Pleased to welcome author Susan Schoenberger to the Spotlight today to discuss her latest, The Liability of Love
Author Name: Susan Schoenberger
Book Title: The Liability of Love
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Publisher: She Writes Press
Welcome! How would you describe The Liability of Love ?
First, thank you for having me on your blog! Here’s my one-sentence summary:
In 1980s Hartford, CT, four young people all fall in love with the wrong person and must deal with the complicated consequences.
What sparked the idea for this book?
After my first two novels focused on women, I challenged myself to write some male characters who were multi-dimensional. My original idea was to retell a fairy tale with a male protagonist, but that evolved into an entirely different kind of story once the characters seemed like real people and convinced me that the fairy tale idea was terrible (my agent agreed).
How long did it take for you to write it? Did you have to do any research?
I started this book in 2015, so it took about five years to write many different versions and about a year to get it ready for publication. This one didn’t require much research, except to make sure that the details were consistent with the 1980s setting.
What drew you to the women’s fiction (and/or literary) genre?
I don’t think of myself as a “women’s fiction” writer because men don’t get called “men’s fiction” writers, but that’s how the industry usually categorizes me. I’m drawn to write what I like to read, which means that I care deeply about the words – the parallels, the metaphors, the sentence structure – and about the arc of the characters. My work is less of a roller coaster and more of a flume ride. It all comes together at the end.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read The Liability of Love?
Early readers have told me that they connect with the four main characters right away, especially with the character Fitz, a rare male character with an eating disorder. I like to think that readers will come away feeling like they’ve been on an emotional journey with characters they enjoy getting to know and writing that brings a made-up world to life.
Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.
I’ve started a new book about a hyperpolyglot, which is a person who speaks an extraordinary number of languages, but it’s very early going. It might end up being about something completely different!
Where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)? Feel free to include any upcoming, live/online events, workshops, too!
Readers, please do find me! You can connect with me on my website and sign up for my newsletter, where I’ll be posting events that will happen after my release date on July 20.
Or on Facebook:
Or on Instagram:
Or on Twitter:
Thank you, Sarahlyn!
Thank you, Susan! The Liability of Love is OUT NOW.
Margaret Carlyle is searching for an epic love as she heads to college in 1979 after the loss of her beloved mother to cancer. When a charismatic boy named Anders rapes her on their first date, she wants nothing more than to forget it ever happened. But as the years pass, each life decision she makes seems driven by what happened that night.
When Anders becomes famous as an actor, Margaret can no longer ignore her past―and she must make choices that will affect everyone around her, most notably her husband, Douglas, and Fitz, the man who has loved her patiently since college.
This deeply moving novel is a window into class and privilege, the mysteries of marriage, and the destructive power of secrets―and an examination of what happens when we try to bury the past, as well as the consequences of confronting it.
“In matter-of-fact prose studded with pithy observational gems. . . the various players can only get what they deserve by speaking their own truths. A keenly observed, compassionate, and absorbing work.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A poignant tale of love, loss, and secrets, The Liability of Love is a heart-wrenching, compassionate portrayal of survival―of what happens when old wounds are left untended, when quiet pain refuses to stay silent any longer, and when we allow ourselves a second chance. Gorgeously written; Susan Schoenberger has crafted a story that will remain with you long after you turned the last page.”
―Amber Smith, New York Times best-selling author of The Way I Used to Be
“With the growing #MeToo movement, it feels like American culture has made progress talking about sexual assault, but Susan Schoenberger has dropped a novel that underscores how far we still have to go. In The Liability of Love, she explores the ways people navigate damaged aspects of ourselves. Many of the characters in this well-crafted, elegantly written book hide things, deny things, and simply try to put their head down and hope something like a rape will just recede. But, of course, it never does, and Schoenberger expertly explores the consequences.”
―Mary Collins, author of At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces
Susan Schoenberger is the award-winning author of A Watershed Year and The Virtues of Oxygen. With a linotypist as a grandfather, she has ink in her blood and worked as a journalist and copyeditor for many years, including for The Hartford Courant and The Baltimore Sun. She currently serves as Director of Communications at Hartford Seminary, a graduate school with a focus on interfaith dialogue. She lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, with her husband Kevin. They have three grown children and a small dog named Leo. Learn more at www.susanschoenberger.com.
Author Marian Leah Knapp joins the Spotlight to discuss her biography, Prohibition Wine
Author Name: Marian Leah Knapp
Book Title: Prohibition Wine: A True Story of One Woman’s Daring in Twentieth-Century America
Book Genre: Biography
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Publisher: She Writes Press
Welcome, Marian! Please tell us a bit about your book.
Rebecca Goldberg, a poor young widow with six children living in 1920s rural Massachusetts had a choice to make: take her older kids out of school and send them to work or break the law by selling illegal alcohol during Prohibition. It was clear to her – break the law. What would you do?
What was the spark? What drew you to this topic? What made you want to tell this particular story?
I never knew my grandmother, Rebecca Goldberg, yet her story was an intimate part of my childhood. Whenever my dad, uncles, and aunt got together, and after their catching-up discussions, the conversation always turned to memories of rural Wilmington, MA where they mostly grew up. They talked about living in a chicken coop, endless daily chores, school, their father’s death, and how their widowed mother sold illegal alcohol to help put food on the table. I listened, trying to imagine what it was like. In my youthful naiveté, it all sounded romantic. Of course, the reality of poverty wasn’t romantic at all.
My dad and an uncle wrote poignant stream-of-consciousness biographies and my aunt recorded her recollections. For many years, I thought that someday I would consolidate their reminiscences into a single manuscript about their childhoods. But, one random mid-summer morning I awoke with unshakable clarity that I had to write about their mother – not about them. I realized that she was the foundational inspiration for my book. She was the one who held her family together under mind-blunting and bone-wearying circumstances, and she did it because she saw that as her only option.
When I recognized that my grandmother had to be the heart of the book, I set off on a journey of learning. Some information existed concretely in newspaper articles or cemetery headstones. Other pieces of her life were forever hidden because no one had the forethought to ask the questions and, consequentially, there were no answers. To truly understand her, I had to acknowledge and list the things I didn’t know, and get to work.
What was your research process like for Prohibition Wine?
First were mysteries about my grandmother’s early life: where she came from, her family, and getting to America. Next were life experiences, especially for Jews, in the Russian Empire: culture, society, politics, and religion. Then, what America was like for her when she arrived: economic circumstances for immigrants, survival, housing, or family traditions. Once here, how did she build her own family: find a husband, bear, lose, and raise children, and becoming a widow.
All of these arenas required different research avenues. For my grandmother’s life in the old country I read about shtetls, the city of Vilna, interactions with local peasants and Cossacks, and anti-Semitism. Getting to America involved dives into immigration records through Ancestry.com and also exploring the routes that immigrants took to get here. I read about women’s roles in Jewish families, arranging marriages, and marital relationships. Health issues, especially related to reproduction and child-bearing, and common deadly disease and injuries in her era surfaced as an important topic. I learned how people got around before anyone had an automobile. I read many numbers of books and articles on Prohibition – its history, regulations, enactment, enforcement, and the creative ways that people devised to defy the law. I also read about the involvement of Jews in the alcohol trade in general, and also their role during Prohibition.
From your perspective, what’s the hardest thing about writing and researching? And what do you love most about it?
The hardest thing for me was not being able to answer certain questions. When that happened, I had to make a best guess, but could never be certain that I had reached the truth. For example, I could never identify the exact route that my grandmother and her sisters took from Vilna, Lithuania to the port of Hamburg, Germany. I read about the various courses that people used and picked one that seemed most likely. As much as I searched, I could never find the immigration records for Rebecca’s oldest sister. She got here but I don’t know how and when. This feels like unfinished business. I plan to keep searching.
I loved doing the research for this book. I gained insights into all of the topics and themes I had laid out. My investigations deepened my understanding and respect for the decisions and actions that my grandmother, father, aunt, and uncles took, and their ability to make it through fraught, unforgiving times.
How are you adjusting to promoting a book during a pandemic?
Fortunately for me, there was a cohort of She Writes Press authors who paved the way for how to promote books during a pandemic. I am able to benefit from their pioneering spirit and achievements. They figured out how to work with books stores and other venues for launches and promotions.
Because of this, it has not been difficult for me. My publicist had also learned how to do pandemic-confined publicity. I am now gliding into all of this previous work. In some ways, the pandemic has helped boost publicity and book sales. With virtual events, it is possible to reach many more people in a broader geographic spectrum. Book sales have been strong during the pandemic as more people have been limited in their ability to go outside of their homes for cultural connections.
What’s capturing your imagination these days outside of reading and writing?
Certain issues are capturing my attention and I try to respond when I think I have something to say. I am deeply troubled by physical and verbal attacks on groups who are minorities in the U.S. Unfortunately, many of these prejudicial acts and attitudes are not new, but indicative of long-standing hatreds that exist in segments of our society. Any progress that we thought we had made seems to be threatened by what appears to be deeply embedded and reemergent intolerance. The recent verdict in the George Floyd murder case is a good, but possibly a very tenuous step forward. I have recently published an article in my regular (ten-year) column for my local newspaper, the Newton (MA) TAB about hatred towards Asians. https://www.wickedlocal.com/story/newton-tab/2021/03/30/newton-columnist-whats-best-way-handle-national-tragedies/4810309001/ I try to fight injustices by writing about them, but don’t know if it does any good.
Any new writing projects in the works?
I have a small stack of in-the-works and ideas for future book projects.
I have already started a book about a group of now 80+ year old women (of which I am a member) who came together as friends in South Providence, RI, when we were about age twelve. We still see ourselves as a unit even though we live all over the country, and, sorrowfully, some of us have died. I am exploring why we formed in the first place and why we are still together.
I have in mind several other possibilities: an exploration of ageism (I have written a lot about aging); using leftovers (I hate to waste food and like to cook); plus a few more ideas.
The challenge is staying creative as I am acutely aware of the years that are simply and automatically ticking away.
Where can readers find you?
Events for Prohibition Wine:
|May 25, 7 pm||Belmont Books||Virtual Book Launch|
|July 20 7:00 – 8:00 pm||Newton Free Library and the Newton Department of Senior Services/Senior Center*||Virtual Author Event|
|Thursday, July 22 at 7:00 PM||Wilmington Public Library*||This will be part of a month-long community read of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – Knapp will bring a contrasting perspective from the life that her grandmother led in Wilmington during Prohibition. Gatsby was published in 1925, the year her grandmother got caught for selling illegal alcohol.|
|October 6, 2021, 7:00 p.m.||Hadassah Southern New England*||Author Presentation|
Thank you, Marian! Prohibition Wine is OUT NOW.
In 1918, Rebecca Goldberg—a Jewish immigrant from the Russian Empire living in rural Wilmington, Massachusetts—lost her husband, Nathan, to a railroad accident, a tragedy that left her alone with six children to raise. To support the family after Nathan’s death, Rebecca continued work she’d done for years: keeping chickens. Once or twice a week, with a suitcase full of fresh eggs in one hand and a child in the other, she delivered her product to relatives and friends in and around Boston.
Then, in 1920—right at the start of Prohibition—one of Rebecca’s customers suggested that she start selling alcoholic beverages in addition to her eggs to add to her meagre income. He would provide his homemade raw alcohol; Rebecca would turn it into something drinkable and sell it to new customers in Wilmington. Desperate to feed her family and keep them together, and determined to make sure her kids would all graduate from high school, Rebecca agreed—making herself a wary participant in the illegal alcohol trade.
Rebecca’s business grew slowly and surreptitiously until 1925, when she was caught and summoned to appear before a judge. Fortunately for her, the chief of police was one of her customers, and when he spoke highly of her character before the court, all charges were dropped. Her case made headline news—and she made history.
Marian Leah Knapp is a writer and community activist. Her previously published books include Aging in Places: Reflective Preparation for the Future, A Steadfast Spirit: The Essence of Caregiving, and, with Vivien Goldman, The Outermost Cape: Encountering Time. For more than ten years, she has written a regular column Aging in Places for the Newton (MA) TAB. When Marian was sixty-four years old, she went back to school to obtain a PhD. She passed her dissertation defense right before her seventieth birthday. Marian lives in Chestnut Hill, MA.
Author Kristin Contino joins the Spotlight this week to discuss her second novel, A House Full of Windsor
Author Name: Kristin Contino
Book Title: A House Full of Windsor
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: July 13, 2021
Congratulations on your release! How would you describe A House Full of Windsor?
A Martha Stewart wannabe and her royal-obsessed compulsive hoarder mother end up on a reality show where they’re forced to confront their messy pasts.
What sparked the idea for the book?
I was watching an episode of Hoarders where a mother and daughter were fighting about the mom’s house. It made me wonder how having this type of parent would impact you emotionally, but also how it would shape your relationships, career path, etc. The Princess Diana aspect came into play naturally since I’ve been following the royal family my entire life and now work as a royal reporter.
How long did it take for you to write it? Did you do have to do any research?
It took about a year and a half to finish. I ended up signing with an agent for the book in 2015, but we learned it wasn’t right for the market at the time and I mentally shelved the manuscript away, thinking maybe I would revisit it in the future. Fast forward to 2020 and on a whim, I decided I was going to pitch the novel again – and here I am.
I read several fascinating nonfiction books about hoarding and did a lot of Internet research (there are forums for children of hoarders, for example). I also spoke with a friend whose mother is a hoarder so that was helpful in terms of getting a child’s perspective. To write Debbie’s flashback scenes I watched a few documentaries about the 1981 royal wedding and went through a good amount of news coverage of Diana and Charles’s relationship. I did visit London a few times while writing/editing the book so that helped, and I was there for Harry and Meghan’s wedding so that gave the wedding scenes a new perspective when I reworked AHFOW last year.
Wow—that’s some cool research! For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?
Finding the time and energy. Like many authors, I need to juggle my regular work (I work full-time as an online editor, plus serve as chief reporter at royalcentral.co.uk) with writing and marketing books, taking care of my family, house, and so on.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Unlike Debbie, I’m not quite a hoarder but I do enjoy antiquing and collecting vintage royal books and that sort of thing. International travel is a huge passion of mine and I’m looking forward to getting back to that soon. Also, I’m really into theater and try to get up to NYC to see a Broadway show a few times a year.
Are you working on a new project?
I’m almost done with my next book, which I’m staying fairly tight-lipped about right now! I also have a sequel to AHFOW that I wrote a few years ago, but it needs to be reworked quite a bit due to some changes I made to the first book since then. It may or may not see the light of day … we will see.
Where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)? Feel free to include any upcoming, live/online events, workshops, too!
My website is www.kristincontino.com and in terms of social media I’m the most active on Instagram (www.instagram.com/royallykristinc). Facebook is www.facebook.com/kristincontinowriter and Twitter is www.twitter.com/royalkristinc.
Thank you, Kristin! A House Full of Windsor is out TODAY.
Spanning from 1980s London and the royal wedding of a century to a present-day reality TV show, A HOUSE FULL OF WINDSOR explores how one woman’s messy past shapes her family’s future.
Sarah Percy’s career depends on New Yorkers taking her household advice as gospel. “Sarah Says” used to be the most popular segment on the city’s top morning show, but ratings are down and it looks like Sarah might not have a tip for everything, after all… especially when her mother gets involved.
Debbie Windsor, Sarah’s mother, is a shopaholic and compulsive hoarder, a secret Sarah has worked tirelessly to hide her entire life. Debbie was always fascinated by royalty, but when her real-life love story started to parallel Princess Diana’s, she turned to collecting royal souvenirs to fill the void. Leaving her husband’s native England and relocating the family to her hometown in Pennsylvania doesn’t help the situation, and two decades later the house is a royal mess. Debbie’s safety is on the line, but she brushes off any attempts her family makes to help.
When Sarah’s brother gets a job on Stuff, a TV show about compulsive hoarding, he nominates their mother for an episode and promises his famous sister’s participation. Backed into a corner, Sarah and Debbie agree, but everyone has something at stake whether the episode does or doesn’t go off without a hitch. With both family and romantic relationships on the line–including the connection between Sarah and the show’s sexy host, and Debbie’s budding romance with a local shopkeeper –long-buried secrets and resentment must come to the surface for the family to move on.