Buzziest Books of January | 2020

Buzziest Books of January | 2020

The month of January was a great time for readers with a host of exciting releases from bestselling authors. There were so many page-turning novels that captivated us from cover to cover this month. If you want to catch up on the books everyone was talking about, here are our choices for the buzziest books of January. Happy reading!


The After Wife

by Melanie Summers

Release Date: January 10, 2020

Writer Abigail Carson has all but given up on life after losing her husband. After being cocooned in her Manhattan apartment for the last year, she is forced to find a new home where can she can stretch her savings. She is intent on staying isolated, so she moves to a small village in Nova Scotia where no one will interrupt her solitude. But what she didn’t realize was that a small town offers far less privacy than a big city.

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Tuesday’s Child

by Anya Mora

Release Date: January 1, 2020

After the death of our daughter, my husband and I are clinging on to what’s left of our family. Then the sheriff knocks on our door and delivers news no mother should ever have to hear. Our daughter was murdered and my son is the prime suspect. We weren’t wearing rose-colored glasses when we adopted eleven-year-old Holden, but we never would have imagined he could do this. They say you can’t pick your family but I did. Did I choose a murderer?

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Blood Bound

by M.D. Massey

Release Date: December 27, 2019

The fifth book in the Junkyard Druid Novellas series by bestselling author M.D. Massey. This short story collection includes three separate novelette-length stories in the Colin McCool series: Voodoo Ball, Prince Mark’s Price, and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Start reading this exciting urban fantasy collection to learn more about a thieving slenderman, a dark wizard on a quest to save a comic book store, and a zombie corgi.

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American Dirt

by Jeanine Cummins

Release Date: January 21, 2020

An Oprah Book Club Pick… Lydia Quixanon Perez lives in a Mexican city named Acapulco, where she runs a book store. Her life with her husband and son is by and large, fairly comfortable despite the cracks starting to show in Acapulco with drug cartels. Lydia knows they will never sell, but she stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. To her surprise, a man one day enters the shop and comes to the register with two of her favorites. Unbeknownst to Lydia, she just served the jefe of the drug cartel that has taken over the city.

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The Escape Artist

by Kitty Thomas

Release Date: January 14, 2020

Claire was a captive. For 43 days she was imprisoned by a man who did unspeakable things to her. Then she escaped. Three years later she finally got her revenge. The only problem is, she has got the wrong man. God help her if he escapes.

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Two Worlds of Redemption

by Angelina J. Steffort

Release Date: December 18, 2019

The third book in the Two Worlds series by bestselling author Angelina J. Steffort… Maray has finally been presented to the Allinan public. Her life at court soon becomes dictated by traditions and duties. Every move the princess makes is watched. Rhia may be locked up in the dungeons but the attacks on Maray’s loved ones continue. It seems Rhia’s plan runs much deeper.

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The Great Witches Baking Show

by Nancy Warren

Release Date: January 15, 2020

The first book in a new culinary cozy mystery series by USA Today Bestselling Author Nancy Warren… Poppy Wilkinson is thrilled to be a contestant on The Great British Baking Contest. As an American with English roots, she knows that appearing on the reality show will give her a chance to get into Broomewoode Hall and uncovers some of the secrets of her past. But odd things start to happen on set: accusations of sabotage, A black cat following Poppy, the unsociable residents at Broomewode Hall… and the judges are real witches.

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Accidental Shield

by Nicole Snow

Release Date: January 1, 2020

The new book in the bestselling Marriage Mistake series by Nicole Snow… I didn’t plan on waking up hitched to the husband of the century. Or for one little misadventure to erase every memory of us. No sweet nothings, no vows, no honeymoon. But every time I see Flint Calum, I have to wonder how I got so lucky. His flashing eyes and SEAL perfected body aren’t why I’m dizzy. It’s the bittersweet way he smiles when I poke at my past. Something is wrong.

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Our Audiobook Playlist For January | 2020

Our Audiobook Playlist For January | 2020

We wanted to share with you some of our favorite audiobooks we’ve been listening to in January. Our playlist includes a little something for everyone from mystery, memoir, fantasy, science fiction, and romance. Grab your headphones and happy listening!


Mozart in the Garden

by Tom Liggett

Release Date: January 17, 2020

Thousands of cookie-cutter homes for high-tech workers sprouted from the funeral pyres of a vanishing way of life as acres of lush fruit trees were destroyed to create today’s Silicon Valley. Tom Liggett was one of the children who grew up in this new suburbia in San Jose, California. He was a neglected and unwanted child of dysfunctional parents, that became friends with the “witch” who lived in the Spanish cottage on the hill. Mozart in the Garden is the story of their unlikely friendship and Tom’s remarkable adventures.

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Don’t Lie to Me

by Willow Rose

Release Date: December 24, 20219

Twelve-year-old Sophie Williams never returned home from a Girl Scout summer camp. Three months later she was found dead in a sleeping bag in the most frequent area of Cocoa Beach. The town is outraged as Sophie was not just any child, she is the town’s most beloved surf idol. When another child is soon kidnapped, FBI profiler Eva Rae Thomas dives into the investigation.

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Tempted to Kiss

by Willow Winters

Release Date: December 25, 2019

The third book in the Hard to Love series by USA Today Bestselling Author W. Winters… I knew I shouldn’t have fallen for him and I’m not the only one to ever do such a thing. I know I am not an awful person for desiring his touch, his kiss, his everything. But I knew I shouldn’t have. There’s something about it being wrong that tempts me that much more.

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As the Crow Flies

by Rysa Walker

Release Date: December 10, 2019

The first book in the Enter Haddonwood series by Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Rysa Walker and debut author Caleb Amsel… Haddonwood is not real. It can’t be. Another world, another reality, hovers just beyond Chase Rey’s reach. In that world, things are in balance. The dead stay dead and it isn’t a patchwork quilt of every scary book or movie he’s ever seen. In that world, nightmares have an end. Chase is determined to return to that world but the only way out may be the noose that seems to lurk around every corner.

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The Spark Anomaly: The Fisher Chronicles: 2067

by Jeffrey Freedman

Release Date: November 5, 2019

What happens when two earthquakes occur 42 minutes apart in Chile and China? The end of the world… As he drives his rescue vehicle across the magma lake toward the destroyed volcanic generator’s intake pipe, Arnold Spark wonders if his design is to blame for the catastrophe. Now he searches the globe for truth.

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Sex and Other Shiny Objects

by Lauren Blakely

Release Date: January 13, 2020

The second book in the Boyfriend Material series by New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Blakely… I was given an offer to test the sexy scenes from romance novels and I jumped at the opportunity. I have to admit I’ve always been curious. Do buttons really fly off when you rip off a guy’s shirt? Is staircase nookie really that hot or does it leave you with a big bruise on your back? It’s time to find out as I embark on Project Romance Novel Scenes Research.

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Bestsellers Now in Paperback | January 2020

Take a look at this month’s selection of bestsellers now in paperback! January had a great selection of bestselling books to check out from thrilling mysteries to enthralling literary reads, and insightful biographies. Pick up these latest paperback books by bestselling authors Stephen King, J.D. Robb, David Baldacci, C.J. Box, Tara Conklin, James Lee Burke, C.A. Fletcher, James S.A. Corey, and many more!


Mystery, Thriller & Suspense


Literary Fiction


Fantasy & Science Fiction


Young Adult


Biography & Memoir

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The Latest From Oprah’s Book Club

Oprah’s Book Club is back in a new partnership with Apple across Apple Books and Apple TV+. Oprah’s Book Club is designed to connect a community of readers around the world and help them discover exciting books by today’s most thought-provoking authors. Check out Oprah’s Book Club picks below:


American Dirt

by Jeanine Cummins

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Lydia Quixanon Perez lives in a Mexican city named Acapulco, where she runs a book store. Her life with her husband and son is by and large, fairly comfortable despite the cracks starting to show in Acapulco with drug cartels. Lydia knows they will never sell, but she stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. To her surprise, a man one day enters the shop and comes to the register with two of her favorites. Unbeknownst to Lydia, she just served the jefe of the drug cartel that has taken over the city.

Buy on Apple Books

Olive, Again

by Elizabeth Strouth

Release Date: October 15, 2019

The latest novel from New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout… Olive, Again follows the life of beloved Olive Kitteridge. Olive is struggling to understand not only herself but the lives of everyone around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. “Strout managed to make me love this strange woman I’d never met, who I knew nothing about. What a terrific writer she is.”—Zadie Smith.

Buy on Apple Books

The Water Dancer

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Release Date: September 24, 2019

The new book from the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates… Hiram Walker’s mother was sold away when he was very young, he was robbed of all memory of her. But he was gifted a mysterious power. This power saved his life when he almost drowned in a river years later. Hiram’s brush with death spurs a daring scheme… to escape the only home he has ever known.

Buy on Apple Books

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Interview with the Authors of Leave Me Breathless: The Black Rose Collection

What can you tell us about your new release, Leave Me Breathless: The Black Rose Collection?

a. Response from Dakota Willink: My book in this anthology is called The Sound of Silence. This story was inspired by something I wrote for a SOVAS Award-winning and Audie nominated audiobook anthology, Nevertheless We Persisted: Me Too, produced by Blunder Woman Productions. I took certain elements of my personal story and made them into a fiction novel about a domestic abuse survivor.

b. Response from Sonya Jesus: It combines my love for criminology, science, and romance in one.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

a. Response from Sienna Snow: Currently on my nightstand are signed paperbacks of M. Never’s Decadence After Dark Series. It is a deliciously twisted love story that I can’t get enough of. I’m rereading them for the third time.

b. Response from Jo-Anne Joseph: I actually don’t have a book on my nightstand, I’m more of a devour, return to shelf kind of reader if it’s a riveting read. More thought-provoking reads that cause me to pause now and then, are usually wherever I am.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

a. Response from Pepper North: Learn all you can about everything. Crafting intriguing books requires believable characters, locations, and interactions. Live life and be observant. Each bit of life experience will find its way into your writing to enhance it.

b. Response from Cayce Poponea: Boys lie like rugs, wait for the grown man.

If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?

a. Response from Elizabeth Knox: I’d read. Sadly, I don’t read very often but I need to get back in the habit of it. When writing became my job, I somehow shifted into working more versus splitting my time equally.

What makes your world go round? Why does it bring you joy?

a. Response from Patricia D. Eddy: I’m the most fulfilled when I’m giving a voice to people who so often don’t get one. Those with anxiety, depression, invisible illnesses like MS, Fibro, etc. Those with scars who don’t think they are worth loving any longer. For a long time, I saw myself as broken. Anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD made me feel like I could never be accepted or loved or…normal. And then I realized that normal is a myth. There is no “normal.” We’re all broken in different ways, and that makes us no less perfect. Broken doesn’t mean busted. It means we’ve lived and survived and grown and learned and healed and maybe broken again. Our scars make us who we are, and we ALL have value.

What scene in Leave Me Breathless: The Black Rose Collection was your favorite to write?

a. Response from Crimson Syn: My new release is Insidious Love. It is the second book in my Bleeding Heart series and it is part of my darker trigger-filled romances. My favorite scene to write was Chapter 8, where Jake Cavanaugh is fighting with himself and whether or not to kill Rose Blackthorne or keep her for himself. There’s a very intense sex scene that involved a weapon. His struggle and the intense need between them was an interesting piece to write.

b. Response from Sierra Hill: In Precious Gems, my romantic suspense, I wrote my first ever murder scene! I’ve never killed anyone off before and I have to say it was liberating! Ha!

Leave Me Breathless: The Black Rose Collection

 

Leave Me Breathless: The Black Rose Collection is the new romance collection from Dakota Willink, Crimson Syn, Sierra Hill, Sonya Jesus, Elizabeth Knowx, Sienna Snow, Sin Silverfall, Pepper North, Jo-Anne Joseph, Patricia D. Eddy, and Cayce Poponea.

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Interview with M Gustafsson, Author of The Asset

What can you tell us about your new release, The Asset?

The Asset is a low key but intense spy novel about an interpreter turned asset to the CIA and the Swedish KSI, a branch of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service.

Readers who like John Le Carré and Daniel Silva, will probably feel at home and hopefully enjoy Klara Andersson’s world.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I have always loved writing, but the trigger came when I was recruited by Stockholm’s University to teach simultaneous interpreting, and a colleague sarcastically called my Swedish, being my mother tongue, “kitchen Swedish”. The comment challenged me and I wrote a book that got published – and fantastic reviews, among them one in the largest Swedish newspaper on a Sunday, with the headline Intelligent entertainment —thrilling and fact-based.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

The Little Drummer Girl and Agent Running in the Field, by Le Carré. The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum and Blood Allegiance by Elin Barnes.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Elin Barnes. I would ask her how she came up with the flaw that taunts her main character, Detective Darcy Lynch.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

To start out with a small fact, something from the real world, then use it fictitiously and turn it into something totally different.

What is a typical day like for you?

Five to 8 days a month I work as an interpreter, meaning you sit in a small glass fronted and soundproof booth, with a colleague and listen to a speaker through headphones as you render, in real time, what she/he says in another language in a microphone. Through headphones, those who don’t understand the original language can follow what is being said. There are always two interpreters and you work half-hour shifts because it is so exhausting.

To be able to do that you have to prepare the topic for the political or business meeting, conference or symposium, to have all the specific terms that the speaker/s may use. That part of the job takes at least as many days or more of my time.

I love the job! It’s a little like broadcasting a live TV show, so intensely and totally ‘here and now’ – and you get to cover a wide variety of subjects.

The rest of my time I spend writing. That is eventless, peaceful and equally rewarding. My computer is by a large window, and I look up and out over the Mediterranean when I need to re-think what I just wrote. I often have to be reminded to eat because I get so engrossed in the writing. If something comes up that I need to research, I sometimes do that right away, and sometimes just make a note and leave it for later, depending on at what stage of the novel I am.

What scene in The Asset was your favorite to write?

It is hard to say. Maybe the scenes with Louis Hornett, Klara’s CIA handler. The character is based on someone I knew, a TV producer for international co-productions, and it was fun to make what I knew of him fit the story.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Pursue your dreams.

The Asset (Klara Andersson series Book 1)

 

M Gustafsson is the author of the new book The Asset.

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Interview with Leah Reise, Author of The Beauty in Darkness: A New Race

What can you tell us about your new release, The Beauty in Darkness: A New Race?

The Beauty in Darkness: A New Race is the second book in The Beauty in Darkness trilogy. To give you a brief introduction, the first book, The Beauty in Darkness: A Vampire Story, encompasses the story of two estranged sisters that are torn between the immortal and mortal realms after a power-seeking vampire of a rival coven murders one of the sisters in order to use her latent mind powers. The sisters can inherit these clairvoyant powers after turning, which makes them both desirable to malicious immortals. A New Race is the continuation of the sisters’ interconnected journeys through the worlds of the living and undead as they fight to save each other and humanity from a new threat, which brews under the land of the living.

Like the first book, which was my debut, it wasn’t something I planned to write. To make a long story as short as possible, the first book just sort of began out of nowhere one day when I was sitting in bed. After I published it, I wasn’t sure about writing a sequel until fans of Book One convinced me to continue the story. When I realize how the story affected people, I couldn’t just stop. The special sisterhood that the two main characters share is actually based on real sisters, as are some of the events and characters in the story, so the story truly means a lot to me too, as does the message behind it.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

When it comes to what inspired me to become an author, I have to say it was the power of the written word. Since I was a young girl, writing gave me an outlet I didn’t have anywhere else, an inner sanctuary and place of self-discovery. I used this place to express myself, enabling myself to face my deepest fears, and also to discover a sense of inner peace. Writing allowed me to dream, and also to connect to my fellow humanity and the universe around me. It was a place to create stories and worlds I could run away to, beautiful places I could visit and enjoy where I felt safe. Writing was also a way I found I could reach others, as I always had trouble expressing myself otherwise. I think I became an author to connect with people, to show them new worlds and ways of thinking, and if possible to ease their sorrows and bring them a little more joy and peace of mind, as that is the most rewarding thing for me in life.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Since I was young my ADD has made it difficult to have much of an attention span for reading, but as of now, these are my top 5 favorite books or works of literature that stayed with me:

The Andalusian Spanish literary works and Gypsy Ballads by Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca’s eerie and melancholy poetry and literature was an influence in much of my writing and brought out the secret Gypsy hiding inside of me.
The Active Side of Infinity by Carlos Castañeda. This story sparked my natural existential draw to learning about the meaning of life and the experiences we carry as we get closer to our death day by day.
Free Will by Sam Harris. This book is the embodiment of the conversation I have inside my mind every single day. It’s just something I love to contemplate and which helps me understand the behaviors of people around me.
The Mind Readers series by Lori Brighton. This is my all time favorite guilty pleasure, but maybe not so guilty. Brighton somehow speaks right to my heart and mind with this series. I’m reading this series for the third time. I think it also influenced my own writing.
The Marked series by Bianca Scardoni. It’s hard for me to get into a series, but this is one of the ones that kept me hooked. Scardoni has a beautiful way with words, and I enjoy melancholy and spicy vampire stories.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

If I was the host of a literary talk show, Federico Garcia Lorca would have to be my first guest! I have always fantasized about traveling to the past to meet him. I would probably ask him if he would have done anything differently. To me he was a legend and a beautiful person.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

My favorite thing about writing is the way it enables one to more easily articulate one’s thoughts in the most effective manner so that it is easier to convey the meaning one wants to express.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me is pretty systematic. I wake up and make my coffee with coconut milk, honey and cinnamon and have the same breakfast almost every single morning. During the week, I go to work at the hospital where I’ve worked the last 15 years in admitting and more recently in surgery scheduling and billing. I have an 8-hour work day, but 10 if you count the driving in traffic! When I get home, I try to do as little as possible while I relax with my needy cat and new husband who was a firefighter now turned nursing student. Sometimes I get some writing in. We usually watch shows like Buffy or Doctor Who during dinner and go to bed by 9! On the weekends, we mostly hang out at home. That’s when I write the most. Otherwise, we sometimes do dinner and a movie. We almost always do a 2.5-mile walk to the nearby golf course and back. I recently bought an elliptical machine that he’s putting together for me as I write this. As I live with severe rheumatoid arthritis, convenience and easy workouts are important to me. It stresses me out to have to drive somewhere!

What scene in The Beauty in Darkness: A New Race was your favorite to write?

I think my favorite scene in A New Race is the one that takes place in the down town cafe in Windsor, CA when the younger sister builds up the courage to go meet the young immortal man that is following her. I can’t say much more without giving away too much, but it’s an important turning point in the book.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I do have a philosophy I live by. Putting oneself in someone else’s shoes. I think that’s the best way to understand other people and in hand oneself. I think if people lived that way more often, they would be a lot kinder to each other, and maybe a little more empathetic.

Leah Reise is the author of the new book The Beauty in Darkness: A New Race.

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Interview with Nancy Warren, Author of The Great Witches Baking Show

What can you tell us about your new release, The Great Witches Baking Show?

Well, the title’s a bit of a giveaway that this book is a spoof/homage to the fabulous Great British Baking Show and all its spinoffs. I absolutely love those baking shows. I get so involved in the contestants and how they’re doing and worry about the ones who are struggling. I choose who I think should win star baker and then hope the judges agree with me. I love baking which definitely helps. Writing a paranormal cozy mystery series within the framework of a competitive baking show really worked as you’ve already got the close group of people, in a gorgeous English country setting with baking. I just needed to add the murders and the witches and I was done:) It’s been so much fun to write.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Like most authors I think I started with a love of reading. Then I was inspired by a couple of excellent school teachers and finally, one day, read a book and had that aha moment when I thought, “I think I could do this.”

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Pride and Prejudice, which I know is everyone’s favorite book, but I can’t help it. It’s my favorite too! Next in line are the rest of Jane Austen’s novels, then I think Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, It Had to be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Still Life by Louise Penny and Venetia by Georgette Heyer.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I’d probably interview Louise Penny as I love her Inspector Gamache series of mysteries. We’d talk about writing mysteries and building a successful series set in Canada (we’re both Canadian). I’d also want Charlaine Harris on the show to talk about writing paranormal mystery and then I’d get Helen Fielding on the show as she’s so funny.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Honestly? It’s reading a review where someone not only loves your book but gets what you were trying to do, or sees something in your work you didn’t even realize was there. Second to that is writing The End. Then there are the moments when you’re so in the zone it’s not work, it’s this joyful practice where you can’t type fast enough to get all the ideas down. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough, but when it does it’s such a gift.

What is a typical day like for you?

I try not to have typical days as I get bored very easily. I always walk my dog, try to get some exercise, write my words for the day, check social media and then do some cooking or reading. I love to travel so I write all over the place.

What scene in The Great Witches Baking Show was your favorite to write?

The baking scenes were fun. I had to make up the challenges and the various things contestants came up with, then describe them. I really felt the pressure and imagined the cameras were on me while I was trying to bake this complicated pie. It was really stressful! Second to that, the scene where Poppy, my heroine, discovers a dead body is quite fun.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Be kind, be courageous and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Nancy Warren is the author of the new book The Great Witches Baking Show.

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Interview with Tom Liggett, Author of Mozart in the Garden

What can you tell us about your new release, Mozart in the Garden?

Thousands of cookie-cutter homes for high-tech workers rose from the ashes of fruit trees that were bulldozed and burned in what is today’s Silicon Valley. I grew up there, unwanted, neglected—to a promiscuous mother and abusive stepfather.

This is a coming-of-age story about how I survived by doing odd jobs and how serendipity led me to the door of a woman who was a key figure in history: a survivor of the Galveston hurricane (1900) and of the San Francisco earthquake (1906), and who married an architectural icon in early California history, the masterful Carl Wolfe who revived Spanish-style homes in the region. Faye Wolfe had been a prostitute, unwanted, neglected, abused—like me.

Another story-within-a-story also recounts my apprenticeship of sorts with Max Gosseling, a photographer of midcentury California, who produced iconic postcards of the era and how he taught me the fine art of printing with him as a printer’s devil in a cramped, putrid mobile home.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

When I worked as a printer’s devil, setting words one letter at a time, I discovered the precise order of words. Printers, as I learned from Max Gosseling, think paper is a holy object. To leave a smudge on a piece of paper is a profane act. We always washed our hands before printing and after setting the type.

I have been writing since I was sixteen years old and contributed sports stories for my high school newspaper. I am in love with the written word.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx is my favorite book of all time.

In Basin and Range, John McPhee takes a dull subject (geology) and makes it read like a romance novel. It’s magic on paper.

Frank Herbert’s Dune was like a Dvořák symphony. Herbert wrote mediocre books and then composed this stupendous work of science fiction.

Because I am in love with words, Cormac McCarthy in All the Pretty Horses makes love to the English language, and sadly something bad has to happen to everybody. Perhaps I found that as a metaphor for my early years.

When I was thought to be developmentally disabled, as an eight-year-old, Bomba the Jungle Boy changed my world. Gave me validation that I was just smarter than everybody else. After that, I began to read the encyclopedia.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys is the most intelligent person I’ve ever heard speak on the radio. I may be witty, but he dwarfs my intellect. I want to know how he coped with seeing more of the world at a glance than most people saw in an entire lifetime. That’s the conundrum of a hyperintelligent person with massive sensory information flying his way.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Writing scratches a mental itch. Writing, for me, is visceral. Even a mundane email or Facebook post gives me solace.

What is a typical day like for you?

Before I tackle the day’s work in my garden—a third of an acre that is the last working farm in downtown San Jose—I write something, whether for ten minutes or forty-five. I feed our animals and cook breakfast for my wife and wash the dishes.

I’m protective of my time in the garden, and I don’t like to be interrupted, so I’ll work at cultivating, planting, pruning, and harvesting as long as I can until I’m tired and can’t work any longer toward evening. I pride myself on my roses, long-stem cut flowers, carnations, melons, strawberries, Asian veggies, lettuce, and stone fruit trees. We grow massive quantities of food, and I give it away to food banks (the Japanese community adores my amazing daikon radishes).

What scene in Mozart in the Garden was your favorite to write?

After a few hours of cutting wood for Faye Wolfe’s ravenous stove to heat her home, or cleaning up the debris in her cactus garden, I would be exhausted and just wanted to get a cheeseburger with my pennies I earned doing her chores. But she would invite me into her historic home (the prototype for California Spanish revival), and we’d sit across from each other at the iron table on hard benches. I was drinking a tall ice water while her drink contained whiskey. Her stories during those precious hours turned out to be unbelievable, yet true. And retelling them for my readers was a privilege and an honor.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Fall down seven times, get up eight is credited to a Japanese author. It embodies my resilience as a child. I was the king of new starts. In childhood with so many moves and leaving gardens and friends, as a teenager changing schools and jobs, and as an adult who worked for the Surgeon General of the Air Force and Apple in its early days, to becoming a cook or doing other menial work, good and bad things always happened in my life.

Tom Liggett is the author of the new book Mozart in the Garden.

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Mozart in the Garden: Silicon Valley and Me. We Grew Up Together

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Interview with Kevin Pettway, Author of A Good Running Away

What can you tell us about your new release, A Good Running Away?

It’s a story about two friends, Sarah and Keane, mercenaries who are on the run from their old commander because he wants Keane dead. While there are loads of harrowing experiences, magical creatures, and mysterious goings-on, the heart of the story is the friendship between the two main characters. How it gets tested, what happens when it cracks, and how their faith in each other allows them to overcome obstacles they never could have alone.

Also, there is a lot of really funny cussing.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Tolkien and Zelazny were my favorite authors growing up, and while they were both formative for me, it was really the books I didn’t like that pushed me to write. I wanted to read lighter-toned books that left me feeling happy and glad that I’d spent the time, instead of bummed out that my favorite character died. Again.

A series of classes with Mike Stackpole at Dragon*Con gave me the confidence to write my initial—and all my subsequent—trunk novels, and the writers’ community that has materialized around the Superstars Writers’ Conference in Colorado Springs allowed me a springboard to create the Misplaced Mercenaries books, of which A Good Running Away is the first. It was there that I met my publisher, Cursed Dragon Ship Publishing, whom I love more than air.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

My first favorite book was Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which represented my introduction into the very idea of fantasy. It was an enormously eye-opening (and fun!) experience for me. I will admit that part of what I loved was the fact that my dad thought it was worthless. He’s a bit misogynist, and hobbits are the most un-sexist people in fantasy. Male or female, they all spend their time barefoot in the kitchen.

Next were The Belgariad, a five-book series by David Eddings. I used to fall asleep reading these and then continue the book in my dreams. The next night I’d have to go back a few pages to reorient myself because the words in my dreams didn’t quite match up anymore with the actual story, and I couldn’t be sure which was which.

The big one was Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber trilogy. These books set my brain on fire. Deeply mysterious with an accessible – and unreliable – narrator, cosmos-altering magic, and petty family squabbles was both fascinating and relatable. Corwin’s family was a lot like mine. (Feel free to send condolences if you’ve read the books.)

Watchmen changed my world. Moore and Gibbons created a seismic shift away from what comics had been into a whole new realm. Although there had been plenty of stirrings before, this was the first major effort by a big comic publisher to shove funny books into the hands of grown-ups. It was amazing. It was seminal. It had exploding space squid.

The last one on my list is a webcomic called Oglaf. No long-form storytelling here, just funny-as-hell inanity and prurient filth, which I can get behind. For all its dirtiness, this comic is extremely clever with humor that walks up to your face and smacks you in the back of the head out of nowhere. It made me want to draw and and learn how to tell better jokes in my writing. For this reason, I am now strictly a writer.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

(The sound of an interview screeching off the road and crashing into a tree.)

You can’t just drop a question like that on me! What’s the name of my show? Is it PBS or cable-access? Podcast? There are WAY too many variables for a compulsive outliner like me to answer this.

Okay, let’s figure it out.

First, eliminate all the above possibilities. I gave up a career here, so it has to be worthwhile. My show is on Oprah’s OWN network, and my first guest is Jesus. Or Keanu Reeves. Either way we’d talk about me for the first fifteen minutes, and then I’d throw them a question about their current projects. Fade to video of kittens pouncing on sleeping people’s faces.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Controlling both sides of the argument. That, and not having a boss come and tell me that I’m going to the bathroom too often. Also, dogs in my office. I love that.

Writing creates a very specific kind of chemical release in the brain that leaves me calm and happy for the rest of the day. That’s cool. Not writing makes my eye twitch and gives me headaches and a case of the jitters. That’s not cool.

Whenever I’m at a party now everyone wants to talk to me about being an author. Instant invite to the cool kids’ table. People you never thought would have given you the time of day suddenly want you in their orbit. It’s like being rich, except that you’re also poor.

So, I’d say my favorite thing about writing is not having headaches, jitters, and twitchy eyes.

What is a typical day like for you?

The first thing I’d do if I won the lotto would be to build a castle with room-to-room wifi. It seems obvious now, but back in castle-building days no one realized that solid stone would be so bad for your signal. Everything was hardwired back then, if you can believe that.

Lena (the wife) and I took a trip across country recently, ending up in the mountains of North Carolina. I stayed in the hotel room and wrote while she took sculpting classes from a traveling instructor. Being from Florida, it took several days there to convince me that I might not, at any point, simply fall the 8,000 feet or so back to sea level and die, despite that entire distance being occupied by solid stone.

I’m sorry. What was the question again? Oh, right. I don’t know. I haven’t had a “typical” day yet.

What scene in A Good Running Away was your favorite to write?

That’s tough. In general, I like the talky stuff because it’s more dramatic. But specifically…

I loved anything with Sarah talking. Keane blabs all the time, and Sarah is the action hero, but Sarah’s quiet confidence and softness come out when she’s comfortable and happy, and I dug that a lot. She was an accomplishment.

I also really liked the Eli and Harden scenes. Those two old assholes have a seriously complicated relationship that I could have spent a year exploring. The fact that they are also the villains of the piece introduces golden opportunities for humor that I felt worked particularly well.

But one scene that was my favorite? Well, it isn’t a scene exactly, but it was fun.

From the beginning I knew that Keane was going to be a lively character with a “colorful” vocabulary. But it was important to me that his words transmit more than mere vulgarity. (Not that I don’t love me some vulgarity, but it wasn’t enough all by itself.)

Most of the cursing, therefore, tells you a little bit about the world the characters inhabit, the characters themselves, or more commonly both. Curses needed to be interesting little daubs of paint on the background canvas of the book’s setting. More than that, they needed to be funny, because otherwise, what would be the point?

So, in a separate document, I wrote curse after curse after curse. As creative and filthy as I could. As I wrote, I received comfort and amusement in the thoughts that I might one day make actual money from what I was doing, and by how much my parents would disapprove.

I might have some issues around that.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Get comfortable saying “no” to people. Nothing in your life will make you happier than using this one tool to discover what is really important to you and what isn’t.

Never assume you’ve beaten the machine. I was told this a looong time ago by a friend who was teaching me to ride a motorcycle, but it stuck with me and I use it in almost every aspect of my life. The idea is that as soon as you think you’ve learned everything there is to know about something, that’s when it’ll throw you and kick you in the ass. Doing this forces you to acknowledge that there is always more to learn, you can always improve, and that you should never stop examining yourself for your own flaws.

Avoid sugar. It’s just not good for you. Unless you’re cooking for an extreme diabetic who will go into a funny coma at the dinner table. But you still shouldn’t eat it. I’m just saying, I wish someone had told me before I became an extreme diabetic.

Learn to read upside down. People are a lot less careful with their credit card numbers when they think you can’t properly see them. This isn’t really a philosophy or anything, just a bit of helpful advice from me to you.

And finally, don’t be too literal in your interpretation of interview questions. You have no idea what an interviewer might have meant by, “Who is your favorite author?” It could be anything. It probably has to do with pudding and leather straps. Do you really want to get mixed up in that?

Kevin Pettway is the author of the new book A Good Running Away.

Connect with Kevin
Author Website
Facebook

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A Good Running Away (Misplaced Mercenaries Book 1)

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