Pioneer Square Singalong

I had never attended the annual singalong with Pink Martini at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon, but I was so glad to be there yesterday. Pink Martini, the von Trapps, and a host of other singers and celebrities crowded on stage to entertain the masses in honor of the square’s 30th anniversary.

Here are some photos.

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Book Review – The Gods of Second Chances

Laura Stanfill:

Such fun to see Valerie Lawson’s review of the book I just published through Forest Avenue Press. Thanks, Valerie!

Originally posted on valerie r lawson:

cover-art-by-gigi-little I met the editor of this book, Laura Stanfill , out in the blogosphere while we were both mutually admiring each others blogs. I found her just delightful and followed her progress as she bravely ventured out to start her own publishing house, Forest Avenue Press . Founded in 2012 in Portland, Oregon, Forest Avenue Press started with the mission to publish quiet novels for a noisy world.

This book is their first fiction release and debuts this month. I am delighted have read one of the Advanced Reader copies. This book was well chosen. The writing is solid and the pacing moves the story along well. Author Dan Berne brings the Alaskan scenery to life effortlessly as he weaves the tale of a broken family trying to reunite, missing one of its members, and struggling to fit the pieces back together.

Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray…

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Author Interview: Cari Luna on New York Squats, Creating a Sense of Authenticity, and What Fits (Or Doesn’t Fit) in a Novel

Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day.

Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day.

Cari Luna’s debut novel, The Revolution of Every Day, delves into the 1990s New York squatting movement by peeling back the politics and exploring individual characters, their histories and personalities, their choices and mistakes, and how much they care about their buildings.

It’s a remarkable work, mixing philosophy and the possibilities people create when they come together as a group, while still keeping true to the dark reality of street life. In Thirteen House, the main squat featured in The Revolution of Every Day, the residents form a tight-knit community infused with hope, ideals, and hard work. We see them earn their sense of ownership as they repair stairs and fix leaks in their building, while the tension in their relationships begin to crack the emotional foundation. As the city tightens its grip on the city’s squats, we see what’s at stake for these individuals, how what they have built is a home for themselves, a refuge, something essential and irreplaceable.

The Revolution of Every Day was published by Tin House in 2013.

I’m so thrilled to be hosting Cari today as part of the Seven Questions Series.

1. Tell us about The Revolution of Every Day.

The Revolution of Every Day is a novel set in New York City’s Lower East Side in the mid-1990s, in a community of squatted buildings. It’s set in two buildings—Thirteen House and Cat House—and told from the points of view of five squatters. It’s fictional, but inspired by the actual history of the Lower East Side squats. There’s a political storyline, as the city attempts to evict the squatters, but for the most part it’s a story about people. The squats are just the world they move through.

2. What prompted you to write a novel about the New York City squats? Did the idea come first, and then the characters followed, or did you start with the characters and then decide to put them in this situation?

Revolution Cover-rgbI began this novel in 2005 when I was just four weeks pregnant with my first child. I was happy to be pregnant, but it hadn’t been planned, and so as I started writing the novel I was still trying to get my head around what it meant to be someone’s mother. That led me to thinking about New York City, where my husband and I were born and where we were living at that time. I thought about what it was going to be like to raise a child there, and how much it had changed since my husband and I were children. I wanted to understand why and how my city had changed, and the most obvious answer was gentrification.

The squat storyline was inspired by a massive militaristic eviction that the city of New York carried out against two squatted buildings on May 30, 1995. That eviction—which employed snipers, SWAT teams, helicopters, mounted police, and an armored tank—cost the tax payers a million dollars. It seemed clear to me that that eviction—which was the culmination of years of struggle and fighting between the city and the squats—marked the tipping point in New York. That was when money won out in the Lower East Side.

3. Speaking of characters, your choice to tell the story from different perspectives really draws readers into the Thirteen House community, letting us see the fractures and hopes and expectations and losses within the squat and within each family unit. When did you make that decision, and was the manuscript always in third person? Were there any point of view characters you had to cut out or add in as the writing progressed?

The manuscript was always in third person, but for the first several drafts—maybe as many as six drafts, if I recall correctly—it was told from just two points of view: Gerrit and Amelia. I don’t outline—I write blind. When I got started I became so fascinated with their relationship that I just stayed in their heads, with everyone else who now has a POV as a side character. The result was a constricted little novel where I’d hoped to write something expansive about the New York of that time. So I gave three more characters voices, and that opened things up.

4. The Revolution of Every Day feels true and honest; it’s a portrait of a fictional community at this real time and place in New York City’s recent history. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Thirteen House residents were fixing up the building, putting time and scrap materials into making it better. What kind of research did you do to get that authenticity on the page?

I was never a squatter, but I did live in the neighborhood at the time, and witnessed some of the squatters’ actions, such as the retaking of two buildings on Ea. 13th on the 4th of July (Independence Day!) following the big 5/30/95 eviction. So that helped a great deal in terms of authenticity. I also relied on articles and list-serv posts from that time that I was able to dig up online, as well as a few excellent books: Glass House by Margaret Morton, Resistance: A Radical Social and Political History of the Lower East Side, edited by Clayton Patterson, and War in the Neighborhood by Seth Tobocman. I also just made a whole lot up. Fiction, you know.

5. At your Portland launch, you said, “You can only accomplish two or three things in a novel without completely bogging it down.” Please elaborate. And I’m curious about whether you knew what you wanted to accomplish with your novel when starting out, or if those things emerged organically during the writing process.

Seven Questions LogoWhen you sit down to write your first novel, there’s the impulse to say EVERYTHING you’ve ever wanted to say, to tackle the entire universe, to make a big, grand thing. (Or, at least, this was my experience. And not with this novel. Though it’s my debut, Revolution is the second novel I wrote.) You’ve probably been writing a lot of short stories, and you get going with your novel and it just feels like there’s SO MUCH SPACE. You have tens of thousands of words. A hundred thousand words or more! You’re alternately giddy with power and daunted by it. But when you really get into it, you find it’s not all that much space at all. If you try to say everything you’ve ever wanted to say, it’s going to feel noisy and cluttered and hard to follow and your reader—if they’re kind enough to stick with you—isn’t likely to hear what’s really important through all that extra baggage. You’ve got to let a few parts stand in for the whole. You’ve got to make some choices. For example, in one review of Revolution, the reviewer asked why none of my characters ever went to a punk show, because that had been a large part of the reviewer’s experience of that time and place. The answer is that I had to make choices. I couldn’t recreate every possible aspect of the life of a LES squatter from the mid-nineties and still build a strong, clear narrative. Proust could have done it. The rest of us probably can’t pull such a thing off with quite the same result.

As far as Revolution goes, I had a vague sense of what I wanted to do when I began. I write to answer questions for myself, to understand what I think. When I began it, the big question was “What the hell happened to New York?” So there was the goal of discovering the answer to that. And along the way I wanted to tell the story of my old neighborhood at a very particular time. An epic tale of New York and some of its people. But in terms of themes, and the interpersonal stories it explores, that all emerged as I wrote.

6. Tell us about your “Writer, With Kids” series. What gave you the idea, who have been some of your participants, and how have readers reacted?

I run a series on my blog called Writer, with Kids. It features a different author each week talking about finding (or failing to find) the artist/parent balance. Some posts are interviews and others are essays; each participant gets to choose which they’d prefer to do. The idea came about at a time when I was really struggling to find that balance for myself. It was something I talked about a lot with my friends who were also working artists and parents and I thought it was a useful conversation to take public, that others might find it helpful. I receive wonderful feedback all the time about it. It’s truly helped people—myself included—which is exciting. Participants have included Jane Smiley, Geraldine Brooks, Wendy Chin-Tanner, Peter Rock, Yannick Murphy, and John Roderick. I make a point to feature writers at various stages in their careers and various points in their parenting lives. I also host Writer, with Fetus posts for participants who are expecting their first child. They then write a follow-up post six months or more after the baby’s been born, so we get a nice before-and-after perspective: expectations vs reality.

7. What are you working on now?

I’m working on my next novel. It’s set in contemporary Portland. It’s about online vs real life identity and sexual obsession.

Thanks so much, Cari!

Learn more at or the Tin House Books website. The Revolution of Every Day is available at your local independent bookstore or online

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A Little of This, a Little of That

Back in January, I was asked to speak at Literary Arts about what winning a 2014 Oregon Literary Fellowship means to me, as publisher of Forest Avenue Press.

Here’s what I said:

Two years ago, I founded a small press to publish and promote Oregon writers. The decision to become a publisher felt a bit brash, like calling myself a superhero. But I did it anyway, because I wanted to support local talent, I wanted to create a new outlet for literary fiction, and I’ve always secretly wanted a shiny cape.

Forest Avenue Press publishes quiet books for a noisy world. We’re small but vital. We’re fiercely regional, but we strive for national recognition. And we’re so grateful to Literary Arts for endowing us with our first official superpower: a fellowship.

This gift strengthens our efforts to reach readers and writers outside Portland. This gift validates the work our authors, editors, illustrators, designers, and readers have put into supporting our titles. This gift is way more practical than a shiny cape. Publishing is a tough business with tight margins. Having a $2,500 check arrive felt like relief.

So far we have released a homegrown anthology, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life, and Stevan Allred’s acclaimed linked short story collection,A Simplified Map of the Real World.

We have two debut novels forthcoming this year, by Dan Berne and Kate Gray, but the bulk of this financial gift will benefit our Oregon short story anthology, The Night, and the Rain, and the River, edited by Liz Prato and slated for a May release to coincide with National Short Story Month. We are overjoyed to share this Oregon Literary Fellowship superpower with those twenty-two authors and their communities.

Thank you, Literary Arts, and congrats to all the winners and finalists. It’s an honor to stand here beside you.

I delivered the cape line to Ursula K. Le Guin, a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards this year, and she smiled–what a thrill.

The Oregon Book Awards ceremony, where my press will be recognized, is coming up on Monday, March 17–and I probably won’t be wearing green. My husband is attending, but I made him buy his own ticket, so I could give my second free one to my graphic designer, Gigi Little, who is responsible for our beautiful covers and logo. I am excited to celebrate all the finalists–and hear who the winners are.

Gigi’s husband, the visual artist Stephen O’Donnell, is being featured tonight in conversation at the Portland Art Museum with filmmaker Brian Lindstrom.


I have some new Seven Questions interviews coming up in the next few months, including with Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day, which is so smart and brilliant that I’ve procrastinated for weeks in trying to actually write something worthy of it. But I have done so now, so stay tuned.


Cari Luna blurbed Rachael Herron’s new gorgeous literary novel, Pack Up the Moon, which I just finished reading. You’ll hear from Rachael as part of the Seven Questions series, likely sometime this spring. I devoured her book and can’t wait to introduce you to it, likely in April.

Rachael Herron blurbed Dan Berne’s debut, the one I just published, The Gods of Second Chancesdespite her crazy busy schedule, and she’ll be featuring Dan on her website sometime after her next round of deadlines!

Now I’m starting to read Pirate Vishnu, the second novel in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series by Gigi Pandian, who visited my Women in Portland Publishing Group and totally inspired us all with her publishing success stories. I don’t usually read mysteries but am totally taken with Gigi’s voice, her sharp and witty protagonist Jaya, and the sense of humor that carries readers through a smashing, action-packed plot. I read Artifact, the first in the series, really fast, and by happenstance, won a copy of Pirate Vishnu and a beautiful Indian wall hanging by being on Gigi’s newsletter list.

And to bring us full circle, Gigi thanks Rachael Herron, among others, in her acknowledgments, and Gigi and Rachael are reading together tonight, Thursday, March 13, along with Sophie Littlefield, at 7 p.m. at Read Books in Danville, California. So if you’re near Danville and can attend, please tell them I say hello!


And to continue the writer-circle talk, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, a college friend of mine, who is also friends with Cari Luna, will appear as part of the Seven Questions Series this spring to honor the release of her third novel, Bittersweet.

Miranda is featured in the current issue of Poets & Writers in the article about making an authorly comeback; she’s the one with the darling socks and the big smile on the first page of the piece. I’m so happy for her and the attention she’s getting. You can see this video clip of her at the Poets & Writers website if you don’t have a copy of the magazine lying around.

Miranda and her publicist are blogging regularly about the work they’ve been doing to launch Bittersweet in May. It’s well worth exploring the archives to learn what it takes to get a book off the ground, and all the wonderful ideas they’re pursuing.

I read, and adored both of Miranda’s first two novels, and I can’t wait to read Bittersweet, which recently received this starred review from Kirkus.


I blogged about needing to get my writing momentum back in order to teach a momentum class in February. The class was canceled, then reshaped for March, without my publisher side of things, which worked out great, because I have a lot on my plate right now. But in any case, thinking about momentum got me writing again. I’m working on a new novel, a sequel to my fanciful nineteenth century epic that I’ve been writing for the past four years, and it feels good. To be working.

I know I’m deep into plotting territory because I put “madness” on the grocery list by accident.


How are you?

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Now Available: The Gods of Second Chances

The Gods of Second Chances by Dan BerneWow, March 1 is here.

More than a year ago, when sifting through submissions for Forest Avenue Press, I found a story about a fisherman raising his granddaughter on a small Alaskan island, while struggling with the death of his wife and trying to make ends meet. Into his relatively stable life walks his estranged daughter, swearing she has changed, and wanting to reclaim a place in her daughter’s life.

I begged for fifty pages after reading the first five. And then I begged for the full. Because I had to know what happened to Ray and his granddaughter Sitka. And then I accepted the book for publication.

Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances releases today, and we’re so excited to report that early readers have had the same reaction as me: they can’t stop reading! If you like fast-paced, beautifully written fiction, try it. Support a small press. And better yet, your independent bookstore. Here’s the description:

Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter with help from a multitude of gods and goddesses–not to mention rituals ad-libbed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend. But statues and otter bone ceremonies aren’t enough when Ray’s estranged daughter returns from prison, her search for a safe harbor threatening everything he holds sacred.

And here’s a stellar blurb by bestselling author Rachael Herron, whose new literary novel, Pack Up the Moon, is due out March 4 from Penguin:

“With a story as riveting as it is fresh and characters as profound and compelling as the water that surrounds them, Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances is a gorgeous plunge into the depth of the bonds of blood and belief.”

- Rachel Herron, author of Pack Up the Moon

ForeWord Reviews just put its spring reviews online, and this is their take on Dan’s book.  It begins:

“With his strong debut novel, Dan Berne takes the story of a longstanding family feud and turns it into a poignant portrait of a man’s struggle to fight the battles of the present and past simultaneously.”

Here’s what one Goodreads reviewer said:

As much as this tale will break your heart, you are compelled to keep reading to find out how bad it can get, and if there is redemption in store. (“Please!”, I would plead to the author and his muse, as I referred back to the title of the book, “Give this poor character a break!”)

And another reader emailed me to say:

“There’s not ONE misplaced word in that book! I can’t wait to finish my work today and get back to it!”

You can see more blurbs and press coverage on our Gods of Second Chances catalog page. We’ve had reports of canceled evening plans, ignored chores, and ignored spouses, as our early readers have been riveted to the story. Someone in the industry recently said he was shocked this manuscript wasn’t grabbed by a bigger house, and I admitted feeling incredibly lucky and grateful to have found this in my submission pile.

Dan Berne

Dan Berne

The Gods of Second Chances is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon, Powell’s, and other independent bookstores, including directly through Kobo. If you’re in Portland, please join us at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 9, at Powell’s downtown for the book launch reading! We hope to attract an overflow crowd to support this wonderful debut author.

I wouldn’t ordinarily ask (beg?) my blog friends to share this book with their friends, but I think it has a real shot at getting some major national attention because of Dan’s commercial pacing, sense of humor, and beautiful landscape writing. If you like books that feel like they should be turned into movies, this is the fiction release in our catalog that’s for you! We’ve sent out tons of advance copies, including using a publicist to reach some of the bigger-name publications, and things are starting to pop, but nothing helps more than word of mouth.

So if you’re interested, buy a copy, or just spread the word, invite Dan to guest post on your blog, suggest it to your book club (and then invite him to appear in person or by FaceTime), or contact you local library to at ask them to stock a few copies.

If you read The Gods of Second Chances, please consider reviewing it, sharing it with your friends, or buying another copy as a gift. Dan and I and the whole Forest Avenue Press community of readers, authors, and supporters will thank you, too. We’re a family and we’re grateful for every sale, and every opportunity, that comes our way.

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Interview: Suzy Vitello on Her YA Debut, Pacing, and Place

Suzy Vitello smiles at her official book launch party, held in January at Voodoo Donuts.

Suzy Vitello smiles at her official book launch party, held in January at Voodoo Donuts.

Suzy Vitello’s debut YA novel, The Moment Before, opens after art student Brady Wilson’s sister dies in a cheerleading accident. This tightly woven novel braids the after-effects of a tragedy with a smart coming-of-age story, fueled as much by Brady seeking the truth about her sister as by what she learns about herself. It’s actually two coming-of-age stories, one cut short.

The Moment Before is a skillfully written page-turner, going deeper and darker with each revelation, while retaining Suzy’s tight control of language and plot. The  twists are entirely organic, and they—amazingly—echo the moment of the accident itself. What’s expected isn’t what happens, what’s believed isn’t necessarily true.

Suzy will be reading from The Moment Before, alongside  Kate Scott, the author of Counting to D, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 18, at Annie Bloom’s Books in Southwest Portland.

I’ve known Suzy for nearly ten years, and I couldn’t be more excited for her long-awaited debut. I’m so glad she could join us today for the Seven Questions Series.

1. Tell us about The Moment Before.

coverLRFirst, there is no better invitation than that of an interviewer asking a debut novelist to tell the world about her book. So thank you for that.

The Moment Before zooms up close to the life of a family after the death of one of their children. The filter for the book is the other child in the family—the younger sister, Brady, who at seventeen is battling the usual obstacles faced by a quiet teen who is more artsy than outgoing.

Brady stumbles upon some evidence that re-explains factors in her sister’s death, and the boy held accountable becomes her ally in uncovering a truth nobody wants to believe.

The book is about this quest for truth. Not just the truth about a girl’s death, but an inquiry into authenticity generally.

2. Every scene—and every sentence—of this fast-paced novel seems essential. Did you have to cut a lot to make the plot zing and sizzle the way it does, or did you have a plan all along?

I’m not very patient with scenes. Not as a reader, and not as a writer. It’s a style choice, I suppose, but I prefer a more accelerated pace that accentuates image and voice over pretty much everything else. That becomes problematic when you consider plot–and YA must have a somewhat “zingy” plot. So, to help with this, I constructed an outline with sticky notes pasted to a science fair board. Then, I tried to write every chapter to some sort of confounding end. A puzzle, a surprise, a question.

3. You’ve beautifully grounded your novel in the landscape, traditions, and flavors of Portland, Oregon. Do you have any advice for other writers on how to create a powerful, multi-dimensional sense of place?

Oh, wow, thanks. So nice to hear! Place is about senses and imagery, and if I have any advice to writers on evoking a sense of place, it would be to take walks and pay attention to nuances of environment. Even if you’re setting your novel on the moon or something, it’s helpful to exploit the familiar: the way pebbles feel on tender feet. The smell of damp tree bark. The Doppler effect of a screeching bird as it chases intruders from its nest.

4. I have to ask, Suzy, because I’m so excited about your debut: how did you celebrate your very first book birthday?

Chained to my seat! As you know, Laura, these days, the world of your book launch takes place largely on a screen. The community of people who celebrate with you are vocal, and you want to hug them all, right? Acknowledging tweets and shout-outs seems not only polite, but celebratory. I also drank a wee bit of champagne.

5. You’re a member of one of Portland’s hottest writing groups. What’s that like, working with such talented, and incredibly popular, authors?

Seven Questions LogoHonestly, I thank the spirits and goddesses and whoever’s in charge every day for my fantastic literary community. The generosity of my writing group cannot be overstated.

Even though we have a diversity of style in our group–we write vastly different books, really–there is a palpable energy in our circle. A commitment to our stories and our readers. And we understand that about one another, and respect it. So on our best days, we work hard to filter our comments and ideas on one another’s pages to serve the final audience. Also, we really have been together a long time in dog years, y’know? We approach the work knowing what we know about each other’s processes and stages of draft.

6. Your next novel, The Empress Chronicles, will be coming out from Diversion Books this summer. Can you tell us a bit about that project?

Oh, my yes! I just got confirmation that we’re looking at a July 29th launch day.  My husband and I spent this snowy day brainstorming this very question, so here’s where we are with it.

The book is a mash-up of contemporary and historical with a bit of fanciful mystery thrown in for good measure.  Liz is fifteen, and has been sent to live with her father and his girlfriend after her mother takes a job overseas. She’s got a pretty nasty case of OCD, so the ramshackle farmhouse where she’s been consigned, with all its farm dirt and critters, is really difficult for her.  Her therapist, a German woman, introduces her to a historical figure–the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sisi. Turns out, the therapist is in possession of the empress’s girlhood diary (a distant forebear had been governess to the empress).

The book is alternately narrated by the young empress-to-be herself, and the diary (along with an enchanted locket) becomes a bit of a deus ex machina device to bring the heroines together.

The settings for this novel: the edge of Portland in a farmhouse (where I, myself, lived in for three years), and the Bavarian countryside (where I wish I lived), are the backdrop. The concept, distilled to a couple of sentences, might be: What if you had the power to change the timeline of your personal history? How would you balance your desires with those that affect the greater good?

7. What are you working on now?

An adult novel, and I’m super excited about it! It’s told from three points-of-view, third person, and has a very messy love story at its center.

Thanks so much for participating in the Seven Questions Series, Suzy! 

Find The Moment Before at Annie Bloom’s or Amazon. You can read about her friendship with Cheryl Strayed and Lidia Yuknavitch in this recent BuzzFeed interview. And check out Suzy’s website and her writing blog, Let’s Talk about Writing.

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Beautiful Wreck: A Time-Travel Viking Romance Novel

BeautifulWreck_frontcoverExactly a year ago, I interviewed Larissa Brown on the Seven Questions Series about her beautiful novel-in-progress, Beautiful Wreck, a time-travel Viking romance.

Soon after she finished the manuscript, she landed a publishing contract with Cooperative Press, a craft publisher growing its trade fiction catalog. Her novel launched this weekend and is now available in paperback and ebook forms.

Today, in honor of Beautiful Wreck‘s launch, I’m happy to present a mini-interview with Larissa.

1. Larissa, you finished your debut novel, found a publisher who loves it, and now Beautiful Wreck is a real book, out in the world for anyone to read. As much as we all dream of these things happening one after the other, in a timely fashion, usually it takes years (and years). So, first off congratulations, and second, do you have any epiphanies or advice stemming from this exciting moment in your authorly career? 

Larissa Brown

Larissa Brown

Thank you, Laura. Honestly, I had in my head that it was going to take years and years, and so it was initially so shocking, it was hard for me to just say yes and go for it. The advice I’d give is to take the chances that come. Weigh them carefully, but be open to surprising opportunities. Learn from the experience, and then write a next book.

Also, make long-term connections. This all unfolded in an orderly fashion for me, but I’d been laying the groundwork for years in a way. I met Shannon, my publisher, through blogging a decade ago, and we’ve done projects together through our work in the fiber industry. I could not have come out of nowhere and handed her a book. She’d been watching me research and write this Viking romance for two years on pinterest and facebook. The same goes for readers. Laying the groundwork through social media takes a long time. I involved people all along in the writing, and they were really ready to find out what’s in this book.

2. I love what you said about “glitter ponies” in our recent conversation. Please explain that phrase in terms of your book’s intended audience. 

Hmm, I think I meant glitter AND ponies. :) We were talking about the popularity of YA books among adult readers. I am not a YA reader in particular, so I was talking out my elbow, thinking that adults might be drawn to YA because it gives us license to live in our teen minds again, wanting what we wanted then. I know, it’s a lot more complex than that and is different for each reader. But for me, I still want the glitter and the ponies I wanted when I was thirteen. Part of me still wants to be a princess. As an adult, it’s hard to give yourself license to still desire those things. To still desire wonder. So I wrote a book for adults that has glitter and ponies. (Actually, literally, now that I think about it.)

3. When writing this time-travel Viking romance hybrid, how much did you study genre conventions before or during the writing process? It feels likeBeautiful Wreck has the best elements of each—a carefully constructed and believable futuristic world, a heartfelt sense of reverence for tenth century Viking culture, and a strong woman protagonist who yearns for a powerful ax-wielding chief. And then I’d add that it feels like historical fiction, because of your extensive research and attention to detail, and also literary fiction, because the language is so crisp and beautiful. Were there any genre conventions you purposely decided to ignore or circumvent?

Thank you for all these kind words about my writing! It was the opposite, really. There are many genre conventions I made sure that I included. It started almost as a game for me, to write a time-travel romance, so as a set of rules to play within, I made sure it conformed to the standard. The female travels in time, she meets a powerful man who cannot love, she travels back to the future once and it is unclear if she’ll be able to return, he is wounded and the heroine cares for him, and more.

That was how I started. But then I didn’t think about genre again until the book was written and I looked at it and thought “Crap, what have I done? No one will know how to sell this. No one will know how to read it.” And in a way, that has held true with advance readers. In the beginning of the book Jen lives in the future, but she slips fluidly through time periods. I’m finding that people who are not readers of speculative fiction have a harder time either enjoying this or even getting it at all.

In most time travel romances, the “time travel” is only nominally described or explained. In one case, I read a book where it was just misty outside and a woman walked out of a pub and into a different century. My book is like sci-fi compared to that.

Several reviews say something like, “The beginning was hard to get into, but once she got into the past it was GREAT!” I feel like we need that beginning, nonetheless. Jen would not be who she is, and would not have the desires and strengths she needs, without those first twenty-five sci-fi-ish pages.

Congratulations, Larissa! Find the book as an ebook or paperback on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Learn more about Cooperative Press Trade Books here. Larissa’s Beautiful Wreck website is here. Larissa–a renowned knitwear designer–also created a series of Viking shawls, inspired by her work on the novel. See the collection, Viking Love Song: six shawls & wraps, on Ravelry.

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