Some Local and Not So Local Events…

Washington, D.C., is a thriving literary community of poets, journalists, and authors, and there is never a dearth of writing events or readings for those looking for the next big book.  With that in mind, two great translated thrillers are coming out this month and both are translated by none other than K.E. Semmel, formerly the communications guru at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md.

One More Page Bookstore in Arlington, Va., will be hosting him for a night of Scandinavian Noir in Translation on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.

He’ll talk about his two translations and be interviewed by Art Taylor, who said The Caller was “chilling” and that it provided “a provocative portrait of a troubled mind.”  Between The Caller and The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, readers will be on the edges of their seats with excitement.

About The Caller:

One mild summer evening, a young couple are enjoying dinner while their daughter sleeps peacefully in her stroller under a tree. When her mother steps outside she is stunned: The child is covered in blood.  Inspector Sejer is called to the hospital to meet the family. Mercifully, the child is unharmed, but the parents are deeply shaken, and Sejer spends the evening trying to understand why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank. Then, just before midnight, somebody rings his doorbell.  No one is at the door, but the caller has left a small gray envelope on Sejer’s mat. From his living room window, the inspector watches a figure disappear into the darkness. Inside the envelope Sejer finds a postcard bearing a short message: Hell begins now.

About The Absent One:

Carl Mørck used to be one of Copenhagen’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she isn’t dead … yet.

For those of you outside the D.C. area, Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter, and Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, will be engaged in an Aug. 23 jamboree at the Crown Publishing Facebook page at 7 p.m.

Many of you have likely read Sarah’s book (check out my review) and loved it, so here’s your chance to chat with her for an hour. For those of you reading or hearing the buzz about Gillian’s book, this is a great opportunity to pick her brain.

For those of you that cannot get enough of short stories and reading, check out the third issue of The Coffin Factory, which is chock full of stories from greats like Joyce Carol Oates and James Franco. Oates has said the magazine is “a brilliantly imagined, highly readable, and important new literary magazine with the most incongruous title.”

The magazine has not only short stories, but also illustrations, and considers itself a “magazine for people who love books.” What more could book bloggers and readers ask for?

The first and second issues are available for PDF download, but why not check out a subscription or pick up a copy in your local indie bookstore?

Also, there’s going to be a great short story discussion on Savvy Verse & Wit in September of “The Mapmaker” by Thaisa Frank, which is from her collection Enchantment.  If you haven’t entered to win one of 4 copies, you better get a move on.  Time is running out.

Interview with Sarah McCoy, Author of The Baker’s Daughter

If you haven’t seen reviews for The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy yet, you must have been living in a cave.  I reviewed this phenomenal historical fiction novel told from the perspectives of two equally strong, but scarred women. 

From my review:  “The recipe for a successful novel is two parts dynamic characters, one part intriguing plot and story lines, and one part clever writing style, and The Baker’s Daughter provides all the nourishment you’ll need.”

I’m particularly confident that this will make this year’s best of list for 2012.

And after meeting Sarah in person, I can honestly say she’s a writer I’ll be adding to that coveted list, whose books I read simply because of who wrote them.  Her personality infuses her stories and her writing, and even in dark tales, her positive attitude and joy for life shine through.

Today, I have a treat for my readers; Sarah agreed to answer a few questions even after traveling the country, attending a book festival, battling the flu, and conducting an online book tour.  I applaud her dedication and want you to give her a warm welcome.

Q: How much does your own life influence your writing? Like are there elements of family and friends in your characters?

A: As an author, you are the conduit through which the story is filtered so, of course, elements of your life (fragments of people, events, places, etc.) are incorporated but never replicated. I gave the analogy of a honeybee in this article on Beyond The Margins and I stand by it. I’m just a story bee buzzing from stem to stem collecting as much as I can to make into honey. Each season is different from the next depending on what’s in bloom along the roadside of my journey.

Q: In The Baker’s Daughter there are some chapters that are from male perspectives. When writing from male and female perspectives, which do you find harder to write and what are some of the main differences between them?

A: This was my first time writing from the male POV and I LOVED it! So much, in fact, that half of the novel I’m currently working on (my third)is from a male protagonist’s perspective. Gender doesn’t factor into the difficulty of writing so much as the character’s inner conflicts and moral complications. For instance, in THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, one of the male perspectives is Josef, a Nazi officer. It took some work to separate my personal author judgements from my writing. In order to be genuine to Josef’s story line, I had to turn off present-day Sarah McCoy and fully embody what it might’ve been like for a German officer: what moral conflicts did he face; what emotional battles waged within; what governing pressures did he withstand; what cultural forces were at play? I had to do similarly for Elsie and the Schmidts. It’s the human spirit that often flummoxes me most–male and female!

Q: Was The Baker’s Daughter the original title of the book? What other titles were considered and how did you ultimately end up with the current title?

A: In my journal entries for the story, I called it the “Lebkuchen Tale”and the “Garmisch Story” as reference guides, but from the time the first word was typed, THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER has been its title. I was fortunate that my Crown editors and marketing team loved it too.

Q: What are some of your writing habits/obsessions that readers may be surprised to learn about (other than your love of history and tea)?

A: I have so many hidden quirks. I could probably fill ten pages with crazy-writer-lady idiosyncrasies. So for the sake of time, I’ll name one: I sit at my same writing desk without any sound during my writing days. No TV or radio. The phone ringer is turned off. Windows are closed, etc. I’m sealed up in a vacuum. That’s how I write best–in a kind of reality black hole where my imagination fills in all the senses: sound, sight, smell, taste, touch. Some people find this absolutely bizarre. Family members, included. But by the time I sit down to write the story on my laptop, I’ve dreamed on it for months. I’ve journaled. I’ve plotted. I’ve filled up my reservoirs with the pollinated story. I need the silent solitude so my characters can speak clearly, so I can feel the fictional landscape through their senses. Again, as I mentioned in the earlier, I consider myself (Sarah McCoy the author) merely the channel through which the story is processed.

Q: Since Savvy Verse & Wit has a focus on poetry a lot of the time, I like to ask authors about their poetry reading habits. If you read poetry, do you prefer contemporary or classic poetry? Form or free verse? And who are some of your favorite poets or poetry collections? (As a side note, have you checked out the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove?) Or why don’t you read poetry?

A: I hate to admit it, but I don’t read hardly enough poetry. I enjoy it, but I’m much more of a narrative reader. I need big, fat paragraphs of description and plot. However, some of my dearest friends are poets. When they read their work aloud, I am mesmerized. It’s as if they’ve cast a spell and I hang on every breath and syllable. If I had to pick my favorite, it’d be Maya Angelou. She is more than a poet. She’s a force of nature.


Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your thoughts with us about writing, your novel, and poetry.

About the Author:

SARAH McCOY is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.

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The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy is a novel told in a number of different points of view and spans several time periods, including the final year of World War II.  Two strong female protagonists, each haunted by the past and each past is tied to war in one way or another.

Elsie Schmidt is a German immigrant to El Paso, Texas, who spent the last year of WWII in her father’s bakery working and shying away from the decisions that came with living in Nazi Germany.  Unlike her sister, Hazel, who was in the Lebensborn program and praised for her work to help the Fatherland, Elsie sees herself as more of an outsider, lacking in the standard skills expected of a Good German.

“While Hazel thrived and grew more popular, Elsie felt oppressed and stifled by the uniforms and strict codes of conduct.  So at the tender age of eleven, she begged Mutti to work in the bakery.” (Page 16)

Reba Adams is also an El Paso transplant, but she’s a journalist looking for her latest feel-good piece for the magazine she works for, but she gets more than she bargained for when she meets Elsie.  Meanwhile, she’s hiding from her past and the ghosts of her dead Vietnam veteran father and failing to fully commit to the life she’s created in Texas with her fiance Riki, a border patrol officer.

“Everyone on campus knew her from the photograph in the Daily Cavalier: her lips bulging on the mouth guard; fuzzy, dark hair matted beneath the headgear; gloves up and ready.  They thought she was an anomaly coming from the Adams family.”  (Page 33)

The two different main perspectives in two different time periods is deftly handled by McCoy and each of her characters are strong and stubborn, but neither is lacking in dynamism or flaws.  Also unique to the novel is how well McCoy weaves in the elements of baking and pastry into her description; it is seamless and will make readers’ mouths water and have them itching to try the recipes in the back of the book.  Touching on family loyalty, mother-daughter bonds, father-daughter bonds, relationships of all kinds, plus the search for love and forgiveness, McCoy reaches deep inside the dough to knead the bonds of these women to help them grow outward and inward, allowing them to absorb more love and connections.  The recipe for a successful novel is two parts dynamic characters, one part intriguing plot and story lines, and one part clever writing style, and The Baker’s Daughter provides all the nourishment you’ll need.

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About the Author:

SARAH McCOY is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

This is my 16th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Reading with Sarah McCoy, Author of The Baker’s Daughter, at Novel Places

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy was published in January 2012 and already has received a number of praising reviews and even one blogger, Anna of Diary of an Eccentric, says that the book will be on her best of 2012 list.  With all of this praise, I’m looking forward to my TLC Book Tour stop in March, but I also wanted to see the author in person.  Who is this woman who has generated so much buzz in the blogosphere with her sophomore book?  (Her first book for those interested was The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico)  Lucky for me, Novel Places in Clarksburg, Md., was hosting a reading with this author and I could make it with some finagling by me to have the hubby watch “Wiggles.”

I’ve loved the few readings I’ve been to at Novel Places because the store is cozy and the readings are intimate — more like a conversation with a book club and author than a formal reading.  People arrived early to get copies of the book and chat with the author before 7 p.m., and I just sat and listened.  What I learned from the event was that most authors have the same type of personality in that they love listening to their characters in their heads and garnering inspiration from the people and things around them.

The Baker’s Daughter is actually inspired by a German woman whom Sarah met at a farmer’s market once and who told her how she married an American soldier at the end of WWII before coming to the United States.  That was all that was said, and while Sarah has not seen the woman since, it was enough to send her off on a journey of history, relationships, and more, which is all housed in her second book.  Although she says that she will never hand the woman a copy of the book and tell her that she was the inspiration, I think the woman would be happy to know that she touched the author in that way.

Author Sarah McCoy at Novel Places

I love that Sarah brought the red hat from the cover and although she’s too young to be in the Red Hat Society, she agreed to become a Pink Lady.  She was asked about her writing and revision process, which she says is long with journaling about her characters at the start, rather than plot outlines, and about 10-12 rounds of revisions once the first draft is written. Her research process is narrowed by the characters she is inspired to write about, limiting research to a particular year in a particular region or city in Germany for example for The Baker’s Daughter.  She says that otherwise, she would just research too much, get overwhelmed or after 10 years still not have written a book.

Her younger brother also was in attendance and was apparently not only chauffeuring her around to each event while she’s in the area, but also taking photos.  It was obvious from the way she interacted and talked about him and her family that they are all close.  It’s wonderful to see those family connections in person, especially given that her novel touches upon family connections and interactions during some difficult periods in history.

Answering Questions at Novel Places

She talked about her MFA program and her teaching stints in Texas where she now lives with her husband, though she is a former Virginia resident (her parents still live in Fairfax County).  Overall, it was an engaging and conversational event.  She’s affable, delightful, and vivacious, and obviously very outgoing; I think I was in awe of her — too in awe to actually ask any questions, though there were many buzzing in my head.  Perhaps, I’ll get the chance to interview her once I’ve had the chance to read the book and review it here for the blog tour.

Hopefully, I didn’t miss much in the conversation, but that sickness is going around and I think it has finally reached me because my head was feeling awfully foggy.  I’m lucky I remembered my book and Anna’s for Sarah to sign and to talk to her about how much Anna loved the book — by the way, she remembered Anna from that blue cat tattoo icon she uses. . .how cute is that?!

Thanks to Patrick for hosting another AWESOME event!


Additionally, this is a stop on The Literary Road Trip since Sarah McCoy is a former resident of the area and her family still lives here.

Mailbox Monday #161

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the At Home With Books.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy, which I received for my TLC Tour stop in March.

2.  Vampire Knits by Genevieve Miller, which came unsolicited from Random House.

These I won from BookHounds and some of these will find homes with my mother (who just loves mystery novels) and some other friends:

3. Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes

4. Day by Day Armageddon Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne

5. The Rock Hole by Reavis Wortham

6. Bet Your Bones by Jeanne Matthews

7. Swift Justice by Laura DiSilverio

8. Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey

9. Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

10. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

11. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

BACK to the review copies and the book buys from the weekend:

12. The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachman by Ken Brosky

13. The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell for review from Sourcebooks

14. Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly for review from Sourcebooks

15. Catalina by Laurie Soriano for consideration in the Indie Lit Awards Poetry category

16. If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien, which I bought at the book club meeting at Novel Places for $1.50 to complete by collection of O’Brien books.

17. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore, which I also bought at the book club meeting at Novel Places for $1.99 because I loved this book when I first read it and want my own copy.

18. Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos, which I also bought at the book club meeting, since Anna told me it was hilarious.

What did you receive this week?