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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Addison Allen’

Reader’s Guide: THE WISHING THREAD by Lisa Van Allen

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread Random House Reader’s Circle has exclusive materials for you and your book club to enjoy! SARAH ADDISON ALLEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper, and the upcoming Lost Lake, interviews debut novelist Lisa Van Allen.

Sarah Addison Allen:  The Wishing Thread is a delightful novel about the bonds of sisterhood, the transformational power of love, and the pleasures and perils of knitting. What sparked your idea for this novel?

Lisa Van Allen:  It started with the knitting. When I knit a gift for someone, I always say a few prayers for the recipient. It’s about sending deliberate thoughts of love and kindness, along with offering a gift. So it wasn’t a far jump from there to “Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody could knit a magic spell into the fabric of a hat or a scarf so that it rubs off on the wearer?”

Of course, in The Wishing Thread, the people who go to the Stitchery looking for magic never know what they’ll get. Sometimes the spells don’t work as expected. Sometimes they don’t work at all.

Many people in the town think that the Van Ripper sisters are swindlers, preying on people who are desperate enough to turn to “magic” to fix their problems. But others think the sisters are the real deal and will defend the Stitchery’s magic, tooth and nail. Each sister in the story approaches the idea of magic in her own way.

SAA:   The way you write about magic is so unique. What are your favorite books with magic in them that have influenced you?

LVA:  I’ve always loved books that offer fun, imaginative plots along with a certain “makes you think” element—-going all the way back. As a kid I adored The Little Prince for its enigmatic characters, magical surprises, and emotionality. Recently I fell hard for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. And, Sarah, your latest, The Peach Keeper, was one of those reads that had me sitting down thinking “just for a few minutes” and then realizing hours had gone by. This is always the sign of a great read.

SAA:  Thank you! I’m glad to be in such great company! Magic is so wonderful to write but also so tricky. I think every writer approaches writing in a different way. What are your writing habits? How do you write best?

LVA:  More and more, I find myself collecting things. I make a regular practice of writing lists with titles like “things you find that could change everything” and “reasons you might become stuck in a tree.” Sei Shōnagon inspired this habit for me when I read her eleventh–century collection of writings called The Pillow Book. She makes beautiful, breathtaking lists.

I also keep random boxes in my office of things that seem to go together somehow: pictures, objects, bits of fabric or color, anecdotes, books and pamphlets, scribbles, etc. Each box has its own kind of ordered chaos. I like the idea of all these elements marinating for a while until all the flavors marry and become a cohesive story. I have Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit to thank for this.

SAA:  I hear you have a hedgehog as a pet—-is anything else in the book based on real life?

LVA:  Ha, ha. Yes! My hedgie has quite a following. I guess you could say she was instrumental in developing the character of Icky Van Ripper, the main character’s pet hedgehog in The Wishing Thread. I’m hoping my little beastie won’t sue me for using her likeness or something like that. I’ll have to pay her off with mealworms.

But seriously, I never have models for my (human) characters. That method just doesn’t work for me. I do, however, expand on my own emotional experiences, like every writer.

SAA:  How did you get started knitting? What do you love about it?

LVA:  I actually outright refused to learn to knit for many years. I so was sure I’d hate it! But one day in my mid–twenties, an aunt finally took my shoulders and sat me down, and said “watch my hands.” A few rows later, I was hooked. There’s a scene in The Wishing Thread that definitely came right from that moment.

Of course, I had some false starts with knitting. My first scarf looked like a moth–chewed roll of lumpy toilet paper. One year, I made my brother three socks (one that was okay, one with holes, and one that could only have fit a hoof). But I’m better these days. Ravelry, a social networking site for fiber nerds, helped my technique a lot (find me as “lisava”). Knitting’s a great creative outlet for when I’m away from my manuscripts. I’m not very good at sitting still.

SAA:  Are you working on something new? Can you share anything with us about your next project?

LVA:  I can tell you that my book–in–progress box is filled with bright red plastic berries, peacock feathers, beeswax candles, pictures of farm equipment, random info like “how to make a leech barometer,” and writings about whether or not plants have feelings. It’s gonna be fun!

Join the conversation with Lisa Van Allen on Facebook!

Win a copy of Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Peach Keeper TP smallThis giveaway is now closed. Thanks to the many of you who entered!

Coming to paperback January 10th!

“[Sarah Addison Allen] juggles small-town history and mystical thriller, character development and eerie magical realism in a fine Southern gothic drama.”—Publishers Weekly

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.

Watch the new trailer for The Peach Keeper, on sale today!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper is the latest novel from Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

Check out the novel’s trailer below!

A Q&A with Sarah Addison Allen; plus, recipes and a chance to win THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Girl Who Chased the MoonAbout the book
Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, not only wishing to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also dreaming of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

Enter your information below for a chance to win a copy!

Random House Reader’s Circle: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?

Sarah Addison Allen: It all started with barbecue. From the beginning, I knew I wanted The Girl Who Chased the Moon to be set in a North Carolina barbecue town. It was the only constant throughout many drafts, and it actually ended up influencing the story and the characters.

RHRC: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or do they come to you as you write them?

SAA: My writing process is very organic. I start with an idea. I have the general story arc and the cast. But then I sit down to write and things change. New characters appear, some disappear. And the big elements of magic in all my books—the prophetic apple tree in Garden Spells, the books that appear on their own in The Sugar Queen, and the cakes with the power to call in The Girl Who Chased the Moon—weren’t in the stories until I started writing. I was actually surprised by them. Making it up as I go along is one of the best parts of writing. But it’s also one of the most frustrating parts. It’s an insecure feeling, not knowing what’s going to happen. But I’ve learned to trust the process.

RHRC: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

SAA: There’s always a point where I can see the ending scene so clearly that I can’t wait to get to it. Sometimes I see it when I begin a book, but sometimes I’m almost on top of it before it’s clear. I didn’t see Maddie coming in The Girl Who Chased the Moon. She walked in and I said, “The nerve of you! Who are you and what are you doing, appearing at the end of my story?” So she told me.

RHRC: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters?

allen_sarah_addisonSAA: I think my characters are more wish fulfillments than they are mirrors. They see things I don’t and live in a world I can only enter through words.

RHRC: What struggles did you have on the road to being published?

SAA: I wrote for about twelve years before Garden Spells—my mainstream debut—sold, and I struggled daily with the urge to give up writing altogether. Discouragement is a big ugly beast.

RHRC: What has been the best part about your success?

SAA: I love that my dad has stopped asking me when I’m going to get a real job.

RHRC: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novels?

SAA: My favorite books are the ones that make me smile for hours after reading them. I want that for my readers, for the sweetness to linger. Sort of like chocolate, but without the calories.

Recipes for Julia’s Cakes of the Day

Hummingbird Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1¼ cups vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped firm ripe banana

Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon together. Add eggs and oil to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, and pecans. Stir in the bananas. Spoon the batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high, and mix.

Southern Peach Pound Cake
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups fresh peaches, pitted and chopped

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Reserve 1/4 cup of flour for later, and sift together the remaining flour, salt, and baking powder. Gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Use the reserved flour to coat the chopped peaches, then fold the floured peaches into the batter. Spread evenly into a 10-inch tube pan that has been buttered and coated with white sugar. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes in a 325-degree oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Milky Way Cake
8 Milky Way candy bars (regular size)
2 sticks butter or margarine
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
½ teaspoon baking soda
2½ cups flour
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 cup pecans, chopped

Melt candy bars in one stick of butter or margarine. Cream sugar and the other stick of butter or margarine together. Add eggs, baking soda, and flour alternately with buttermilk. Add melted candy mixture and pecans. Bake in 3 (9-inch) pans, greased, at 325 degrees for 30–40 minutes or until done. Cool for 5 minutes, remove from the pans, and cool on racks.

CHOCOLATE ICING
2½ cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1 6-ounce package chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow creme

Mix over low heat. Combine sugar and milk. Cook until it reaches a soft ball stage. Add other ingredients. Stir until chocolate chips melt, then remove from heat. Beat until cool.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon: Now a New York Times Bestseller

Friday, March 26th, 2010

MOONEmily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Interested in discussing with your book club? Use this reader’s guide to help you along!

Check out the trailer!

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

In this irresistible novel, Sarah Addison Allen, author of the New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, tells the tale of a young woman whose family secrets—and secret passions—are about to change her life forever.

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

(more…)

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