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Interview with Bill Broun, author of Night of the Animals


Please welcome Bill Broun to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Night of the Animals is published on July 5th by Ecco. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Bill a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Bill Broun, author of Night of the Animals




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Bill:  I began writing fiction seriously around age 19 or 20. I was always also very interested in indie music and song-writing, and even had a little regional success with a band in the Midwest – long ago! But the indie music industry is harsh and unforgiving. I felt drawn to fiction- and poetry-writing because I could do it myself, and the challenges of writing seemed both intense and enduring.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Bill:  Plotter. Fiction is a craft and it never once has come easy for me and been something I could do offhandedly. That’s just me. I admire writers for whom novels magically appear in months, but then again, I often don’t like those novels.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Bill:  That it imposes my selfish pursuit on loved ones. It takes a lot of time, for me at least, and time in this life is never cheap.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Bill:  The list is long! I was especially influenced by the prose of Vladmir Nabokov, Mary Gaitskill, JM Coetzee, and Toni Morrison. My wife, Annmarie Drury, is a poet and translator of Swahili poetry from east and central Africa, and that whole world she introduced me to – especially, ordinary people from Tanzania, and Tanzania’s animals, and Tanzanian and Kenyan poets such as Euphrase Kezilahabi and Abdulatif Abdullah and some of the beautiful people who quietly preserve and archive East African literature – all were a big influence as I drafted the novel. The stories of my father, William Broun, from old Worcestershire. The poetry of Sylvia Plath, Medbh McGuckian, Ted Hughes. Henry Williamson’s book, Tarka the Otter.



TQDescribe Night of the Animals in 140 characters or less.

Bill:  Cute old man releases animals from London Zoo in future era of tyrannical monarchy. Surprises ensue. #prayforusstcuthbert



TQTell us something about Night of the Animals that is not found in the book description.

Bill:  It’s both deeply Anglophobic and deeply Anglophilic.



TQWhat inspired you to write Night of the Animals? What appeals to you about the story of Noah's Ark?

Bill:  My confused and painful love affair with England. That’s one big part of what drove me.

I didn’t consciously think much of the story of the ark as wrote until later in the drafting process. I did think constantly of the post-flood covenant between God and humanity, as depicted in Genesis 9:13: “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” This line promises that God will protect the animals of earth, but as humans, we must be God’s stewards.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Night of the Animals?

Bill:  Trips to loads of zoos, libraries, along with a zillion overseas phone calls all over the world, and deep immersion in English culture. I went to places most Americans – and indeed, most Brits – don’t think of when they think of experiencing Britain.



TQIn Night of the Animals who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Bill:  I don’t mean to sound coy, but none of them and no one came easy. It was all very hard for me. I don’t think of myself as very talented or intellectually brilliant. Perhaps a more brainy writer would have had an easier time?



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Night of the Animals?

Bill:  I never thought of including “social issues,” per se. I doubt I’m very unique in this as a writer. Instead, it’s more that I fall in love with characters who happen to dramatize social issues.



TQWhich question about Night of the Animals do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Bill:  Why do you portray the lovely, tourism-driving British monarchy as such a menace in the future?

I’m an Anglo-American republican -- with a small “r” – and I think the vestigial monarchy should be kindly abolished and the Windsor family given a pension. Having kings and queens running about is dangerous to democracy.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Night of the Animals.

Bill:  Since today we just learned that the UK is leaving the EU, I’ll opt for a spot where my novel predicts the end of the EU: “For so many years, from the last days of the era of the powerful prime ministers and the European Union, up through the Great Reclamation and the Property Revolts and the slow rise of the various suicide cults of the 2020s, and on through the Second Restoration to the new king in 2028, the ramshackle Cuthbert had somehow survived.”



TQWhat's next?

Bill:  My next novel is set in Ohio, although I haven’t ruled out taking on King Harry again.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Night of the Animals
Ecco, July 5, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 560 pages

Interview with Bill Broun, author of Night of the Animals
An imaginative debut that brilliantly recasts the tale of Noah’s Ark as a story of fate and family set in the near future in London

Over the course of a single night in 2052, a homeless man named Cuthbert Handley sets out on an astonishing quest: to release the animals of the London Zoo. When he was a young boy, Cuthbert’s grandmother told him he inherited a magical ability to communicate with the animal world—a gift she called the Wonderments. Ever since his older brother’s death in childhood, Cuthbert has heard voices. These maddening whispers must be the Wonderments, he believes, and recently they have promised to reunite him with his lost brother and bring about the coming of a Lord of Animals . . . if he fulfills this curious request.

Cuthbert flickers in and out of awareness throughout his desperate pursuit. But his grand plan is not the only thing that threatens to disturb the collective unease of the city. Around him is greater turmoil, as the rest of the world anxiously anticipates the rise of a suicide cult set on destroying the world’s animals along with themselves. Meanwhile, Cuthbert doggedly roams the zoo, cutting open the enclosures, while pressing the animals for information about his brother.

Just as this unlikely yet loveable hero begins to release the animals, the cult’s members flood the city’s streets. Has Cuthbert succeeded in harnessing the power of the Wonderments, or has he only added to the chaos—and sealed these innocent animals’ fates? Night of the Animals is an enchanting and inventive tale that explores the boundaries of reality, the ghosts of love and trauma, and the power of redemption.





About Bill

Interview with Bill Broun, author of Night of the Animals
BILL BROUN has worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist in both the US and the UK. He was appointed a resident fellow at Yale University in 2002, where he lectured in English and journalism, and currently serves as Associate Professor of English at East Stroudsburg University. Born in Los Angeles to an English father and an American mother, he now lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania.





Website  ~  Twitter @Broun  ~  Facebook


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Night of the Animals by Bill Broun


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update -  Night of the Animals by Bill Broun


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Bill Broun

Night of the Animals
Ecco, July 5, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 560 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update -  Night of the Animals by Bill Broun
An imaginative debut that brilliantly recasts the tale of Noah’s Ark as a story of fate and family set in the near future in London

Over the course of a single night in 2052, a homeless man named Cuthbert Handley sets out on an astonishing quest: to release the animals of the London Zoo. When he was a young boy, Cuthbert’s grandmother told him he inherited a magical ability to communicate with the animal world—a gift she called the Wonderments. Ever since his older brother’s death in childhood, Cuthbert has heard voices. These maddening whispers must be the Wonderments, he believes, and recently they have promised to reunite him with his lost brother and bring about the coming of a Lord of Animals . . . if he fulfills this curious request.

Cuthbert flickers in and out of awareness throughout his desperate pursuit. But his grand plan is not the only thing that threatens to disturb the collective unease of the city. Around him is greater turmoil, as the rest of the world anxiously anticipates the rise of a suicide cult set on destroying the world’s animals along with themselves. Meanwhile, Cuthbert doggedly roams the zoo, cutting open the enclosures, while pressing the animals for information about his brother.

Just as this unlikely yet loveable hero begins to release the animals, the cult’s members flood the city’s streets. Has Cuthbert succeeded in harnessing the power of the Wonderments, or has he only added to the chaos—and sealed these innocent animals’ fates? Night of the Animals is an enchanting and inventive tale that explores the boundaries of reality, the ghosts of love and trauma, and the power of redemption.

Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


The Miniaturist
Author:  Jessie Burton
Publisher:  Ecco, August 26, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780062306814 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Will be published in Trade Paperback, June 2, 2015

Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.


Doreen’s Thoughts

Young Nella Brandt comes to Amsterdam to join her husband, Johannes, and his household – sister Marin, servant Cordelia, and manservant Otto. While Johannes is years older than Nella, she has dreams of what being a wife might mean for her, and those dreams are crushed over time. Each of the household members seem to hold some important secret.

Johannes is one of the wealthiest merchants in the city, sailing around the world to sell and buy goods all over. Cordelia is a sweet, but gossipy girl not much older than 18-year-old Nella herself. She attempts to befriend the frightened and lonely wife, trying to convince her that she could be happier if she tried. Otto is a more mysterious figure, a former black slave raised by Johannes to be a gentleman, and not accepted well by Amsterdam society. Marin, Johannes' sister, is an uptight spinster who at first appears to resent Nella’s intrusion in the household.

Marin is a strange, contradictory character. While she practices an outward rejection of any niceties in life – eating dried herring for breakfast and using cheap candles in the main areas – her inner life is rich and elegant. She lines her plain clothing with velvet and ermine, secretly eats candied walnuts, and has exotic maps and items from Johannes' worldwide travels decorating her bedroom.

Johannes himself is quite a bit older than Nella and has no use for a wife whatsoever. However, Nella’s gentle and kind spirit appeals to him, and his bridal gift to her is a large, elaborate dollhouse that is almost an exact model of their home. Nella at first is offended by the gift, thinking that it was a statement on her youth, but over time she becomes fascinated with the house and the miniatures that she receives for its interiors.

It is here that the mystery of the story begins – for the miniaturist appears to know Nella’s home and family better than Nella does herself. Oddly enough, some of the miniatures seem to have characteristics that predict what might happen to them in the future. Most of the novel centers on Nella’s search for the miniaturist, wanting to understand what the person is trying to tell her with the gifts that are sent.

The Miniaturist is a delicious fairy-tale pulled to novel length. I was delighted with the language and the detail that Jessie Burton includes in her story. She has recreated Amsterdam society in the 16th century – a time when its citizens were both widely liberal in their efforts to make money, but strangely conservative in their day-to-day life. The description of the main church with the skeletons buried directly beneath the flooring and the accompanying smell that results left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but the detail added to the overall reality of the tale. Burton has written one of the best novels that I have read yet this year. No wonder it was such a phenomenon when it was released last year.


Note: You may read an excerpt from The Miniaturist here.

Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014


Please welcome Lauren Oliver to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Rooms, Lauren's adult fiction debut, will be published on September 23rd by Ecco.



Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Lauren:  I've been writing pretty much every day since I was nine! I started because, as an avid reader, I wanted to spend more time in the worlds of books I loved. It was really a kind of fan-fiction!



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lauren:  I'm a combination of both! I start out with just writing, and then after I get a firm foot in the story I'm telling, I force myself to write a really detailed outline of the rest of the book.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lauren:  Every book has its own challenges, just like each one has its own joys. It really changes from story to story.



TQ:  How different is it writing a book for adults vs. young adults?

Lauren:  Again, I think it is really a matter of the individual book rather than the age it's meant for. Adult books are obviously tonally and thematically different than children's book, but the process of writing remains pretty similar.



TQ:  Describe Rooms in 140 characters or less.

Lauren:  Here is EXACTLY 140 characters!

After the death of the patriarch, a family goes home to clean out the house. They are watched by the ghosts that inhabit the walls. SECRETS!



TQ:  Tell us something about Rooms that is not in the book description.

Lauren:  There is a story within the story called The Raven Heliotrope.



TQRooms is described by your publisher a "ghost story." Why ghosts?

Lauren:  I'm kind of obsessed with ghosts! Rooms is my third published novel to include a character that speaks from the afterlife (after Before I Fall and Liesl & Po). I think we're all interested in exploring what an afterlife would be like.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Lauren:  That's a difficult question to answer. I guess in some ways, Trenton was easiest. He'd existed in various permutations of the novel, since its earliest inception. I knew him very well when I sat down to write. And I think Sandra was possibly the hardest. Her vocabulary and her experiences were so distinct from mine, and I wanted to give her sections resonance while having to restrict myself to her kind of curt, somewhat crass voice.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Rooms.

Lauren:  That is what it is to be alive: The dust doesn’t blow backward for you. The roads remain. For the shortest time, shorter than the shortest second’s breath, you get to stand up to infinity. But eventually, and always, infinity wins.


TQ:  What's next?

Lauren:  My next YA Novel, Vanishing Girls, is coming out this Spring! After that I have a new Middle Grade series that I'm very excited for. :)



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Rooms
Ecco, September 23, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
(Adult Debut)

Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014
The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.





About Lauren

Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014
c. Charles Grantham, 2014
Lauren Oliver is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA novels Before I Fall, Panic, and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem. Her books have been translated into thirty languages. She is also the author of two novels for middle-grade readers, The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, which was a 2012 E. B. White Read-Aloud Award nominee. Lauren's first adult novel, Rooms, will be published in September 2014. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at www.laurenoliverbooks.com




Twitter @ OliverBooks  ~  Facebook




2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Rooms by Lauren Oliver


2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Rooms by Lauren Oliver


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.


Lauren Oliver

Rooms
Ecco, September 23, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
(Adult Debut)

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Rooms by Lauren Oliver
The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.


Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014


The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from Jessie Burton's debut, The Miniaturist.


Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014


Mid-October 1686
The Herengracht canal, Amsterdam

Outside In

         On the step of her new husband’s house, Nella Oortman lifts and drops the dolphin knocker, embarrassed by the thud. No one comes, though she is expected. The time was prearranged and letters written, her mother’s paper so thin compared with Brandt’s expensive vellum. No, she thinks, this is not the best of greetings, given the blink of a marriage ceremony the month before—no garlands, no betrothal cup, no wedding bed. Nella places her small trunk and birdcage on the step. She knows she’ll have to embellish this later for home, when she’s found a way upstairs, a room, a desk.
        Nella turns to the canal as bargemen’s laughter rises up the opposite brickwork. A puny lad has skittled into a woman and her basket of fish, and a half-dead herring slithers down the wide front of the seller’s skirt. The harsh cry of her country voice runs under Nella’s skin. “Idiot! Idiot!” the woman yells. The boy is blind, and he grabs in the dirt for the escaped herring as if it’s a silver charm, his fingers quick, not afraid to feel around. He scoops it, cackling, running up the path with his catch, his free arm out and ready.
        Nella cheers silently and stays to face this rare October warmth, to take it while she can. This part of the Herengracht is known as the Golden Bend, but today the wide stretch is brown and workaday. Looming above the sludge-colored canal, the houses are a phenomenon. Admiring their own symmetry on the water, they are stately and beautiful, jewels set within the city’s pride. Above their rooftops Nature is doing her best to keep up, and the clouds in colors of saffron and apricot echo the spoils of the glorious republic.
        Nella turns back to the door, now slightly ajar. Was it like this before? She cannot be sure. She pushes on it, peering into the void as cool air rises from the marble. “Johannes Brandt?” she calls—loud, a little panicked. Is this a game? she thinks. I’ll be standing here come
January. Peebo, her parakeet, thrills the tips of his feathers against the cage bars, his faint cheep falling on the marble. Even the now-quiet canal behind them seems to hold its breath.
        Nella is sure of one thing as she looks deeper into the shadows. She’s being watched. Come on, Nella Elisabeth, she tells herself, stepping over the threshold. Will her new husband embrace her, kiss her or shake her hand like it’s just business? He didn’t do any of those things at the ceremony, surrounded by her small family and not a single member of his.
        To show that country girls have manners too, she bends down and removes her shoes—dainty, leather, of course her best—although what their point has been she can’t now say. Dignity, her mother said, but dignity is so uncomfortable. She slaps the shoes down, hoping the
noise will arouse somebody, or maybe scare them off. Her mother calls her overimaginative, Nella-in-the-Clouds. The inert shoes lie in anticlimax and Nella simply feels a fool.
        Outside, two women call to each other. Nella turns, but through the open door she sees only the back of one woman, capless, golden-headed and tall, striding away toward the last of the sun. Nella’s own hair has loosened on the journey from Assendelft, the light breeze letting wisps escape. To tuck them away will make her more nervous than she can bear to seem, so she leaves them tickling her face.
        “Are we to have a menagerie?”
        The voice sails sure and swift from the darkness of the hall. Nella’s skin contracts, for being right about her suspicions can’t banish the goose bumps. She watches as a figure glides from the shadows, a hand outstretched—in protest or in greeting, it is hard to tell. It is a woman, straight and slim and dressed in deepest black, the cap on her head starched and pressed to white perfection. Not a wisp of her hair escapes, and she brings with her the vaguest, strangest scent of nutmeg. Her eyes are gray, her mouth is solemn. How long has she been there, watching? Peebo chirrups at the intervention.
        “This is Peebo,” Nella says. “My parakeet.”
        “So I see,” says the woman, gazing down at her. “Or hear. I take it you have not brought any more beasts?”
        “I have a little dog, but he’s at home—”
        “Good. It would mess in our rooms. Scratch the wood. Those small ones are an affectation of the French and Spanish,” the woman observes. “As frivolous as their owners.”
        “And they look like rats,” calls a second voice from somewhere in the hall.
        The woman frowns, briefly closing her eyes, and Nella takes her in, wondering who else is watching this exchange. I must be younger than her by ten years, she thinks, though her skin’s so smooth. As the woman moves past Nella toward the doorframe, there is a grace in her movements, self-aware and unapologetic. She casts a brief, approving glance at the neat shoes by the door and then stares into the cage, her lips pressed tight together. Peebo’s feathers have puffed in fear.
        Nella decides to distract her by joining hands in greeting, but the woman flinches at the touch.
        “Strong bones for seventeen,” the woman says.
        “I’m Nella,” she replies, retracting her hand. “And I’m eighteen.”
        “I know who you are.”
        “My real name is Petronella, but everyone at home calls me—”
        “I heard the first time.”
        “Are you the housekeeper?” Nella asks. A giggle is badly stifled in the hallway shadows. The woman ignores it, looking out into the pearlescent dusk. “Is Johannes here? I’m his new wife.” The woman still says nothing. “We signed our marriage a month ago, in Assendelft,”
Nella persists. It seems there is nothing else to do but to persist.
        “My brother is not in the house.”
        “Your brother?”
        Another giggle from the darkness. The woman looks straight into Nella’s eyes. “I am Marin Brandt,” she says, as if Nella should understand. Marin’s gaze may be hard, but Nella can hear the precision faltering in her voice. “He’s not here,” Marin continues. “We thought
he’d be. But he’s not.”
        “Where is he, then?”
        Marin looks out toward the sky again. Her left hand fronds the air, and from the shadows near the staircase two figures appear. “Otto,” she says.
        A man comes toward them and Nella swallows, pressing her cold feet upon the floor.
        Otto’s skin is dark, dark brown everywhere, his neck coming out from the collar, his wrists and hands from his sleeves—all unending, dark brown skin. His high cheeks, his chin, his wide brow, every inch. Nella has never seen such a man in her life.
        Marin seems to be watching her to see what she will do. The look in Otto’s large eyes makes no acknowledgment of Nella’s ill-concealed fascination. He bows to her and she curtsies, chewing her lip till the taste of blood reminds her to be calm. Nella sees how his skin glows
like a polished nut, how his black hair springs straight up from his scalp. It is a cloud of soft wool, not flat and greasy like other men’s. “I—” she says.
        Peebo begins to chirp. Otto puts his hands out, a pair of pattens resting on his broad palms. “For your feet,” he says.
        His accent is Amsterdam—but he rolls the words, making them warm and liquid. Nella takes the pattens from him and her fingers brush his skin. Clumsily she slips the raised shoes onto her feet. They are too big, but she doesn’t dare say it, and at least they lift her soles off the chilly marble. She’ll tighten the leather straps later, upstairs—if she ever gets there, if they ever let her past this hall.
        “Otto is my brother’s manservant,” says Marin, her eyes still fixed on Nella. “And here is Cornelia, our maid. She will look after you.”
        Cornelia steps forward. She is a little older than Nella, perhaps twenty, twenty-one—and slightly taller. Cornelia pins her with an unfriendly grin, her blue eyes moving over the new bride, seeing the tremor in Nella’s hands. Nella smiles, burnt by the maid’s curiosity, struggling to say some piece of empty thanks. She is half grateful, half ashamed when Marin cuts her off.
        “Let me show you upstairs,” Marin says. “You will want to see your room.”
        Nella nods and a look of amusement flickers to life in Cornelia’s eyes. Blithe pirrips from the cage bounce high up the walls, and Marin indicates to Cornelia with a flick of her wrist that the bird must go to the kitchen.
        “But the cooking fumes,” Nella protests. Marin and Otto turn back to her. “Peebo likes the light.”
        Cornelia takes up the cage and starts swinging it like a pail. “Please, be careful,” says Nella.
        Marin catches Cornelia’s eye. The maid continues to the kitchen, accompanied by the thin melody of Peebo’s worried cheeps.


From The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Copyright 2014 Jessie Burton. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.





The Miniaturist
Ecco, August 26, 2014
Hardcover and eBook,416 pages

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.





About Jessie

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014
Photo by Wolf Marloh
Jessie Burton was born in London in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and still works as an actress in London. She lives in southeast London, not far from where she grew up.











Web  ~  Twitter @jesskatbee




Guest Blog by Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - August 18, 2014


Please welcome Stephanie Feldman to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Angel of Losses was published on July 29th by Ecco.



Guest Blog by Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - August 18, 2014




I don't have a lot in common with Marjorie, the young literature scholar who narrates The Angel of Losses, but there is this: we're both obsessive researchers. Early in the book, she describes her summer in the university library:

“My back ached and my ribs were tender from hugging the books so close. I wasn’t burdened, though. I was driven. Obsessed. If I found one useful sentence, one fact, in four hundred pages, I felt triumphant, like I had pulled a rare fossil from the desert.”

       She's describing me, as well, as I prepared to write this book. The early phase of a writing project is my favorite: I become a collector of possibilities, with no editing, no paring down, no choices that require discarding a great detail or line of dialogue or image.
       When I began researching my story, I was looking for Wandering Jews. I had fallen in love with the legendary immortal--sometimes sinister, sometimes tragic--I had discovered in gothic novels, but I didn't want to employ the anti-Semitic tradition that bore him. (His name doesn’t indicate faith; “Jew” signals rejection of Christ, and being “Other.”) So I decided to take him in what would be, ironically, a new direction: I would make him Jewish.
       I found many similar figures: Benjamin of Tudela, the Spanish Jew who documented his travels across Europe and the Orient in the eleventh-century; the prophet Elijah, who appears anonymously to help good people in need in folklore; and Rabbi Akiba, the second-century political leader and mystic who, according to legend, attempted to enter paradise, which is forbidden to mortals.
       I learned that mystics like Akiba practiced angel magic--using names and formulas to command angels. So I began reading whatever I could find about Jewish angels. I was prepared to continue my furious note-taking and photocopying; I worked as if I were Marjorie, writing a dissertation instead of a novel.
       Except here's the thing about Jewish angels: there is no canon. No scholar ever systematized the variety of claims about angels in the Bible, rabbinical texts, and folklore from the far reaches of the globe. Instead, there is an abundance of competing thought.
       Some sources claim that angels are perfect expressions of God’s intentions; others that they can misbehave. Some grant them human personalities; others insist they embody forces, like creation or pestilence. Some say each person has two guardian angels, while others give us four. Some say the first angels numbered 70, one for each nation on earth. Some say angels are made of half fire and half water.
       At first, I was frustrated—how could I create a character that honors such a wildly diverse tradition? But the big, messy nature of the subject was actually a gift. I didn’t need to serve the Angel; instead, the Angel served me, my characters, and their journeys.
       Yode’a, the Angel of Losses himself is referenced in a letter from the 18th-century Eastern-European rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. It is believed that the rabbi invented him.
       And with that—an evocative name, a concept, and no history to attend to—I was done with my angel research. I created him anew, using a few stray “facts” I’d picked up before abandoning my reading. My angel isn’t a cosmic force, but a personality with his own intentions. He has perfect knowledge of the universe, except for one thing: he doesn’t know when the Messiah will return, when God will redeem the fallen world.
       After the book went to press, someone contacted me. She had seen the title, and she knew about Rabbi Nachman’s—my—angel. Apparently there’s more about him, all in Hebrew, a language I don’t read.
       A part of me is curious, but mostly I’m content with not knowing. Not knowing is what allowed me to write this book.





The Angel of Losses
Ecco, July 29, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Guest Blog by Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - August 18, 2014
The Tiger's Wife meets The History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a miracle worker named the White Rebbe and the enigmatic Angel of Losses, both protectors of things gone astray and guardians of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

Years later, when Eli's granddaughter Marjorie stumbles upon his notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather—and her family—comes undone. To learn the truth about Eli's origins and unlock the secrets he kept, Marjorie embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from the medieval Holy Land to eighteenth-century Venice and Nazi-occupied Lithuania. What she finds leads her back to present-day New York City and her estranged sister, Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli's past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can—and cannot—escape.





About Stephanie

Guest Blog by Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - August 18, 2014
Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her husband and her daughter. For more on her writing and inspiration, visit her at: http://stephaniefeldman.com/.









Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @sbfeldman  ~  Pinterest

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014


Please welcome Stephanie Feldman to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Angel of Losses will published on July 29th by Ecco.



Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Stephanie:  Thank you for inviting me to talk about the book! I've been telling stories and playing around with poems and essays and short stories since I was a kid, but I became serious about fiction in college. That's when I wrote my first a novel (now in a drawer), and I've been hard at work ever since.

As for why: I was born with a big imagination. I had to do something constructive with it.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Stephanie:  A little bit of both. I always begin with a loose outline: an emotional arc for my main characters and a series of scenes and beats I want to hit. But when I start writing, I follow the story where it wants to go. I rely on the outline when I write myself into a corner, or find myself running out of steam. Most the time, though, my best ideas come while writing.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephanie:  There's a Sherman Alexie quote along the lines of: "There's no writer's block, only laziness and fear." He has me pegged. These days, I'd add chronic distraction, mostly in the form of the Internet. My biggest challenges are maintaining focus and silencing my inner critic.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Stephanie:  This the hardest question to answer! I've collected a lot of favorites over a lifetime of reading. If you read The Angel of Losses, you probably won't be surprised that I love Judy Budnitz, Angela Carter, Sarah Waters, and Jeanette Winterson. The Kiss of the Spiderwoman is a favorite of mine—another a story about stories, though very different in style. I also love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Dan Simmons' Drood.



TQ:  Describe The Angel of Losses in 140 characters or less.

Stephanie:  A haunted woman searches for her grandfather’s lost fairy tales in order to save her sister from the consequences of his secret past.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Angel of Losses that is not in the book description.

Stephanie:  One of my characters, Simon, is building a digital map that attempts to place folklore and historical accounts of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel on a single plane and timeline.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Angel of Losses? The novel is describes as "[i]nterweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales... ." Do you have favorite Jewish folktales and how hard was it to create your own?

Stephanie:  I first got the idea in college while studying 18th-century gothic novels. I wanted to write something similar: a tale with mysterious figures, ghosts, and family secrets that also tackles the issues of identity and social obligation. I made it my own by setting it in the contemporary U.S., and rewriting the Wandering Jew, a common Gothic character, using Jewish tradition.

I didn't have any favorite folktales coming in, but the ones that struck me the most—and which you'll see in the book—describe holy men who attempted to force the coming of the Messiah and Paradise. These men love God so much they're willing to destroy His laws for the chance to be closer to Him.

Creating my own legends was the best part! The novel is also about a family whose members love each other but make a lot of mistakes. Untying those knotty relationships was intense, and I was grateful to escape into fairy tales sometime.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Angel of Losses?

Stephanie:  I read tons of legends, but also books about Jewish mysticism and the history of Jewish communities in Europe, and narratives from medieval travelers. I also studied theories of history and memory, how we record and make meaning of the past.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephanie:  The majority of the story is from Marjorie's point of view, and I became comfortable with her voice and point of view very quickly. The challenge became writing for the characters with whom she's feuding, particularly her sister Holly. Marjorie loves Holly fiercely but is also furious with her--though most of her anger, she comes to realize, is a mask for her own hurt and sadness. It took time for me to put Marjorie's feelings and judgments aside and see Holly as she sees herself.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Angel of Losses.

Stephanie:

"He passed a room of cobalt and gold, where a podium stood tall as a tree on cracked tile, heaped with ledgers inscribed with lists of lost things: lost shoes, lost keys, lost pets, lost nations, lost hopes. There were whole pages of names: lost souls."

"I wanted to ask him why Grandpa was coming to me in my dreams, and why the old man was coming to me in their aftermath; why Holly was painting faceless men in a maddening paradise; why Nathan was afraid of our books."



TQ:  What's next?

Stephanie:  I'm working on a new novel now, but I'm a little superstitious about describing a story before it's done. I can tell you it's another mix of history and magic, as well as a character study of a man trying to make a place for himself in a spiritually and biologically evolving world.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephanie:  Thank YOU!





The Angel of Losses
Ecco, July 29, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014
The Tiger's Wife meets The History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a miracle worker named the White Rebbe and the enigmatic Angel of Losses, both protectors of things gone astray and guardians of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

Years later, when Eli's granddaughter Marjorie stumbles upon his notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather—and her family—comes undone. To learn the truth about Eli's origins and unlock the secrets he kept, Marjorie embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from the medieval Holy Land to eighteenth-century Venice and Nazi-occupied Lithuania. What she finds leads her back to present-day New York City and her estranged sister, Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli's past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can—and cannot—escape.





About Stephanie

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014
Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her husband and her daughter. For more on her writing and inspiration, visit her at: http://stephaniefeldman.com/.









Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @sbfeldman  ~  Pinterest


2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman


2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.


Stephanie Feldman

The Angel of Losses
Ecco, July 29, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman
The Tiger's Wife meets The History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a miracle worker named the White Rebbe and the enigmatic Angel of Losses, both protectors of things gone astray and guardians of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

Years later, when Eli's granddaughter Marjorie stumbles upon his notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather—and her family—comes undone. To learn the truth about Eli's origins and unlock the secrets he kept, Marjorie embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from the medieval Holy Land to eighteenth-century Venice and Nazi-occupied Lithuania. What she finds leads her back to present-day New York City and her estranged sister, Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli's past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can—and cannot—escape.


Interview with Bill Broun, author of Night of the Animals2016 Debut Author Challenge Update -  Night of the Animals by Bill BrounReview: The Miniaturist by Jessie BurtonInterview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 20142014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Rooms by Lauren OliverExcerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014Guest Blog by Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - August 18, 2014Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 20142014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman

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