Patricia Leavy joins the Spotlight to discuss her novel, Hollyland
Welcome, Patricia! How would you describe Hollyland?
Hollyland is a celebrity romance between a supposedly average gal, Dee Schwartz, and a Hollywood bad boy, actor Ryder Field. Their love story seems like a fairy tale until Dee disappears into thin air after an awards ceremony, making everyone wonder if there can truly be a happily ever after in Hollywood.
Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book during the lockdown in 2020. My elderly father, whom I love more than anyone, got a serious case of covid, before the vaccine. He had other health challenges at the time and we all thought we were going to lose him. The pandemic made it even worse, as I did not have the ability to get to him. I was terrified I’d never see him again. So I wanted to write him something to tell him how much he means to me, you know, that letter you write when you think this is it. A letter wasn’t enough, so I wrote him a novel instead.
What sparked the idea for this book?
We live in a culture fascinated with celebrity, but because I was thinking about my father, I started to ponder who the real movie stars are on the big screens of our lives. That was the starting point. It brought me to the idea of what would happen if someone totally in love with art in the purest way was surrounded by those in the entertainment industry. How would she see Hollywood—or what she calls, Hollyland? How would she change the way others see art, creativity, passion, and the real magic—or gold dust—in our lives?
What’s your favorite part about being an author?
I love writing more than anything. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a story world you’re creating. Some days it’s just hard work and discipline, but when it flows, and you’re so swept up you forget to have lunch, it’s like nothing else. Sometimes a character says something you didn’t expect, and it’s incredible. The creative process never happens quite the same way twice, which is why I’m still so in love with it. I feel so lucky to be able to live as an author. There are many days when I pinch myself. It’s pretty cool to get to work in my home office in sweatpants too.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Hollyland?
It’s a lighthearted, feel-good escape, that will leave you reflecting on what it really means to live an extraordinary life, and how it’s never too late for magic.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
A sense of optimism and hopefulness. That love after grief is possible. An appreciation that the real movie stars in our lives aren’t necessarily famous but are those we hold most dear. Art matters. Brave art matters. Always live and love with passion. Gold dust may be right around the corner.
Where can readers find you?
She Writes Press: https://shewritespress.com/product/hollyland/
Thank you, Patricia! Hollyland is out NOW.
What happens when a seemingly ordinary woman with a passion for the arts falls in love with a Hollywood star known for his bachelor status and quick temper with the paparazzi? Something extraordinary.
Dee Schwartz is a writer and arts researcher. Ryder Field is a famous actor descended from Hollywood royalty. On the night they meet outside a bar, their connection is palpable. Ryder’s mother—legendary actress Rebecca Field, half of Hollywood’s golden couple when she died—was kidnapped and murdered by a crazed fan in a shocking event that forever tarnished Tinseltown. Dee’s mother, too, died when she was young. Bonded by this loss, the two embark on a love story that explores their search for magic—or “gold dust”—in their lives. Everything changes, however, when Dee mysteriously disappears after an awards ceremony. Is history repeating itself? Can there truly be a happily ever after in Hollywood?
Set against the backdrop of contemporary Los Angeles, Hollyland is a poignant novel that moves fluidly between romance, humor, suspense, and joy.
Patricia Leavy, PhD, is an award-winning, best-selling author. She was formerly Associate Professor of Sociology, Chairperson of Sociology & Criminology, and Founding Director of Gender Studies at Stonehill College. She has published more than forty books; her work has been translated into many languages, and she has received more than forty book honors. She has also received career awards from the New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the National Art Education Association. In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and SUNY-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.” Her website is www.patricialeavy.com.
Robin Alvarez joins us this week to discuss her YA contemporary fantasy, When Oceans Rise
Author Name: Robin Alvarez
Book Title: When Oceans Rise
Book Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Publisher: Creative James Media
Welcome, Robin! How would you describe When Oceans Rise?
Gods, monsters, and a curse: Malaya trades her voice to a sea witch to escape a toxic relationship, but the sea witch uses her voice to unleash Filipino mythological creatures on the worlds. Now she must get her voice back to save both worlds.
What sparked the idea for this book?
When I was seventeen, I went surfing during a hurricane and almost died. Of course, I wasn’t surfing the day of the actual storm. If you live near a beach, you probably know that the storm will feed the ocean in the days before a hurricane. Those swells are incredibly fun and insanely dangerous, and I ran to them.
I always told people I went out there because I was seventeen and reckless, and that’s just what you did at that age, but it was a surface truth. The darker truth was that I was miserably drowning in an abusive relationship, and on that day, struggling to pull out of a rip tide that wanted to take me out to sea, I wondered if it would be easier to let go.
That was the moment I wanted to write about, and I based When Oceans Rise around that scene.
How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do any research?
I wrote When Oceans Rise in 30 days. It was quick because it was based a lot on my experiences being in an abusive relationship. However, I did do a lot of research on Filipino mythology about gods and monsters.
What drew you to writing YA fiction?
I love firsts! I love the newest that comes with YA, and the depth of teenager’s feelings. But despite my love for YA, there were gaps in representation. I want to fill whatever gaps I can, and I try to do that with my multiracial perspective.
What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?
My favorite part about writing is when a plot really comes together. Sometimes, it takes a while for all the puzzles pieces to fit, but when they do, it’s the best feeling. My favorite part about being an author is when people reach out to me to tell me that my book meant something to them. I’ve been lucky to experience this!
Something I find challenging about being a writer is managing to write a book within my attention span. I write books in about 20-30 days because I tend to lose focus if I don’t complete the book within that time. If I step away from an unfinished book because I’ve lost focus, it’s tough for me to complete the project. Sometimes, I have to reread a project several times before I get a sense of what I was trying to do again.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I want people to see the warning signs of gaslighting and abuse! I wrote this book to show people what gaslighting can look like—at least one of the many ways. I want people to recognize it before their power is stripped. I’ll never be able to reach most people, to speak to them, but I’m hoping my character gives people the voice that they might otherwise lose in those situations. I also hope that people with my shared experience find peace.
What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?
The friendships made! I’d always thought of writing as a very solitary thing, but I’ve made more friends through writing and publishing than in any other space in my life. We have this insane drive to tell a story and really commit, and this beautiful need to give our thoughts to the world and hope they feel something! It’s easy to connect with other authors in this sense.
Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?
My career was 14 years in the making, and if I could tell my pre-published self anything, it would be to let it go! I spent too much time on my first book, worried about making it perfect, and it just isn’t publishable. I could have been working on other projects, getting better, but I was too precious about that piece. I love it, but it now collects dust (metaphorically because it’s on a hard drive).
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I’m a hobby hobbyist! I’m kidding, but truly I like to learn new things. I have so many hobbies that aren’t really hobbies because I don’t consistently do them. They are just a collection of things I know how to do, like painting, skateboarding, quilting, etc. I just wanted to know I could do those things.
Where can readers find you?
I am working on a novel about soul families called Starseed! It’s based on the idea that we all come to Earth to experience growth as souls, and we do that by signing contracts about the experiences on Earth we will endure that will help us grow.
But these two sisters, who are twin flames and love each other very much in the soul realm, actually betray and kill each other in every human life to the point of near obliteration. They have to figure out how to navigate their next human life cycle or risk their own destruction. Readers can find me on my favorite social media: TikTok @robiiehood or on my website at robinalvarez.com
Thank you, Robin! When Oceans Rise is available for pre-order!
Submerged in a toxic relationship and disconnected from everyone, she turns to the sea to decide her fate. Its decision? Toss her to the sea witch.
Seventeen-year-old Malaya is cursed. In her family, every girl’s first love ends in death after falling for someone evil. Good thing Malaya’s dream guy isn’t monstrous.
Except the curse is real and preventing Malaya from noticing how much he has gaslit and isolated her until she can’t be saved. With no other options, the sea witch is the only one to help her. Bartering her voice for a new life where she and her abusive boyfriend never met, Malaya accidentally swaps places with an alternate timeline version of herself who didn’t make her mistakes. As she tries to undo the switch, the sea witch uses Malaya’s voice to unleash Filipino mythological creatures into the worlds.
Can a champion, an alternate timeline sister, and Malaya fight these beasts and stop the sea witch before she destroys both timelines?
Robin Alvarez has a master’s in creative writing and was co-editor of the literary magazine The Sage, in which her short stories have been published. She has written for The Bend Business and currently works at Sul Ross University. Strong female characters, mythological creatures, and a mixed-race perspective are hallmarks of her work. While she’s spent the majority of her life in beach towns, having almost drowned several times, she currently resides in a desert where the waters are less likely to kill her.
Robin’s work has been featured on OwlCrate, ABC, NBC, and CBS news affiliates, and the New Orleans Review Instagram.
Ann Putnam joins The Spotlight this week to chat about her novel, I Will Leave You Never
Author Name: Ann Putnam
Book Title: I Will Leave You Never
Book Genre: Literary fiction
Release Date: 5/9/2023
Publisher: She Writes Press
Welcome, Ann! How would you describe I Will Leave You Never?
How can you live in joy not fear when the sky is falling? Children, parents, pets, and arson, heartbreak, laughter and love—I Will Leave You Never is a book that will not let you go.
What do you hope readers can take away from your book?
My protagonist asks of her husband: How can I love you if I am to lose you? But she learns that you can learn to love anything, even terrible things, if you can love them for what they are teaching you. I want the reader to fall in love with this book’s characters, worry over them, laugh with them, root for them, and then cry for them. I want the reader to feel wrenched apart, then surprised into joy and ultimately transformed.
What’s the worst moment and best moment in a writer’s life?
“And what do you do?” she asks me.
I answer with trepidation, as this usually ends badly. “Oh, I’m a writer.”
“So, what do you write?”
There is a long pause. I know I should make something up. Detective, romance—a romantic detective? I manage to squeak out: “Fiction.”
“Oh, is it sexy?”
“No. Actually it’s literary.”
“Oh, writing with a lot of extra words.” And now I have successfully diminished myself in my very own eyes.
A look of puzzlement is followed by:
“Where can I buy it?”
“Well, it’s not published yet.”
“Oh. Then you’re not really a writer.”
That last comment may have only been in my head, but it doesn’t matter. The feeling is the same.
“Are you Ann Putnam?”
Okay. Here we go:
“I read your novel, and I couldn’t put it down. It made me cry, but that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.”
“Oh thank you!”
Now why is the worst moment more interesting than the best one? Compliments are rarely remembered or believed, and criticism is remembered forever. Now that’s interesting.
How long did it take you to write the book? Did you do any research?
I began it in the car, on the drive home from Glacier National Park, where we’d taken the children, not knowing a grizzly bear had just killed three people. That experience wound up as a short story, called “Zoe’s Bear,” but the novel that came out of it had no bear in it at all. It became one story then another, then another, my constant companion over the miles and years. Still, it had mortality in it, in various forms both strange and familiar. I wrote it at my desk at home, on planes, in emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, PTA meetings, gymnastic and track meets, traffic lights. It took days, months, years, and went through many iterations.
This book came mostly out of the magic that occurs when memory and the imagination meet in completely strange and startling ways. But. When I was well into the first draft, I suddenly knew that the story I was trying to tell had an arsonist in it. So, I plunged into research. What a relief! Research is always easier than coaxing a first draft onto that terrifying blank page.
I needed to know so many things. Who was he and why would he want to cause such fear and suffering? Why is someone drawn to fire like that? The stalking? Choosing this house and not that one? The ritual of setting the blaze and watching it take hold then explode into a blood-red fury? Watching people flee? The heroism of the fire fighters? A feeling of power? Revenge? So I read and read, until a figure took hold in my imagination and then in my dreams.
For you, what’s the different between being a writer and being an author?
An author is someone who sits at a table in a bookstore, waiting for her audience to appear so she can read her beloved work to someone, pretty much anyone. And one person shows up looking confused, and leaves after a few minutes. Or as other writers have reported, someone pauses, then asks for the location of the bathroom or the scotch tape. As one media consultant said, “As an author, your goal is to make money by selling books.” And there you go.
But being a writer is existential. It goes to the bone. If I’m not writing, things aren’t right with me or with the world. It’s something I can’t stop doing. Some days I’d give pretty much anything for one revelatory word. Okay, for one serviceable word. And even that doesn’t come. Still, the next day I’m at it again. And the day after that, and after that. And somewhere in there a word, or a phrase, maybe a whole line, is so lovely and so original I can’t believe it came from me.
The writer, Marge Piercy, wrote: “The real writer is one who really writes. Talent is an invention like phlogiston after the fact of fire. Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved.”
Any new projects in the works?
Georgia, 1939: A drowning, a mysterious healing, a cottonmouth snake, and Virginia Woolf. This book has all of them. At the heart of the book is an inexplicable boating accident—three went into the water, only one survived. Lily O’Connor, the survivor and main character, experiences both the terror and ecstasy of love. Yet all characters suffer loss of one kind or the other. There is a villain to be sure, with auburn hair and ice-blue eyes, but he too, has loss in his benighted, damagedheart. In the end, this book takes the reader from ordinary life to a place as far from the ordinary as one could get, only to find that it is as profoundly familiar as it is strange. The book asks: what can I believe in if everything I have loved is lost? It’s called The World in Woe and Splendor.
Where can readers find you?
Thank you, Ann! I Will Leave You Never is out now.
In the middle of a perilous drought in the Northwest, an arsonist begins setting fires all around. It gives Zoe Penney nightmares about her home—seated right next to tinder-dry woods—rising up in explosions of fire, as well as haunting dreams of a little boy deep in the forest.
Winter brings the longed-for rains but also a cancer diagnosis for Zoe’s husband, Jay, which plunges the family into disbelief and fear. The children lean in close to their parents, can’t stop touching them. As Jay’s treatment begins, nature lets loose with strange and startling encounters, while a shadowy figure hovers about the corners of the house.
First, Zoe’s fear turns to anger: How can I love you if I am to lose you? How can I live in joy when the sky is falling? But she gradually learns that it’s possible to love anything, even terrible things—if you can love them for what they are teaching you.
Author Leslie Karst joins us this week to discuss her memoir, Justice Is Served
Author Name: Leslie Karst
Book Title: Justice Is Served: A Tale of Scallops, the Law, and Cooking for RBG
Book Genre: Memoir
Release Date/Out Now: April 4, 2023 (out now)
Publisher: She Writes Press
Welcome, Leslie! Please tell us a bit about your book.
In this true-life Julie and Julia-meets-Notorious RBG mash-up, I recount how finagling my way into hosting an intimate dinner party for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sends me on a journey of culinary discovery—and, ultimately, completely changes my life.
What was the spark? What drew you to write a memoir about this experience? What made you want to tell this particular story?
I hadn’t planned to write a memoir about the events contained in Justice is Served. But on the trip back home to Santa Cruz from Los Angeles the morning after the dinner, as my then-partner (now-wife; thank you RBG!) Robin and I were reliving all the marvelous, amusing, and occasionally downright bizarre occurrences leading up to and including the big night, we both came to the same conclusion: I had to write it all down. Right then, before I forgot the details. So I grabbed a pen and the sheaf of office paper we kept in our truck and as Robin navigated Highway 5, the two of us brainstormed regarding everything we could remember of the previous nine months—including all the conversations from the night before.
As soon as I was home, I commenced writing the memoir. The draft was finished within a few months, but then there it sat for years on my computer while I was sidetracked, first by my work as a research and appellate attorney, then by writing and promoting my culinary mystery series. Finally, after much egging-on by Robin, her mother, and various others who knew of the manuscript’s existence, I concluded that they were right. The extraordinary story needed to be out there, for others to read.
What was your research process like for Justice is Served?
The majority of the research required for the book was regarding the “Interlude” sections I included in each chapter: snapshots of RBG’s life and life’s work, each of which relate back to what was going on at the moment in my own life. To accomplish this, I did extensive reading regarding the life and work of the iconic justice, including biographies and other books, law review articles, magazine pieces, letters between RBG and my father, and various other materials. Very time consuming, but incredibly inspiring and uplifting research, it was!
From your perspective, what’s the hardest thing about writing? And what do you love most about it?
As the author of a series of culinary mystery novels, plotting has always been been the most difficult part of writing. But for this—my first memoir—the basic plot already existed, as it was the story of what had actually happened to me. So, hey, this should be easy! was my thought. After all, memoirs are similar to novels in that they tell a story, have a narrative arc, and tend to contain the same elements as their fiction cousins: dialogue, discrete scenes, dramatic highs and lows, and a payoff at the end.
But it turned out that writing Justice is Served felt quite different from writing my Sally Solari series—and more difficult in ways I hadn’t imagined. For this story was about me; I had to be honest about myself in a way not required of fiction. No easy feat. It’s scary to put your own personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions out there for all the world to read and to analyze. But, of course, this very personal nature of memoirs is what sets them apart from other genres—and what makes them so very compelling.
As for what I love most about writing: that would be dialogue. I simply adore putting words into people’s mouths and giving voice to my various characters’ personalities and quirks.
What’s capturing your imagination these days outside of reading and writing?
Well, those two activities take up large part of my waking hours. But when I’m not reading or writing, you’ll likely find me cooking (and eating!); gardening; walking my dog, Ziggy; cycling; and observing cocktail hour promptly at five o’clock.
Any new writing projects in the works?
I’ve recently finishing up the copyedits for the sixth book in my Sally Solari series, called A Sense for Murder, in which the dining room manager of a restaurant-and-culinary bookstore is found murdered on the night of a benefit dinner, and the primary clue is the simultaneous theft of a boxed set of signed first editions of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book releases this coming August, from Severn House.
Where can readers find you?
Thank you, Leslie! Justice Is Served is OUT NOW.
When Leslie Karst learned that her offer to cook dinner for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her renowned tax law professor husband, Marty, had been accepted, she was thrilled—and terrified. A small-town lawyer who hated her job and had taken up cooking as a way to add a bit of spice to the daily grind of pumping out billable hours, Karst had never before thrown such a high-stakes dinner party. Could she really pull this off?
Justice is Served is Karst’s light-hearted, earnest account of the journey this unexpected challenge launched her on—starting with a trip to Paris for culinary inspiration, and ending with the dinner itself. Along the way, she imparts details of Ginsburg’s transformation from a young Jewish girl from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to one of the most celebrated Supreme Court justices in our nation’s history, and shares recipes for the mouthwatering dishes she came up with as she prepared for the big night. But this memoir isn’t simply a tale of prepping for and cooking dinner for the famous RBG; it’s also about how this event, and all the planning and preparation that went into it, created a new sort of connection between Karst, her partner, and her parents, and also inspired Karst to make life changes that would reverberate far beyond one dinner party. A heartfelt story of simultaneously searching for delicious recipes and purpose in life, Justice is Served is an inspiring reminder that it’s never too late to discover—and follow—your deepest passion.