing. I’ve recently started to take my laptop to the town library on weekends or days off. I like to write in long stretches of time so a five hour writing stint is about normal for me.

So of course I have to ask you this question because I am totally a “cover girl”….LOL Did you have a hand in the cover design or a vision of what you wanted it to look like? I think the cover is hauntingly beautiful.

Thank you. I love the cover, too. My publisher, BWL Publishing, Inc. has a great cover artist named Michelle Lee. Michelle sends a link to a stock photo site to BWL’s authors. She lets us chose up to 3 pictures to send to her from the site. Then she does her magic with them. When I saw the picture of the young woman, I just couldn’t stop looking at her. I thought, “That’s Meg. She has to be on the cover.”

Can you share with us how the title came about and what the name means to you? I am not familiar with the name Kelegeen is that an Irish name? I really do like it though!

Kelegeen is the name of the town where the story is set. It’s fictional – there is no real town in Ireland with that name. My original title was The Hungerdance, but that was back when I wrote the first draft over 20 years ago. In the meantime, The Hunger Games became a phenomenal hit and because I didn’t want to cause any confusion I decided I should change the title. I settled on Kelegeen because though the story focuses on specific main characters, the story of the people of Kelegeen is certainly on display in the novel. Father O’Malley is that pastor of all the Catholics in Kelegeen so his concern is for all of them. They interact and depend upon one another. Kelegeen is a very interdependent community and that was a huge key to survival.

How did you come up with the character names? Is there a connection of any kind of why you choose the ones that you did.

The names just sort of came to me. Of course the Irish characters, for the most part, have typically Irish names. Here’s a secret, though – many of the characters’ names got changed in the final draft. My amazing editor and fellow BWL author, Eileen Charbonneau, picked up on the fact that I had a plethora of characters whose names all began with the letter M. She suggested I change some of them. I hadn’t even realized I done that! So, Dr. Martin Parker was originally Dr. Martin Matthews, Brendan was Michael, and Meg’s mother, Deirdre was Maeve. That last was the hardest one for me to change. I still think of Deirdre as Maeve.

I know that you are a reader as well as a writer. Please share with us your favourite genre.

Historical ficition is my favorite genre, but I also like paranormal, some horror (I love Stephen King and Anne Rice). Mostly, I love a well-written story. Great characters and plot are more important to me than genre when it comes to reading.

I’d love to know if you are working on something else and if there is going to be a follow-up book to Kelegeen.

Oh yes!!! I am working on the sequel to Kelegeen. I was planning to write a sequel anyway, but I expected to write another historical fiction book first. However, so many readers have asked for the sequel that I decided I’d better write that one next. Once it’s finished, I’ll dive right into that other book I was going to write next. Right now the characters of both books are competing for space in my head. It’s getting a bit crowded in there! LOL!

How much research went into writing Kelegeen?

A lot! That’s true for any book, but I think for historical fiction it’s especially true. As I mentioned earlier, this book came about from an assignment in an Irish history course. But the research was no where near over when the course finished. I was researching right up to the final draft.

We touched based a little bit above about how this novel affected me deeply and sometimes when I close a book the whole novel is lost to me. But I can say that wasn’t the case with this one, it will always stay with me. It was an extremely memorable and profound read. You definitely portrayed the historical aspect to this novel extremely well!

Hmmm, now I can’t remember where I was going with this to ask a question but I’m leaving this comment in and if it comes back to me — I will edit with my question. LOL

Thank you so much, Norma. That is truly the greatest complement you could have given me.

How long did it take you to write Kelegeen?

That’s a hard question to answer. I began it over 20 years ago. I think I worked off and on for about 4-5 years before I had a completed first draft. Then I took another year or so to edit and write more drafts. When I thought it was ready, I tried to get it published, but it just didn’t happen so I set it aside for a long time (as in several years). But then I connected with the author I mentioned in an earlier post, Eileen Charbonneau, and sent it to her for editing. She did an incredible job. She is so thorough and gives enormously helpful feedback. With her suggestions, I rewrote the entire novel which took about a year. So, all told, it was probably about 7-8 years, though not consecutive years and with a huge break in the between drafts.

Were there any publishing struggles that you might of come across or have any insight into that process to share with us?

As mentioned earlier, when I first tried selling it, I had no luck. Now I realize that’s because it wasn’t ready. It didn’t deserve to be published at that time so I’m actually glad that it wasn’t. It’s a much better book now after Eileen’s editing and my rewriting.

As for finding a publisher, I was extremely fortunate – again thanks to Eileen Charbonneau. She thought it would be a good fit for the company that publishes her novels so she contacted the publisher and asked if they would consider it. The publisher agreed, I sent the manuscript, and before I knew it I had an offer. This is not a route to publishing that happens often. I sometimes still can’t believe it all worked out the way it did.

Is there anything significant that you would like to share with us about Kelegeen? I’m open to anything that comes to mind!

One thing that comes to mind is the amount of comments I’ve recieved from readers who’ve told me that they’d heard of the Potato Famine, but never really knew any details about it. They had no idea how devestating it was for the people who endured it. Several readers have said they were overwhelemed by it and just couldn’t understand why it had been presented as a mere footnote in history classes. So, I hope readers learn a bit of Irish history with which they may not have been very familiar.

Another thing I love is when readers tell me that it reminds them of their parents or grandparents who came over from Ireland and the stories they told. It lets me know I got the “feel” right.

What would you ultimately like to see &/or hear from a reader after reading your book? What is the ultimate compliment to you as a writer?

Norma, you gave me the ultimate complement when you wrote that the story stayed with you after you finished it. We voracious readers gobble up books so fast sometimes it’s difficult to remember them even if we really enjoyed them. So when someone tells me that the story and/or the characters stayed with them long afterwards, that’s huge. It means a lot!

Eileen (Eileen’s Editor) I loved Kelegeen! You inspire me as a writer and reader. What draws you to the historical fiction genre? Do you research before and during your writing?

Hi Eileen! Hey everybody – this is the awesome editor & writer I’ve been lauding in my previous posts!

I’ve always loved history. It seems to be in my DNA. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – we’re all in love with history. Family gatherings could as easily inspire talk of historical events as they could anything else.

It’s difficult to express exactly, but there’s something about history that profoundly touches me. I love learning about how people lived at various times, how ideals, mores, attitudes, etc. changed over time, how people coped with all sorts of events. Life was very different in the past, but at the same time, there is still so much in the human spirit that resonates today. You can write about characters in any time period, keep them very much people of their own time (which I believe is very important to do), and still connect with them on an emotional level.

And, yes, I research before and during the writing period. A lot!

Cindy As Norma said, “Kelegeen” can be a difficult book to read as it really tugs on the heartstrings. As the reader, I felt like I was going though the Great Hunger along with your characters. There was always a glimmer of hope – mostly through the characters’ deep faith. Will the sequel continue on with the strong faith and hope for the future?

Hi Cindy! The Irish were very committed to their Catholic faith. In fact, though some charitable organizations offered the starving Irish food and assistance, a great number of them refused it because it was offered ONLY on the condition that they become Protestant. They weren’t willing to give up their faith even if it meant starving to death. Their faith really did get them through even if “getting through” meant dying with the strong belief of eternal life with Christ – an existence infinitely better than what they had on earth.

Yes, the sequel will have the faith element in it. It has to because when the Irish came to America they encountered a land populated by Protestant Yankees who did not like or truts them. Remember the “No Irish Need Apply” signs in the “Help Wanted” ads? They also faced the political No Knothing party that gained power at that time. The No Knothings were very anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant to the point of wanting to send them all back. So the Irish had their hands full once again with the folks who held the power. And again they relied on a steadfast grip on their faith.

Cindy Do you have a working title for the sequel?

Right the working title is Erin’s Children, but that could change.

Cindy There is so much historical reference that went into the book. How did you research? Online, library, specialists, etc? What is the ratio of time spent on research/writing?

All of the above! When I first started writing I didn’t have access to quick Internet searches or databases like we have today. Most of my early research came from books. I also spent a lot of time in the library and at home reading and taking notes. With the sequel I have more options. I’m still reading a lot of books, but I’m also using online sources. I’m setting the sequel in Worcester, Massachusetts. I work in Worcester and live in a suburb just outside of Worcester. I have access to great resources in the Worcester Historical Museum, the Worcester Public Library, Preservation Worcester, and the American Antiquarian Society to name a few. I’ve met with staff at the Worcester Historical Museum. One of the writers in my workshop is a docent for Preservation Worcester. She recently took me on a private walking tour of Worcester’s historic Crown Hill district which is where my main characters would have worked and lived. She even got me into one of the houses. The owner keeps it very much as it was when it was built in the 1850s. He took me on a private 2 hour tour of the house. By about the time we finished, I had it in my mind exactly where and how that house will fit into the story.

Ration of times spent on research vs writing is hard for me to figure (you just asked me a math question – I’m hopeless at math.) I’d have to guess that they’re pretty close when you figure writing includes first and consecutive drafts. That’s a lot of time and work, but the research that goes into it is pretty close to the same. It’s just a different discipline.

Cindy Since American English is your first language, how do you come up with the Irish brogue for your characters? Do you know someone from Ireland and copy his/her accent or does it just happen within your mind?

I’ve heard the Irish brogue often enough to replicate it in writing so long as I don’t overdo it. I didn’t want to write it in dialect as that’s far too distracting for the reader. I couldn’t have anyway, even if I’d wanted to since I don’t know it that well. I tried to put some of the Irish way of speaking into the novel to give it the right feel without being too heavy-handed and risking stereotyping or just plain sounding silly.

Thank you so much, Eileen for joining us this evening!! I absolutely loved this discussion and for being so candid with us!!!

What Eileen has to say about us 

Thanks so much to the Traveling Sisters for interviewing me in the Behind the Pages with the Traveling Sisters group. I had a blast responding to all the well thought out and insightfull questions.

For more Q & A , highlights to Kelegeen you can find the full Q & A here

Posted in Peek Into

Peek into: A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History by Seth Berkman @Hanover_Square @HarlequinBooks @ateamoftheirown @HarperCollins

I am currently reading something a little different here for me the non-fiction book, A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History by Seth Berkman

I have been thinking a lot lately about strong women and men and how they inspire authors with their characters.  I have also been thinking about what makes us strong and where that strength comes from. After receiving A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History by Seth Berkman from the publisher I decided to dive into this one and learn more about these real life strong women who become a strong team of their own. 

About the Book 

The inspiring, unlikely story of the South Korean, American, Canadian, and even North Korean women who joined together to form Korea’s first Olympic ice hockey team.

Two weeks before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korea’s women’s hockey team was forced into a predicament that no president, ambassador, or general, had been able to resolve in the sixty-five years since the end of the Korean War. Against all odds, the group of young women were able to bring North and South Korea closer than ever before.

The team was built for this moment. They had been brought together from across the globe and from a wide variety of backgrounds – concert pianist, actress, high school student, convenience store worker – to make history. Now the special kinship they had developed would guide them through the biggest challenge of their careers. Suddenly thrust into an international spotlight, they showed the powerful meaning of what a unified Korea could resemble.

In this book, Seth Berkman goes behind the scenes to tell the story of these young women as they became a team amid immense political pressure and personal turmoil, and ultimately gained worldwide acceptance on a journey that encapsulates the truest meanings of sport and family.

#ateamoftheirown is now available! Thank you to Justine from HarperCollins for my finished copy!

Posted in Reviews

The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan @HarperCollinsCa #BookReview #travelingsistersread

Slow-burn, upsetting, & deceptively appealing!

I fell in love with Gilly Macmillan and her books after reading WHAT SHE KNEW and since have subsequently read or have snatched myself up all of her other books so I have them on hand.  I have a habit of “collecting” author’s books after loving one. I did have every intention of reading them but some of my ARC’s have gotten in the way of reading authors that I favour and enjoy.  So I was beyond ecstatic when I received a physical ARC of THE NANNY.   

THE NANNY by GILLY MACMILLAN is a haunting, dark, eerie, mysterious, and suspenseful psychological thriller that is packed full of buried family secrets, lies, deceit, obsession, regrets, distrust, and dysfunctional familial dynamics.  Unfortunately, this book didn’t immediately grab my attention because I didn’t immediately connect with the writing style and found the story to be painstakingly slow in the beginning. So I put the novel aside for a day and then jumped right back into it, then I was able to fully immerse myself in this tale and I ended up quite enjoying it. 

GILLY MACMILLAN delivers a slow-going, atmospheric, intriguing, and unsettling tale here that subtly shifts in tone from perplexing to comprehension about 20% in for me.  Even though I did get a little bit annoyed and impatient in the beginning because of my disconnect here once I did comprehend and “get” what I was reading the remainder of the book went quite smoothly for me.

The story is told in multiple alternating perspectives between a detective, Jo (our protagonist), her mother Virginia, and my absolute favourite an unknown narrator which adds intrigue and this evil sense of foreboding to the narrative.  I thoroughly enjoyed Jo’s daughter Ruby and found myself more drawn to her character than to our main character here. Jo’s character was really maddening and totally frustrated me. I might have yelled at her and shook my head multiple times at her while I was reading this book.  Why couldn’t she just see what was happening? She definitely had blinders on!

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: An eye-catching, creepy, sinister, intriguing, suspenseful, and extremely fitting representation to storyline. This cover definitely caught my attention and I love the creepiness and gothic vibe to it! 
Title: A straightforward and fitting representation to storyline. 
Writing/Prose: Well-written, vivid, suspenseful, engaging, captivating, and readable. I didn’t immediately connect to the writing style like I have with other books by this author but once I did, it was smooth sailing from there.
Plot: Slow-moving, complex, slightly convoluted, sinister, suspenseful, unsettling, wicked, steadily-paced, enjoyable and entertaining. 
Ending: I was thoroughly satisfied. 
Overall: 3.5 Stars! This isn’t a fast-paced or edge-of-your-seat thriller by no means it is one that delves deep into the characters lives and leaves you with these puzzling subtle clues along the way to piece together piece by piece. Would recommend!

Thank you so much to HarperCollins Canada for gifting me a physical ARC.

Posted in Reviews, Sister Reads, The Sisters Recommend

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer @nfischerauthor @InkyardPress @HarperCollins

Oct 1 is pub date for THE SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS by NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER and it’s a not to be missed YA adventure story of survival!

Norma’s Review

Strength, endurance, & love!

*One Word – Truth*

THE SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS by NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER is an entertaining, action-packed, suspenseful, thrilling, and edge-of-your-seat YA survivalist story that immediately hooked and captivated me. The backdrop of the Amazon rainforest and the premise of this novel totally intrigued and enthralled me, I was totally taken with this adventurous tale and loved Danny’s story. The action was so fierce that I literally could not put this book down.

NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER delivers an atmospheric, vividly descriptive, fascinating, adventurous, engaging, and well-written coming-of-age story here that is packed full of adventure, explores a complex father-daughter relationship, and a touch of romance to lighten the mood.

Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren and her TV celebrity survivalist dad were interesting characters to say the least. Even though the father wasn’t the greatest dad out there he definitely had his purpose in this story and I loved how Danny ended up coming to terms with so many different aspects to her character. She definitely grew as a character and the underlying message and love emanating from the words written were extremely palpable and packed quite the punch. Danny was definitely the shining star in this novel!

Brenda’s review

I took a step out of my normal here with reading The Speed of Falling Objects, and I am so glad I did.  What a great surprise this one was. I loved the self-discovery adventure here I took with our main character Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren.

The Speed of Falling Objects has all the elements here to make this a thrilling edge of your seat emotional YA adventure for me.  It’s an action-packed story of survival, a coming of age story with a touch of romance.  

Nancy Richardson Fischer does such a great job here creating exciting characters.  I am not a big fan of young voices at times, and it took me a bit to get into the head of Danny.  Once I was, I was hooked and loved the personal and emotional conflicts Danny experiences and the adventure she took me on.  I enjoyed seeing her grow and develop with each page. Now her Dad Cougar is a very unlikable character here, making his character a hard one to enjoy but he creates some interesting dynamics here to the story of survival for both the jungle and Danny. 

The rainforest is brought alive and I was fascinated and terrified at the same time with the dangerous bugs and reptiles in the story.  There is a lot of danger here and there is no shying away from details. It did feel at times a bit much with one thing after another; however I enjoy the thrilling fight of survival.  I highly recommend it. 

Thank you to Nancy Richardson Fischer for thinking of us and giving us the opportunity to read something different than we usually do.  

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: A beautiful, eye-catching, appealing, intriguing and fitting representation to storyline. I love the fall colours to the cover design.
Title: Intriguing, interesting, metaphorical and a meaningful and significant representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Beautifully written, expressive, passionate, vividly descriptive, engaging, and compulsively readable. I immediately connected with the author’s prose.
Plot: Detailed, atmospheric, suspenseful, interesting, authentic, action-packed, fast-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: A deeply touching, satisfying and great ending that made me ugly cry.
Overall: I absolutely loved the adventurous and emotional journey this book took me on! Would highly recommend!

Posted in Behind the Pages, Reviews

Behind the Pages Q & A with Christina McDonald @Christinamac79 #behindthepagesgroup

Yes my friends, it’s snowing in the coulee! Norma braved the storm to take this photo for one of our upcoming most anticipated reads Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald.

Christina McDonald joined us in our Goodreads group Behind the Pages for a Q & A. We had such a great evening sneaking a peak into Behind Every Lie, talking about The Night Olivia Fell and getting some insight to Christina’s writing process. I am excited to share some of the spoiler free Q & A with you here

Brenda Hi Christina! I am so excited to be chatting with you again! Thank you so much for joining us! The Night Olivia Fell was a very loved story and there was a lot of love buzzing around for it and that was exciting to see. Now with the upcoming release of Behind Every Lie what does all this feel like for you?

Christina Well, I’m a little nervous, to be honest! Lol As a writer you feel like you’re only as good as your last good book, and now there’s a certain level I want to hit each time. And of course I don’t want my readers to feel let down in any way! lol I want to deliver a sharp, twisty, emotional book each and every time.

With TNOF I had no expectations, so learning how much people loved it and how much the mother-daughter relationship between Abi and Olivia affected people was just hugely rewarding. BEL is a little darker, it covers more sensitive topics. But it says things I want to say, and hopefully in a way that makes people feel things and explore how and why they feel those things, so I’m hoping readers love it just as much!

Norma Hi Christina! Thanks so much for joining us today! Congratulations on your success of being a USA Today Bestselling author! That is so awesome! Can you tell us how that feels and what that means to you?

Christina Oh man, I am over the moon! Lol I have literally been chasing this dream since I was a kid. I used to write silly stories for my sisters and I’d act out stories with my friends, so writing has always been my joy and my passion.

While I’ve had other jobs (that have mostly revolved around writing!), being an author and telling stories has been a dream come true, and becoming a bestselling author is just amazing. It just means so much to me knowing that my book has connected with readers in some way. It wouldn’t have happened without readers, so I’m just so incredibly grateful!

Brenda Can you give a sneak peek into what Behind Every Lie is about?

Christina BEL is about Eva Hansen, who wakes up in the hospital after being struck by lightning and learns that her mother, Kat has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street, but she can’t remember what happened, which of course makes the police very suspicious of her. To clear her name and to find out if she is capable of something so terrible, Eva heads to London—Kat’s former home—and begins to unravel the mystery behind her mother’s murder.

Brenda How did the idea for Behind Every Lie come to you?

Christina There were two things that really factored into the idea behind BEL. The first is I randomly saw a picture of Lichtenberg figures, which are the branching electrical marks sometimes left on the skin of people who’ve been struck by lightning. I was so fascinated that I began researching more about lightning strikes, particularly how it affects short-term and long-term memory.

During this time I read the impact statement for Emily Doe, who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner at Stanford University. It really impacted me and I thought: how do you go on after that? Your self-trust and worth would be eroded.

Now I know that sexual assault in a story can be incredibly unsettling for some readers (I don’t show it, but do reference it in this book), but I felt it was so important for women (and men, of course) to know they have a voice. Sexual assault has often been covered in stories, but not often is the pain explored through the victim’s eyes. It’s so common to see men presented as both attacker and savior, while women as powerless, and I wanted to flip that around, to show a woman taking control after that trauma and learning to trust herself again.

So I wrote BEL, which takes a thriller concept and places Eva, my protagonist, around a similar past. Now she’s been struck by lightning and can’t remember if she murdered her mother, and this further erodes her self-trust. So she embarks on a journey to find out who she really is and what she’s capable of, while trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her mother.

Brenda Can you describe Eva Hansen from Behind Every Lie in 5 or less words?

Christina Sensitive. Idealistic. Haunted. Insecure. Resilient.

Brenda What are three words you would use to describe Behind Every Lie? The Night Olivia Fell?

Christina Behind Every Lie – Twisty. Emotional. Empowering.
The Night Olivia Fell – Emotional. Compelling. Suspenseful

Lisa How long did it take you to write “Behind Every Lie”?

Christina Hi Lisa, It usually takes me about 3 months to get a first draft out of my head and onto the page. It’s a very, VERY rough draft of the final book – kind of like a chunk of ice I whittle away at until it becomes something more beautiful. 🙂

Brenda What comes first for you plot or characters?
Do you plan or does it come together for you as you are writing?

Christina I think a little of both! I definitely have the idea for plot first, then I sit down and sketch out who I think my characters are, their defining characteristics, how the story will change them and how they appear to others (sharp, business suit and hair in a bun says high-achieving lawyer while flowing peasant dress and long braids says carefree bohemian). I try to see my characters as a whole person, but mostly they just evolve as I write the story.

I have a general idea of what the book will be about and I might know maybe the chapter I’m working on, but that’s as far as I go with planning. Usually once I’ve written the book I look back and realize how much more I need to fill out my characters. It means a lot of edits, but it’s just the way my brain works! I have to get to know my fictional people, and like with real people, it takes time.

Norma I do love my covers and titles of books. Can you share with us if you had a vision of what you wanted the cover to look like or was it all in the hands of the publisher? Did the titles of your books come first or after you were finished writing?

Christina Hmm… good question! I might have a vague idea of what I want or don’t want. Like for TNOF I said something with a bridge and I didn’t want any faces showing, and the cover they gave me was just a gift from the cover gods.

With BEL I didn’t say anything about what I wanted, although in my head I’d thought lightning should be there somewhere, and again, the cover gods knew exactly what to do and they just got it so perfect! Ultimately my publisher has final say, but they’re amazing and they do consult with me.

With my first two books I had a title in mind, but neither were quite right. My editor, agent and I brainstormed ideas and then my editor took them to her teams and they made the final choice. So for my third book I’m just leaving it untitled for now. 🙂

DeAnn Will you be going on tour at all with this book? It seems like your first book was super successful, so I hope so!

Christina I really hope so one day! It would just be a dream come true to meet all you wonderful readers who have read and loved and talked about TNOF, and now BEL. I’m overwhelmed by the support I’ve had and would like to meet everybody. I think you all should email my publisher and get me sent out! 

Brenda You added and showed some different emotions with your characters in The Night Olivia Fell and I went thought a few myself while reading. After writing do you feel exhausted or energized?

Christina I guess more than anything else I just feel relieved! lol I’m not really a planner so I don’t know where the book will go when I start. I have a general synopsis of the beginning of the story and what I want to say, but then I just sit down and go. Every day what happens is a complete surprise; every day my characters make choices and do things that startle me. I love it! 🙂

But that being said, sometimes at the beginning I don’t think it’s possible to write a whole book. I’m always a little surprised when I finish and I look down at my laptop and I’m like, ‘hey! I wrote a whole book!’

Norma I am always curious about while I’m reading. How does an author come up with their character names? So that is my question to you. LOL Do you have a connection to the names you choose or are they just random?

Christina This is such a good question and one that’s difficult to describe! It’s probably different for other authors, but for me it’s some sort of bizarre subconscious match. It’s like I see a particular type of person in my head and they match a particular name. So in a way they are random, but I must have some sort of subconscious connection to them.

What Christina has to say about us I had such a wonderful evening chatting with Behind The Pages with The Traveling Friends. The questions about my books were fresh and insightful, and I had so much fun. What a great way to spend an evening. The time absolutely flew by! Thank you so much for having me!

For more Q & A , highlights to The Night Olivia Fell you can find the full Q & A here