Guest Post ~ Author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Jessica Anya Blau

Author, Jessica Anya Blau, has recently released her debut novel, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES.  It’s a coming of age story about a teen and her unconventional family.  Jessica has written a hilarious guest post for Planet Books and I am so excited to share it with you.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny and the tone of the post gets me even more excited to receive and read THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES.

Summary ~ The Summer of Naked Swim Parties:  It’s the summer of 1976 and fourteen-year-old Jamie has a list of worries: What if there’s an earthquake? What if the police come while her parents are swimming naked or, worse, smoking pot? What if her friends come over while her mother is cooking waffles wearing only cut-off shorts and an apron, her giant, almost pornographic breasts unbound and free? And, most pressing, what if someone dies? Jamie sees death everywhere: in the pool, on the backyard trampoline, and even on a blanket on the beach, where a piece of glass could break through and stab her. Indeed, there will be a tragedy that summer, although it’s one that Jamie hasn’t imagined. And by September, even though her tan is mahogany, Jamie will discover that the beach is not always a refuge, sex does not bring forth love, friendship can be as heartbreaking as romance, and her family– no matter how crazy, no matter how naked– may be her salvation after all.   

Motherhood and Celebrity Penises

One question I am often asked by readers of my novel, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES, is, “Have your daughters read it?!”  The question is always asked in a way that demands at least one exclamation point, as the novel is full of sex. (Most of it is uncomfortable sex that does not turn out very well for the protagonist, Jamie.  In fact—I’ll digress here—one person at a reading raised his hand and asked if Jamie ever went on to have great sex!)  The novel also has mild drug use (marijuana), alcohol (beer), and lots and lots of naked swimming.  The answer to the question is that I have let my 16-year old daughter read it (she claims she loved it) and I have not let my 11-year old daughter read it (I told her she could read it when she’s fourteen).  They both seem fine with the fact that their mother wrote a book that has sex in it—they’re big readers, they’ve read about sex before.  Also, and I’m not sure this matters much, I don’t drink, or smoke, or swim naked (although I have tried all those things in the past) and so my daughters fully understand that it is not ME, their mother, who is doing the stuff in the book, it is the character.

Now, onto my thoughts about blogging: The wonderful thing about blogs is that it is not characters we are reading about, but the writers themselves.  Blogs are like public diaries, or musings—we, as readers, take what the blogger says to be true.  Also, because they are on the Internet, blogs are more easily consumed than a book that you have to borrow or purchase, then peruse (or all-out read!), to find some tidbit that might titillate you.  A blog can be pulled up in seconds, depending on your Internet connection, and read within minutes. 

When Karen asked me to blog for this site, I considered writing about a weekend I had spent with a somewhat-famous, male, sex-symbolish celebrity (we were both guests in the same home) who did a small jaunt around the house naked and then swam naked in the pool while I, fully clothed, sat on a cushy poolside lounger reading the Los Angeles Times.  The interesting thing to me about this story, is that the celebrity had a very, very, very tiny and pale penis.  It was like a flour-white thumbtack pushed into his pubic hair.  I think a tiny penis is fine, I certainly don’t care and would never criticize anyone because they have a tiny penis (I’d hate to read the blogger who got a good gander at me strolling around naked!).  What shocked me about the penis was that he seemed to have no shame in it—no worry that I would reveal to anyone the fact of his thumbtack.  How marvelous to be so comfortable with whatever you were given at birth.  How liberating to think, “This is it! Voila!  Take it or leave it!”  I envy that poorly-endowed celebrity as I would love to be so accepting of myself, so comfortable in my own skin.  Alas, I am not.  If I leave a room naked and someone else is in that room (my husband, for example) I back my way to the door so as to spare him the view of my undulating rear.
 
This brings me to my problem with blogging: the easy access, the eternal life on the internet.  If someone were to type into Google Jessica anya blau tiny penis would they pull up my blog?  Would my daughters be forever ashamed because their mother wrote a nonfiction posting about a weency celebrity penis?
 
Let’s hope not.

 

You can check out Harper Collins page on Jessica and THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES HERE, Jessica’s personal web site HERE and her MySpace page HERE.   THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES is available in stores and on-line now.

Book Review ~ I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Summary ~ “The Clash.  Social Distortion.  Dead Kennedy’s.  Patti Smith.  The Ramones.  Punk rock is in Emily Black’s blood.  Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. 

Now Emily’s all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home.  Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn’t it lead her right back to Emily?”

 

Stephanie Kuehnert’s I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone was able to do what no other novel has done for me.  It took me to a place in my memory that I haven’t visited in a very long time.  The story is set in the musically historical time of the early to mid 90’s (including flashbacks to the 70’s and 80’s) and the music scene that erupted when Punk fell and Grunge raised it’s mighty guitar pick and rocked the country.  Unlike the main character, Emily Black, I was not a big fan of Punk music but when Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog (A hybrid band mixing Soundgarden and Pearl Jam members for a memorable album), Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains swept the airwaves like a wild fire, not to be contained, I knew I would never be the same.

Emily Black grew up in Carlisle, Wisconsin.  A small, gossip filled town that is the last place this spirited teen wants to be.  Just like her mother before her, she longs for the open road that Rock ‘n Roll seductively offers.  Her mother left Emily and her devoted (best written father in a long while) and music loving dad to “follow the music” when Emily was just four months old.  This selfish act will haunt Emily for the rest of her life but it’s what Emily does with her life that makes for entertaining, moving and music filled reading.  Yes, I could hear the music as I read Kuehnert’s vivid descriptions of writing music and playing for pulsing, sweaty crowds in bars and clubs all over the country.  I found that listening to Nirvana, the Singles soundtrack, Pearl Jam’s Surfer Eddie Live album and one of my personal favorites, NIN (Nine Inch Nails) Pretty Hate Machine was imperative background music to read I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by. 

Though some flashbacks left me confused about where in Emily’s life I was, Kuehnert takes such care with character and plot development that it wasn’t too distracting.  Emily’s relationship with her father and her best friend Regan made for emotional reading and there were numerous points throughout the book when I had to wipe away my tears in order to see the pages.  The relationship between Emily and her best friend, Regan, was so realistic and true that at times I was brought back to the time between 1992 and 1995 and my best friend, Ellen (names were changed to protect the real person).  Ellen had a huge influence on my life musically.  She was music.  Her love of Rock ‘n’ Roll, musicians, lyrics and all the back stories that make up the gaps between songs on CD’s helped me develop my love and knowledge of music.  Ellen’s Honda Prelude was named Eddie after Eddie Vedder and her black dog was named Zeppelin.  We were together when we learned of Kurt Cobain’s suicide and we spent endless hours listening to music, discussing it, singing and soaking it in.  Emily is faced with a very scary situation regarding Regan’s health in I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone which reminded me of Ellen’s 19th birthday when she tried to kill herself.  Thank God she wasn’t successful.  It was more a plea for help and a cry for attention from her estranged father but it was a heartbreaking and terrifying time for me that I will never forget.  Like Emily, I loved my best friend so much and would have done and did do anything for her.  We have since lost touch but this book has brought back tons of fond memories of endless days spent together listening to music and being each other’s best friend during a strange and exciting time.

Emily and Regan have known each other since birth practically and that is because their mom’s Louisa and Molly were childhood best friends.  Their friendship begins to focus on music and the idea of starting a band when they enter high school.  Emily’s dad has been teaching her how to play the guitar since she was a toddler and she begins to realize that she is a pretty damn good guitarist.  She can also sing and write lyrics so with Regan on drums they just need a bass player.  Regan has been eyeing a boy at school who she knows is a musician and she wants for her boyfriend.  Tom becomes the glue that holds the band together and helps Emily create music and a sound that they find success with.  Kuehnert creates a world of underground music and the elements of a band that is believable, gritty and wonderful.  I managed a Ska band in college, just when the Punk Ska movement was getting huge attention in 1995-1996 and the sacrifices and rehearsal hours put into a band are monumental.  Yet another time in my life that this book brought to the fore front of my memory. 

The band, She Laughs, finds different levels of success but Emily”s mother always haunts her and she feels like everything she does is because of Louisa.  I liked the way that Emily’s life was a reflection at times of her mother’s life.  Sometimes the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree even when the daughter never knew her mother personally but only through stories, few pictures and the albums she had left behind all those years ago.

Emily’s story line is like the versus of a song and her mother’s, Louisa, story is the chorus, the backbone of the book that leads all other characters down the road of fate. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone reads like a great album plays.  Full of songs that need each other to create an amazing effect on the whole.  Showing a progression but having a common sound or style like the characters that move through the story. 

I enjoyed the mental journey Kuehnert took me on with her debut novel and I look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve for us in the future.  You can check out Stephanie’s web site HEREand her MySpace page HERE

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Playing Ketchup

Sorry!  For some reason the comments setting was off.  Now you may comment away!

There have been a few things I’ve been meaning to post about here at Planet Books but I hesitate because I don’t want to deter from the latest guest post.  I like to give that author a few days at the top!  So before my next guest post from author Jessica Blau this weekend I’m going to get some things taken care of here.

First:  Lisa at Books on the Brain tagged me on a Teaser Tuesday meme the other day and I promised to respond with my answer this weekend.  Well, I’m getting it done now. 

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme that is just too much fun to pass up.  Here’s how it works:

● Grab your current read. 
● Let the book fall open to a random page. 
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. 
● You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! 
● Please avoid spoilers!
      
 
I am currently reading Stephanie Kuehnert’s debut novel, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.  It is about a girl named Emily Black who is a teen during the decline of Punk and the rise of Grunge in small town Wisconsin.  She has been raised by her music loving, guitar playing father and they both suffer from the fact that Emily’s mother left them when Emily was just a baby.  Emily forms a punk band that seems to be gaining a little attention but I’m only half way through so we’ll have to wait and see.
The book opened to page 84 but I’m going to do two short paragraphs instead of sentences.  I just can’t break up the paragraphs!    
 
    “Oh my god,” Jackie cackled.  “You are a joke.  A band?  A show?  Where, in your basement with your two loser friends?  Oh wait, they’re probably in the band, right?” 
     The rest of the class chortled along wtih her.  I’d never hated Carlisle more.  “Shut up, bitch!  Ten years from now -”  
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Second: btt button

You, um, may have noticed that the Olympics are going on right now, so that’s the genesis of this week’s question, in two parts:

First:

  • Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
  • Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

And, Second:

  • Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
  • Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.
  • (Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)
I have never read any books on the Olympics or any sports in general that I can think of.  The hubby has read numerous books on football though.  What I can see on the book shelves right now are Wins, Losses, and Lessons by Lou Holtz, Johnny U ~ The Life & Times of John Unitas by Tom Callahan and Next Man Up by John Feinstein. 
 
I do LOVE NFL football though and am a born and bred Washington Redskins fan.  Living over here in Okinawa has made being a football fan a bit tricky.  AFN (Armed Forces Network) airs NFL games live and then plays Sunday and Monday night games again that evening for those poor fans who actually had to work in the morning when the live feed was airing.  My husband, bless his heart, is one of the many die-hard fans who gets up at 2 or 3 or 5 or 6 am throughout the season to watch his beloved Skins play.  The better the team plays during the season means the more of their games are aired on AFN because of the likeliness that they will be playoff contenders.  We have one more year of this exhausting schedule and then it’s back to the States and watching football when you are supposed to watch football. 
 
My favorite sports movie over the last few years is INVINCIBLE starring the yummy Mark (Marky Mark) Wahlberg.  Beginning to end this movie is amazing, backed by an equally amazing and moving soundtrack.  It’s the story of Vince Papale, a bartender in Philly who is the superstar player in his weekly football league of friends.  When new coach Dick Vermeil decides to shake things up in the Philadelphia Eagles (BOO, oh sorry, that’s the Redskins fan in me BOOING MY ASS OFF AT PHILLY) franchise by having open tryouts, Papale decides to try out at the insistence of his friends.  Well, he makes the team and what follows makes a great story for a movie. 

Mark Wahlberg in Invincible, opening Friday. 

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Third:  I would like to bring your attention to a new feature on this blog.  To your right you will see an added links box with a list of Guest Post Authors.  Each name is a link to their website.  This list will continue to grow as authors continue to graciously accept my invitations to write guest posts for us to read here on Planet Books.  I have really enjoyed the correspondence I have shared with these authors and look forward to new relationships with future guest posters. 

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Fourth:  Author of the upcoming novel Time of My Life, Allison Winn Scotch is asking book clubs to consider reading her book (release date October 7th, 2008) and she wants to call in and chat with your book club.  You can check out the details HERE

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Well that about covers everything I’ve had on my plate.  I hope you are doing well and enjoying whatever you may be reading today.  See you soon & Happy Reading!!

 
 

Guest Post ~ Author of GOOD PEOPLE, Marcus Sakey

Crime Thriller novelist Marcus Sakey’s third book will be in stores this Thursday, August 14th.  GOOD PEOPLE is about a couple who ends up putting themselves deeply into terrible financial and emotional debt when they unsuccessfully go through multiple infertility treatments.  When they think that all hope is lost, they discover a large sum of money in their dead tenant’s apartment.  What happens next is far from a fairy tale ending.  A nightmare of drug dealers, cops and harrowing experiences intend to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.  Based on the great reviews GOOD PEOPLE continues to receive, I can’t wait till it arrives in my mail box and I can dig in. 

Marcus Sakey has taken time out of his busy schedule to join us here at Planet Books and answer a few questions I was curious about.  Where did he get this idea?  What is going on with him now and what does he like so much about those hectic book tours? 

First off, thanks for having me—it’s an honor to be here.  What you don’t know is that I’m not leaving…

Normally I’d just ramble on about whatever came to my head.  Luckily, Karen spared you all that by providing some questions.  If you have more, please don’t hesitate to post them here, or to email me HERE

PB: Can you tell us a little about your new novel, GOOD PEOPLE? 

Marcus: It’s about, well, good people, specifically a married couple that’s been trying to have a baby.  They haven’t had any luck, and are being crushed by debt from fertility treatments, and that’s straining their marriage and their hope.

Then their tenant, a recluse whose rent had been barely keeping them afloat, dies unexpectedly.  And in his apartment they find almost four hundred thousand dollars in cash.  It seems like the answer to a prayer, a fairy tale ending.  But as they soon discover, fairy tales never come cheap…

PB: Did you experience fertility treatment and financial woes or was it just a topic that is just too common right now that grabbed your attention? 

Marcus: I haven’t, and I really feel for those that have. 

The basis for that portion came as I was dodging starting the book.  I was just surfing, the way people don’t often do anymore.  A click here led to an article there that led to a personal page.  And somewhere along the way I came on a community site designed for people who were trying to have children. 

It was an incredibly intimate experience.

For a lot of people, having children isn’t the simple prospect it’s “supposed” to be.  For a lot of people, millions, it’s a lot more challenging.  It involves doctor visits and calendars and daily temperature readings and shots and procedures.  It can cost an enormous amount of money and be a brutal experience.

The sites I found were incredible.  Normal people posted regularly, supporting one another through this difficult process.  They wrote about their frustration and pain, about their dreams, about what the process was doing to their marriage.  They wrote about it with a simple honest that was heartbreaking.  It certainly broke mine. 

And as I read more—and I scoured these things for days—I realized that this was something I needed to write about.  It was hard, and terrible, and real. 

PB: When you write, do you have a specific process you go by like laptop..check, study…check, office hours… check?  Or is there no rhyme or reason to your ways?

Marcus: I’m reasonably organized.  If you want to write for a living, you have to treat it like a job.  I write five days a week, and I have daily word counts.

Well, that’s not perfectly true anymore.  It used to be that I wouldn’t get out of the chair without having written 1,000 words that I intended to keep.  But lately, I’ve changed it to 5,000 words a week.  Some days I just stare at the wall and hate myself.  I’ve come to realize that’s part of my process.  But I still need to make up the word count.

PB: What are you looking forward to happening when people read your book?

Marcus: First, always, is that I wrote something that keeps people up at night and makes them blow their train stops.  I think of myself as a storyteller first.

But if I was really successful, hopefully people also feel the characters and the situation linger with them, maybe even let them think about something differently. 

PB: Are you going on a book tour?  What are you looking forward to most about the experience? 

Marcus: I am.  In the weeks following the release, I’ll be in Chicago, Phoenix, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland.  Later in the year I’ll be hitting Atlanta, New York, Springfield, Ann Arbor, Birmingham, and probably a few other places.

I love touring, because it gives me a chance to hang out with other book people.  I hope some of your readers will drop by—it’s casual, just a chance to chat.  I’m even throwing parties in Chicago, Austin, and Portland.  Free booze!  How can you lose?

You can find my complete schedule HERE

PB: What do you like to read in your spare time?

Marcus:In a word?  Everything.  I read a lot of crime fiction, since that’s my genre, but I also read piles of literary fiction, some sci-fi, some fantasy.  I could go on all day if you let me.  I don’t know any novelists who aren’t first and foremost addicts of the written word.  That’s half the reason we write.

PB: What are you working on now?

Marcus: Well, I can’t give away too much, because I’m only halfway through it.  But I will say that my wife says it’s my best ever.  God bless her.

 

Thanks so much to Marcus Sakey for his great insight and I wish him great success with his latest novel, GOOD PEOPLE.  Marcus is also the author of THE BLADE ITSELF which won the 2007 Strand’s Critic Award for Best First Mystery Novel.  His second novel is AT THE CITY’S EDGE.  You can check out his website at http://MarcusSakey.com for more information.  You can also find a list of Marcus’s favorite books on his site HERE.  Check out a great pic of Marcus and his new book GOOD PEOPLE on MediaBistro.com HERE. (This is also just a great website full of wonderful resources.)

Sunday Salon ~ August 10th, 2008

Hello fellow Sunday Saloners!  Well it sure has been a busy weekend in the news.  From the U.S. Olympic team racking up the medals to the awful and horrible stabbings in Beijing to a not so perfect politician from North Carolina and a war brewing in Eastern Europe, it’s been a weekend for watching television. 
 
I have managed to find time to do some reading and am about halfway done with Judith Marks-White’s chick-lit romp, Bachelor Degree.  I’m going to try to get a bit more read this evening  Having just woke from a nice nap just now, I feel refreshed and ready to go. 

We’ve got a great book giveaway going on here at Planet Books running through next Sunday.  You can check that out HERE.  Also, earlier this week I asked the question, “Are you finding a common theme throughout the settings of your books this summer?”  I am reading the seventh book this year which is set in New York City.  What about you?  Have you been a frequent “armchair” flyer to a common destination?  Check out my post about it HERE

Last week I asked what people thought about the way we read and how it’s changing in our world today.  Between technologies and the Internet, reading material is everywhere but can reading on-line mean the same as reading a hand-held book?  Check out my post and share your opinion HERE
I am curious what your favorite Summer Olympic event is?  I have been following the Michael Phelps story myself.  He’s a Maryland boy who is just remarkable and having grown up in MD myself, I’m partial to his success.  I also like the gymnastics events.  I asked my acupuncture/massage therapist what events he would be watching and he said Women’s Judo and Women’s Marathon.  Apparently Japan has great athletes in both events. 

Giveaway ~ Schooled by Anisha Lakhani

   ~ This Giveaway Is Over ~

Author, Anisha Lakhani, has graciously offered to giveaway signed copies of her debut novel Schooled to TWO lucky winners here at Planet Books.  She told me that “each winner will get a personally signed copy and if they have a dog she will dedicate it to their dog as well – not even remotely kidding.” 

If you need a reminder of what Schooled is about please check out my review HERE as well as Anisha’s guest post HERE.  This giveaway will run through Sunday, August 17th at Midnight EDT.  To be eligible please leave your name in the comment section.   

 

 

 

 

To be eligible for second entry please tell us what your favorite book is of the summer so far.For a third entry, please post about this giveaway on your blog and link it back here to this giveaway post.  I will use Random.org to find the two winners and Anisha will send you the signed copies of your book.

You can visit Anisha Lakhani’s website HERE.  It is a very cool site.  You can see Anisha’s book tour schedule under the Field Trip ‘pencil’ and be sure to check out her adorable Shih Tzu, Harold Moskowitz, under the Class Mascot ‘pencil’.  Anisha will also be over at The Debutante Ball grog (group blog) on August 9th.   Also check out an interview Anisha did just last Monday on My Fox New York HERE

Eavesdropping On CHER

So, my mom and one of her sisters, Aunt Susan, are currently in Las Vegas and staying at the luxurious Bellagio Hotel Casino for a few days.  The phone just rang a few minutes ago.  The caller ID read MOMCELL and I answered with a huge “HELLO!” but only got a quick “Hi.”  It was my mom calling from the Cher concert at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace!!!  I was listening while she held up the phone and Cher was addressing the audience.  Cher was talking about the fact that this show of hers is the biggest most complicated production she has ever been a part of and that it wouldn’t be anything without her.  (Audience erupts into applause!)  Mom has just called again and I’m now listening to Cher sing LIVE!!  She is singing The Beat Goes On!!!  CRAZY!  Gotta love Vonage!  Now she’s going into her 70’s hit Half-Breed.  (time lapse of about twenty minutes) Third phone call is happening right now and she’s singing Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves.

Over the years Mom and I have had this thing going on where we call each other from concerts.  I called her from a Trisha Yearwood concert once when she was singing “Over the Rainbow” and then Martina McBride.  When I saw Paul McCartney in concert I called both my mom and my sister during that show.  Sonja WORSHIPS The Beatles.  Mom called from an Elton John concert a few years ago too and I knew what kind of a show she was in for because I’ve seen Sir Elton twice in concert.  We just say a quick hi and then leave the phone on so the person at home can listen in.  It’s a fun thing to do, a bit obnoxious, but fun.

Book Settings ~ The Most Popular Cities

I’ve noticed that a large majority of of the books I’ve read this year and books on my TBR/ARC shelves take place in New York City.  That’s ten books total.  Bachelor Degree, Between Here & April, Schooled, What Happened to Anna K., The Last Summer of You & Me, Sail, Matrimony, The Great Man, Garlic & Sapphires, The New Yorkers, Free Food For Millionaires.  I love NYC and after reading all these books and the few I still have to read, I am ready for a shopping/dining/tourist trip to The Big Apple.  I guess New York City isn’t just major inspiration for songwriters and movie sets.

Have you noticed a repeated pattern in the settings of your recent reads?  Does reading about a place over and over again in one or more books make you want to go there?  If you did go or would go, where would it be to?

Music Video ~ I Love New York ~ Madonna

Nashville Star’s New Queen of Country Music

Melissa Lawson is the newly crowned Nashville Star.  Some of you may remember that earlier this year I sent in an audition tape for this season but wasn’t selected for call backs.  Now, the caliber of contestants on this season of Nashville Star, which was new to the NBC network, didn’t compare with the last six seasons of contestants from the USA Network seasons but I am so pleased that Melissa Lawson won.  Being a voluptuous woman and 5 foot, 10 inches myself and a belter of a singer I was rooting for Melissa from the beginning.  I knew she had the voice to win and be successful in country music, especially compared to the other contestants this season, but I was worried that viewers wouldn’t vote the bigger, older girl through.  Older is anything over twenty-five most of the time and Melissa is only thirty-one.  I am very proud of country music fans because they can accept a singer for who they are and what they can do. 

Guest Post ~ Author of The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff

Author David Ebershoff’s new novel, The 19th Wife, will be in stores Tuesday, August 5th.  It’s a tale about prophet and leader, Brigham Young’s wife, Ann Eliza Young, who separated herself from their marriage into polygamy and her work against the polygamist lifestyle and bringing it to an end in the United States.  It is also a story of murder and polygamy in present day Utah.  
 
David has taken the time to talk with us here at Planet Books about what initially inspired him to write The 19th Wife and the research he did to help build the story.  Also, he touches on what is keeping him busy right now, writing his next novel as well as what books have his attention this summer.   
 
Photo © Edith High Sanchez
Photo © Edith High Sanchez

I first heard about the so-called 19th Wife seven years ago, when I was working with a scholar of 19th-century women’s history on a book for the Modern Library.  This scholar mentioned Ann Eliza Young to me in passing, saying she had been Brigham Young’s 19th and final wife and had left the Mormon Church in 1875 to crusade against American polygamy.  That was enough to hook me.  Who was this 19th Wife? I wondered.  And what does that even mean – to be a  19th wife?  Those questions stayed with me.  After some time, I started reading about Ann Eliza.  Almost at once I knew I wanted to write about her. She was a bold, outspoken, defiant, somewhat reckless woman raised in a society where none of those qualities were encouraged.  I wanted to understand how she had become who she was.  At the same time, I was curious about her legacy.  Although she played a role in forcing the Mormon Church to officially renounce polygamy in 1890, the story did not end there.  In remote outposts of the American southwest polygamy continued to be practiced with astonishing vigor.  I decided I should interview a few plural wives in order to understand their experiences in plural marriage.  Once I heard these stories, which reminded me in many ways of Ann Eliza’s life, I knew I had to figure out a way to connect the story of the so-called 19th Wife to that of polygamy today.  I spent almost a year reading, interviewing, and thinking, trying to conceive of a novel that could hold the various narratives I wanted to tell.  Then it all came together, and I sat down and got to work.

 A Novel

With The 19th Wife finished, I’ve turned to a new novel, one that cuts back and forth in time and plays with genre.  But I’m not going to say anything else about it, because it’s too early in the process and my vision of  it will inevitably change.

I’m spending my summer reading HG Wells.  He will be my companion as I head out on book tour.  In addition, I’ve read three books recently that are coming out soon that I absolutely love.   The first is White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple.  This is a book for anyone who loves poetry and literary history.  Through the lens of a remarkable friendship, Wineapple unwraps for us the secrets of Dickinson’s artistic life.  If you’ve ever been stunned by the beauty of an Dickinson poem, then you have to read White Heat.  The second book is Stray Dog Winter by David Francis, a Cold War thriller set in Moscow, 1984.  The novel is about a young, gay Australian artist who finds himself ensnared in a murky KGB plot.  I love the book because the hero, or anti-hero, is so unlikely, and because Francis couples exquisite prose with genuine page-turning suspense.   It’s a wonderful book, like a fusion of novels by Alan Furst and Edmund White.  The last book I want to mention is American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.  The novel imagines the life of someone similar to Laura Bush.  It’s not a biography and it isn’t even a political book: it’s a poignant, masterful portrait of a complex, intelligent woman.  Some people have already criticized Sittenfeld for writing the book, falsely claiming it is a hatchet job on the First Lady.  But most of these critics have not read the book (it doesn’t come out until September).  When they do they will see that Sittenfeld writes with profound honesty and compassion.  The book is gentle, generous, and truthful.  Some people wonder whether the novel still has relevance in our society.  American Wife shows the vast potential of the form.  It’s an exceptional book and Sittenfeld, still so young, is one of our greatest writers.  I read American Wife two months ago and a day hasn’t passed since without my thinking of it.

You can visit David Ebershoff at his website http://www.ebershoff.com as well as listen to an interview with the author on NPR HERE.   The 19th Wife will be available August 5th in hardcover at all bookstores and on-line stores.