Please help me welcome debut author, Julie Carrick Dalton, here to discuss her novel, Waiting for the Night Song.

Author Name: Julie Carrick Dalton

Book Title: Waiting for the Night Song

Book Genre: Book Club, Women’s Fiction, Suspense

Release Date: Jan 12, 2021

Publisher: Tor/Forge, Macmillan

Please tell us a bit about Waiting for the Night Song.

When two estranged friends return home to face the traumatic childhood secret that tore them apart, they must confront a hometown altered by a changing climate and truths about themselves they don’t want to see. Waiting for the Night Song is a portrait of friendship, secrets, and betrayal, a love song to the natural world, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

What sparked the idea for the book? 

When my four kids were younger, I used to take them canoeing and we would pick blueberries from wide swaths of open shoreline. As the kids got older they started asking whose land it was and if we were stealing the berries. The truth was, I had no idea who owned the land. There were no houses nearby, and I didn’t think anyone would mind some children taking a few handfuls of berries from a canoe. But my kids pressed me on it and I found myself inventing excuses to justify why it was okay to take the berries. At some point, I realized I was leaning on conveniently manufactured rules to justify my actions. Taking a few handfuls of blueberries was a benign action. No one else would have picked those berries. No one would have miss them. But was I teaching my kids it was okay to rely on manufactured rules to justify behavior that was not justifiable, even if it seemed benign? Those excuses I invented became the basis for The Poachers’ Code, a code of ethics the characters in my book create to shield themselves from their own questionable actions. I pushed my characters to an extreme limit and forced them to tackle the ethical questions I wrestled with while picking berries with my kids – but with life-and-death stakes.

For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?

I often struggle to get ‘in the zone’ with my writing. I’m not one of those disciplined writers who keeps a schedule or commits to writing every day at a certain time. I’m either 100% on. Or 100% off. When I’m engaged with a writing project, it’s all I do, all I think about. It doesn’t matter where I write or what time of day it is. And when I am sitting at my computer, fully engaged, the writing usually comes pretty easily. For me, the hard part is making the switch from being ‘off’ to be being ‘on’ again. I can go weeks without being able to write anything. I stress about it, worry about. I’ve found the best way to reengage with my writing when I’ve been away from it is to reread my work and allow myself time to slowly reenter the world of my book.

What do you love most about it?

I love the feeling of being immersed in my writing. It’s empowering and invigorating. But it’s really hard on me when I’m on the outside, trying to claw my way back into the writing zone. It can be a battle, but it’s always worth it when I find my way back in. I feel so good, so content and satisfied, when I work out a scene that feels just right. I guess if it was easy, I wouldn’t appreciate it as much. I also find a tremendous amount of joy in the company and community I’ve discovered among other writers. 

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Waiting for the Night Song?

If you enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing, I think you’ll like Waiting for the Night Song. My book features a protagonist who feels a strong connection to the natural world and is invested in helping other people understand ad protect it. But, like Crawdads, my book is primarily about human relationships — about love, friendship, and hope. There are plenty of topics for book clubs to unpack, as my characters make questionable ethical choices and have to live with their decisions, for better or worse. Waiting for the Night Song tackles climate change, but it isn’t a disaster story. It’s about the slow, quiet ways our world is already changing and how those subtle changes affect individuals, communities, and the world at large.

How does your day job inform your novel writing?

I own a small farm where I grow all sorts of vegetables and fruits. I’m not a particularly good farmer, but I’m learning. I’ve been at it for about eight years now and I just completed a New Entry Sustainable Agriculture program through Tufts University. I have a particular interest in learning more about how to build and maintain healthy, organic soil. Working on my farm had a big impact on my novel Waiting for the Night Song. I notice invasive insects and plants, as well as species that are no longer thriving here. When I started observing how the climate crisis is already having an impact on my small corner of the world, it made me want to write about the quiet, slow-burning changes going on around us. Waiting for the Night Song is not an apocalyptic or dystopian climate novel. It’s a contemporary story about two friends trying to come to terms with a painful secret from their past. But it’s also about a small town forced to confront their changing ecology. It’s about the ways we are all connected to our past, to each other, and to the environment— often in ways we may never recognize.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

I love to ski, hike, garden, and kayak. I also enjoy experimenting with vegan cooking. I’m a vegetarian, but recently I’ve been exploring a wider variety of plant-based ingredients and I love the results! (Well, most of the results.)

Are you working on a new project?

I’m finishing up my second novel, The Last Beekeeper, coming out in 2022, which also hinges on climate change. I used to keep honeybees, but they died due to Colony Collapse Disorder, which is killing off so many of our precious bees. I’m fascinated by bees, how they live in community, how they communicate, the geometry of the honeycombs. I can sit and watch them for hours. The Last Beekeeper is set in a near-future US after an unexpected event hastens the collapse of the pollinator population, sending the world into agricultural crisis. The story focuses on a young woman trying to reconnect with her estranged, ailing father, famed for having been the world’s last beekeeper before the collapse. It’s a story about family, forgiveness, and finding hope where there shouldn’t be any.

Where can readers find you?

You can learn more about me and my books at juliecarrickdalton.com, and you can follow me on Twitter @juliecardalt, on Instagram @juliecdalton, and on Facebook as Julie Carrick Dalton – Author. I’m also a regular contributor to The Writer Unboxed. You can find my articles about books, craft, and the writer’s life here: https://writerunboxed.com/author/juliecarrickdalton/

I’d love to invite all your readers to a book launch event via Belmont Books on Jan 28:

https://www.belmontbooks.com/event/virtual-julie-carrick-dalton-conversation-andrew-krivak

Thank you, Julie! Waiting for the Night Song is out TODAY.

A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton’s Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.


Thrilled to talk to author Kelly Simmons this week about her latest novel, Not My Boy.

Author Name: Kelly Simmons

Book Title: Not My Boy 

Book Genre: Suspenseful Women’s Fiction 

Release Date: January 5, 2021 

Publisher: Sourcebooks 

Welcome, Kelly–congratulations on your release! Please tell us about your latest book.

Two sisters and their middle-school kids are best friends — until they move in next door to each other.  As soon as the moving truck pulls away, a child goes missing in the house across the street, and suspicion falls on both families, pitting sister against sister, neighbor against neighbor. 

What sparked the idea for Not My Boy

Well, let’s just say I have a sister, hahaha, and I always thought it would be awesome to live on the same street and have our families be close. But you have to careful what you wish for . . . . 

Ha, so true! If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read your work? 

My books are all about good people making bad decisions — and how they come back from the brink of them.  That’s fascinating to me — if it is to you, as well, you may like my work.  It’s dark, but ultimately hopeful. 

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

When the weather is pleasant, I love to tool around on my bike.  Not long serious rides — but joy rides.  And I love to knit, which is so similar to writing. It takes sustained small efforts over a long time and the, voila, you have a beautiful thing. 

Where can readers find you? 

My schedule of events is on kellysimmonsbooks.com, or follow me on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/kellyasimmons/

Thank you, Kelly! Not My Boy releases TODAY.

“A missing child, a family with multiple secrets, and a cast of characters that are complicated and fully realized…Not My Boy lands the reader in the middle of a mystery that is propulsive and impossible to put down.” —Julie Clark, NYTimes best selling author of The Last Flight

Who will you cross to protect your own?

When Hannah packs up her past and moves to the cottage next-door to her sister, she hopes the luxe neighborhood and close family ties will be the perfect escape for her son and the shadows that trail them. But when a young girl goes missing days after they unload their final boxes and her son is quickly thrown under suspicion, Hannah must do whatever it takes to protect her child.

Even if that means pointing the blame her sister’s way instead.

With investigators swarming and neighborhood scrutiny closing in, the divide between two sisters grows. As one fiercely defends her husband, the other shields her boy from the crime, keeping quiet the secrets that might unravel it all.

And all the while, one young girl has vanished, and someone is to blame.

BIO

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist, advertising creative director and the author of six novels sold in a dozen countries: STANDING STILL and THE BIRD HOUSE (Simon & Schuster) ONE MORE DAY, THE FIFTH OF JULY, WHERE SHE WENT, and NOT MY BOY (Sourcebooks).

She teaches in the Drexel University MFA program, and is a member of WFWA, Tall Poppy Writers and The Liars Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping fledgling novelists.

Additionally, she co-helms the weekly writers podcast “Liars Club Oddcast.”

She was born the same day as Dorothy Parker. Coincidence? She thinks not.


Pleased to welcome Cass Morris to the blog this week. Her second in the Aven Cycle fantasy series–Give Way to Night–launches today!

Author Name: Cass Morris

Book Title: Give Way to Night, Book Two of the Aven Cycle

Book Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: 12/29/2020

Publisher: DAW Books

How would you describe Give Way to Night?

A cadre of female mages unite to protect their city from attack by a banished and blasphemous cult, while in a far-off province, their nation’s legions face down blood magic and haunting spirits.

In what ways do you think you’ve evolved as an author since your first book came out?

I think I’ve become a better evaluator of my own work, although it was a rocky process. When From Unseen Fire came out in 2018, I was not well-governed when it came to reading reviews. I knew I shouldn’t, and yet I did anyway. It really messed with my head. I found myself, while writing Give Way to Night, trying to make too many people happy — and I was miserable. It took me a while to shake that out of my system, look at the mess of a draft I had, and figure out what story it was that I actually wanted to tell. I’d learned some other craft lessons along the way, too, particularly about pacing, but the biggest thing was learning to see my own work with clearer eyes and edit accordingly. Ultimately I think Give Way to Night is a stronger book than From Unseen Fire because of what that process taught me.

What a valuable lesson! What’s your favorite part about writing? What do you find challenging?

I just love stories. I always have, since I was a very small thing. I love creating a world and filling it with a wide variety of characters. I think it’s the chance to explore so many different emotions and to imagine life on a bigger scale than what my everyday surroundings afford me.

What’s challenging is all the pressure I put on myself. I wrestle with a lot of anxiety and it gives rise both to perfectionism and to a sense of “no matter how much I am doing, it is never enough.”

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

I play a lot of Mario Kart and Civilization, and I watch a lot of the same TV shows over and over again (mostly Star Trek and various historical dramas). I also embroider when I can settle my brain down for it, and I love historical fashion.

What are you working on now?

Book Three of the Aven Cycle! My goal was to get it drafted before Give Way to Night hit shelves, which I… did not do! Oh, 2020. But I’m probably two-thirds of the way there. I’m hoping to wrap that up soon, then while my editor has it, I’ll be working on a secondworld fantasy to give to my agent.

How are you adjusting to marketing a book during a pandemic?

I would not have thought, after my debut, that trying to promote a book could feel more like shouting into the void — but it turns out I was wrong! It’s so hard to feel like this matters amid all the chaos of this year. Except of course it does. We need fiction and escape more than ever, and so what authors and other creators do is important. So, without in-person events, I’ve amped up my game on Twitter and Instagram with a full month of daily posts featuring the characters and the world. I’ve done a couple of virtual events, and I’m looking forward to doing more. I really miss events and conventions, though. I’m such an extrovert and I love talking to people.

Where can readers find you?

I’m @cassrmorris on both Twitter and Instagram, and I’m Very Online, so those are the easiest places to find me. My website is cassrmorris.com, where I also blog. I have a Patreon (patreon.com/cassrmorris) where I share microfiction, academia, behind-the-page writing craft stuff, and whatever else floats through my head. I’m one-third of the team at the Worldbuilding for Masochists podcast (worldbuildingformasochists.podbean.com), where we discuss considerations and craft for creating fantasy worlds. Also this week, I’m on CerebroCast (anchor.fm/cerebrocast) discussing my favorite X-Man, Rogue, and I’ll be on Fictitious (fictitiouspodcast.com) on December 31 discussing Give Way to Night!

Thank you, Cass! Give Way to Night is available as of TODAY!

The second book of the Aven Cycle explores a magical Rome-inspired empire, where senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for power.

Latona of the Vitelliae, mage of Spirit and Fire, is eager to wield her newfound empowerment on behalf of the citizens of Aven–but societal forces conspire to keep her from exercising her gifts, even when the resurgence of a banished cult plots the city’s ruin. To combat this threat, Latona must ally with Fracture mage Vibia, the distrustful sister of Sempronius Tarren.

While Latona struggles to defend their home, Sempronius leads soldiers through wartorn provinces to lift the siege of Toletum, where Latona’s brother Gaius is hemmed in by supernatural forces. Sempronius must contend not only with the war-king Ekialde and his sorcerers, but with the machinations of political rivals and the temptations of his own soul, ever-susceptible to the darker side of ambition.

Though separated by many miles soon after their love affair began, Latona and Sempronius are united by passion as they strive to protect Aven and build its glorious future.

Bio:

Cass Morris works as an educator in central Virginia and as a bookseller on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She holds a Master of Letters from Mary Baldwin University and a BA in English with a minor in history from the College of William and Mary. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

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