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Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters


Please welcome Jennie Melamed to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Gather the Daughters was published on July 25th by Little, Brown and Company.



Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters




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

Jennie:  I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember. I don’t know exactly why I do it, just that not writing isn’t an option for me. I go through periods when I’m writing less, or even not at all, but I always return to it. Gather the Daughters, though, was the first piece where I really persevered trying to get it published.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jennie:  I’d say 70% pantser, 30% plotter. I often know in my head what’s going to happen in terms of broad strokes, but then my characters will run off and do something completely different than I was planning for them. I’m often surprised by what happens when I sit down and write.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jennie:  Finding the time. I wrote Gather the Daughters while going to graduate school and working- it was a challenge! Even now, when I only work four days a week, sometimes my three days off fly by as I take care of normal human business, and I can only get an hour or so in of writing. It’s frustrating.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jennie:  I read constantly, and I read very quickly. I’ve found that if I stop reading, I actually get depressed in a week or two. I go through phases in what I read- my last was a Victorian literature phase that lasted a year or two. Everything I read influences my writing in some way.

My work also influences my writing. I work with children as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and I can’t begin to describe some of the chaos and trauma that I witness. I find it comes out in my work, to the point where my agent and editor have to remind me to please lighten up a little bit!



TQDescribe Gather the Daughters in 140 characters or less.

Jennie:  A novel about the daughters of a post-apocalyptic cult at the end of the world.



TQTell us something about Gather the Daughters that is not found in the book description.

JennieGather the Daughters is, in part, a love story. Most people miss it, and so I probably made it too subtle, but two of the main characters are in love and in another world could live happily ever after.



TQWhat inspired you to write Gather the Daughters? What appealed to you about writing a novel with a post-apocalyptic setting?

Jennie:  I can’t go into depth without revealing spoilers, but the idea of Gather the Daughters came to me when I was about eighteen, after listening to so many of my friends reveal child abuse in the their past. I began wondering what it would mean for abuse to be encoded into a culture.

When I was a child, I had post-apocalyptic daydreams all the time. Vanessa’s guilt over her own depicts what I consider to be a fairly common child fantasy- that you are the only one left in all the world, and can do whatever you want. I am fascinated by end-of-the-world scenarios in general. I’m not sure exactly what that says about my personality.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Gather the Daughters?

Jennie:  I didn’t do any specifically for Gather the Daughters, but research I did in graduate school made its way into the book. I did some anthropological and sociological investigation into child abuse in other cultures, as well as studying perpetrators of child abuse. It definitely affected what I wrote.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Gather the Daughters.

Jennie:  The US cover came first. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. There is a girl with her eyes closed in a white dress, falling, with the ground vertical instead of horizontal. To me, it depicts the theme of the novel, not any particular scene. The UK cover came next and has the roses, thorns, and mosquitoes, which I think wonderfully contrasts the beauty of the island with the wildness and cruelty it contains.



TQIn Gather the Daughters who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jennie:  Vanessa was definitely the easiest; she is a smart girl who reads a lot and tries to please her father, just like I was as a child, although she’s definitely more popular than I was!
Janey was probably the hardest, simply because the first drafts did not have Janey as one of the main characters- Janey’s story was told from Mary’s point of view. Eventually my editor suggested that I switch to having Janey’s point of view instead, and it wasn’t too difficult, but I felt a sense of loss leaving Mary’s narrative behind. I have a huge soft spot for Mary, and I think she’s a less complex character with Janey running the narrative. That said, it was definitely the right decision.



TQHow does isolating the characters on an island affect how they deal with social issues?

Jennie:  There is no point of reference. I think we see this in isolated cultures worldwide, although the number of societies this isolated is shrinking. People live in ways we find wrong or even abhorrent, but they have no way to see that it can be different. Or perhaps someone in power knows it can be different, but chooses to withhold this information, for a variety of reasons. I’m not exempting ourselves from this, I’m often amazed at what a product of culture we are, all of us. That’s part of why I think universal child education is so important, just the ability to think critically and question what we do every day is invaluable.



TQWhich question about Gather the Daughters do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jennie:

Q: Why did you write such a disturbing book?

A: To me, Gather the Daughters deals with types of violence that happen all the time, under our noses, and unless one has a way to be exposed to it, it happens hidden and unseen. Violence towards children has been happening since there were children, as far as I can tell, simply because children are vulnerable, and there are those who are drawn to abuse the vulnerable. I guess in short, I have a disturbing take on humankind in general. I think we are overall selfish creatures, and sometimes that selfishness leaps over a boundary to translate into the oppression of others. And I think we are so good at fooling ourselves that the majority of those who oppress others feel their actions are right and good. I don’t mean to say that people can’t be kind, altruistic, or compassionate. But I think those attributes often have to be taught and nurtured, whereas the darker instincts arise and have a strength all their own.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Gather the Daughters.

Jennie:

“She discovers that grief is a liquid. It passes thickly down her throat as she drinks water and pools soggily around her food. It flows through her veins, dark and heavy, and fills the cavities of her bones until they weigh so much she can barely lift her head. It coats her skin like a slick of fat, moving and swirling over her eyes, turning their clear surfaces to dull gray. At night, it rises up from the floor silently until she feels it seep into the bedclothes, lick at her heels and elbows and throat, thrust upward like a rising tide that will drown her in sorrow.”



TQWhat's next?

Jennie:  I am at the very beginning of a work that is related to Gather the Daughters. I can’t promise it will flourish into anything, but I really like what I have so far. That’s all I’m going to say!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jennie:  You’re very welcome!





Gather the Daughters
Little, Brown and Company, July 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters
NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.
 

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.





About Jennie

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child sexual abuse. Jennie lives in Seattle with her husband and their two dogs.

Website  ~  Facebook
Twitter @jennie_melamed

Review: Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley


Stiletto
Author:  Daniel O'Malley
Series:  The Rook Files 2
Publisher:  Little Brown and Company, June 14, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316228046 (print); 9780316228039 (eBook)

Review: Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
In this spirited sequel to the acclaimed The Rook, Myfanwy Thomas returns to clinch an alliance between deadly rivals and avert epic -- and slimy -- supernatural war.

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers---and the bureaucratic finesse---to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy---the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural threats, and...

The Grafters---a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

Stiletto is a novel of preternatural diplomacy, paranoia, and snide remarks, from an author who "adroitly straddles the thin line between fantasy, thriller, and spoof " (Booklist).



Melanie's Thoughts

It's been four years since Daniel O'Malley's fantastic debut novel The Rook was published. The Rook tells the story of a covert organisation, The Checquy, and and its high ranking member Myfanwy Thomas. Now O'Malley is back with an equally fantastic sequel Stiletto. In this instalment The Checquy are hosting a delegation of their sworn enemies - The Grafters. Rook Thomas is trying to broker a peace deal to bring the Grafters into The Checquy fold but this seems an almost impossible task. The Checquy agents are indoctrinated from childhood to hate the Grafters - they are The Checquy version of the bogie man. The Grafters are raised to hate The Checquy. The Grafters are scientifically engineered humans, often centuries old, and have been living in Europe virtually in secret. Well until now.

The story is set in London and is told from two different POVs - Odette the lovely surgically enhanced Grafter surgeon and Felicity a Checquy solider who can 'read' the history of any object she comes into contact with. It has been ingrained in Felicity to hate The Grafters and in Odette to fear The Checquy. This unlikely pair are forced to work together when the enemies of both organisations try to destroy the fragile peace and kill as many on both sides as possible. This is truly a story of 'the enemy of your enemy is your friend'.

I will admit that when I first started Stiletto I was a bit disappointed that the story wasn't told from Myfanwy Thomas' POV as I think she is a great character. My disappointment didn't last too long as I soon came to enjoy Odette as much as I had Myfanwy. Rook Thomas is still very important in the plot as one of the main instigators of the peace treaty between the two organisations but it is Odette and Felicity who steal the show. Odette has been sheltered and lived the life of privilege in her Grafter family whereas Felicity is a soldier through and through. They are so very different but through various attempts on their lives discover that they aren't so very different at all.

In my opinion O'Malley is a genius with an acute sense of observation and humour. I loved every minute reading this novel and I spent quite a lot of those laughing at some witticism or keen observation that O'Malley makes. There are many humorous lines in this novel and I could have easily highlighted the whole book.

O'Malley has such a vivid imagination and the ability to create a detailed, interesting world. The agents of The Checquy and The Grafter enhancements were exquisitely crafted so that you could easily picture each of them. This combined with a well constructed plot makes Stiletto a real page turner.

Some of the scenes could be described as a bit gruesome - especially at the start and the end of the book - but I am sure you won't be able to put this book down. Hats off to O'Malley for another fantastic instalment from The Rook Files





The UK Edtion

Stiletto
The Checquy Files 2
Head of Zeus, June 16, 2016
Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Review: Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
THE CHECQUY: A centuries-old covert organization that protects the nation from supernatural threat.

THE GRAFTERS: A centuries-old supernatural threat.

After centuries of rivalry and bloodshed, two secret and otherworldly organisations - The Checquy and The Grafters - are on the verge of joining forces, and only one person has the supernatural skills - and the bureaucratic finesse - to get the job done: Myfanwy Thomas.

But as a wave of gruesome atrocities sweep London, ingrained paranoias flare, old hatreds ignite and negotiations grind to a halt. It is up to Myfanwy to find the culprits before they trigger a devastating, all-out, supernatural war between the reluctant allies.

Interview with Mark Andrew Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony - March 25, 2014


Please welcome Mark Andrew Ferguson to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lost Boys Symphony was published on March 24th by Little, Brown and Company.



Interview with Mark Andrew Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony - March 25, 2014




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

Mark:  Thanks so much for inviting me, it’s a pleasure. I started writing at around age four, though at that time my letters were very shaky and often backward. It was only with the help of dedicated teachers, parents, and special therapeutic paper that I got any better at it. My fingers often ached, but it was mostly worth it.

I wasn’t the kind of kid who just knew that I was going to be a writer. It wasn’t a blindingly obvious decision by any means. I always liked being creative, alone. I tinker and doodle, that sort of thing. I’m a graphic designer, too, which sort of feeds the same urge. In my mid-twenties, though, after kicking around an idea in my head for a long time, I came to understand that in writing a novel I could spend years telling a single story without being responsible to anyone but myself. I could really take my time and not say anything by accident. That’s very attractive to me, as someone who always worries that he’s said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.

To clarify: I always wished I could be a novelist, ever since reading tons of Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary and, later, Kurt Vonnegut and Paul Auster. I just never really believed I could be until I actually finished a third or fourth draft of The Lost Boys Symphony.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mark:  Total pantser.

I have a theory that I call the “Elf” theory, which is that the discovery of a world at the beginning of a book or movie is almost always the most satisfying part. The story that happens after that discovery is usually disappointing, hence Elf. Will Ferrel is a genius. There is very little that’s funnier to me than the first forty-five minutes of watching him as Buddy the Elf. Discovering him and how he fits into his world, then watching him discover New York, that stuff is brilliant. But then Buddy has to save Christmas and his family and I fall into an angry sleep.

It’s why the first movie is a trilogy is usually the best, and why so many comedies are funnier in the trailer than they are in 90-120 minutes.

I’m terrified of knowing too much when I’m writing an initial draft. I want to discover things all the way through. Plotting is for later, for me, after the whole thing is written and I need to tighten it all up.



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

Mark:  Concision. (see above)

For real. Between first draft and final of The Lost Boys Symphony I think I cut about 75,000 words, and none of them really mattered.



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

Mark:  Vonnegut changed my life. I grew up Mormon, a lovely religion and a lovely family, but I think I knew pretty early on that the questions that interested me weren’t really religious in nature. I read Breakfast of Champions at fifteen and the blasphemy, the humor, the clarity of Vonnegut’s voice and opinions: it was nuts. And the central question of that book is whether it’s possible to know other minds, which is pretty much my lifelong obsession. It just primed me for a certain kind of reading and writing, and after devouring almost all of Vonnegut’s books I was on a crash with authors like Paul Auster, Murakami, Scarlett Thomas, Philip K. Dick – all writers who are clearly obsessed with philosophy but want to tell a great story.



TQ:  Describe The Lost Boys Symphony in 140 characters or less.

Mark:  2 male bffs. 1 goes insane, disappears, & is abducted by his future selves. The 2nd, left behind, reaches out to his bff’s ex-gf for solace.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Lost Boys Symphony that is not in the book description.

Mark:  It is, in large part, a book about mental illness and how it affects those who care about the person who is suffering. Also, there are a lot of musical hallucination.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Lost Boys Symphony? What appealed to you about writing genre bending love story with time travel and alternate realities? Does the “Lost Boys” in the title refer to anything in particular (Peter Pan for example)?

Mark:  I’m afraid the “lost boys” part is about as literal as it gets. The main characters are still kids, basically, even when they are much older, and they are totally lost. The Peter Pan thing fits, for sure, but I didn’t think of it until someone else pointed it out.

This is in no way a put-down of the question, but I don’t much like the word “inspired.” It’s so loaded. I think a lot of people wait for inspiration, myself included, and assume that if it doesn’t just come then they aren’t meant to create something. My main struggle was giving myself the right, the authority, and the responsibility to write. There is no muse strong enough to get me up out of bed and in front of the computer, you know?

As for why I chose this story and this genre, I think my author influences probably go a long way toward an explanation. I love speculative fiction and whatever you might want to call existential mystery. The seed of the book was a time travel story I thought was going to be a comedy sketch or one-act play. It never went anywhere until I paired it with some of my own experiences with mental illness. A good friend of mine suffered a break in college (only maybe 30% of the stuff in the book is true) but it really changed me, and I wanted to write about that. So that provided the emotional backbone and the characters.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Lost Boys Symphony?

Mark:  Not much. I find that when you tell people what you are writing, they will tell you what book you should read or movie you should see. This is very helpful to me because I do not read any book or see any movie that is recommended. I don’t want to worry about how my idea stacks up against stuff that’s already out there, or lose momentum because I doubt myself.

I did read two book by Mark Vonnegut (The Eden Express and Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So), about his own schizophrenia and recovery, that were beautifully written and very helpful.

I have done a lot of research for my work-in-progress, though, and I think it’s really fun.



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

Mark:  Henry was the easiest. Young Henry, anyway. So much of his stuff is perceptual, which is the most fun for me to write and the easiest in terms of character.

Gabe was the hardest, because he was the most autobiographical. I was struggling to have empathy for myself, so I couldn’t easily empathize with him either.

Val was really tough too, though. I was really worried that she wouldn’t hold her own to the satisfaction of female readers, particularly because she is wrapped up in a love triangle. I worked really hard to give her her own story.



TQ:  Which question about The Lost Boys Symphony do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Mark1:  Is it weird to know that total strangers are going to read this thing and create a version of you in their minds that is based exclusively on fiction?

Mark2:  Yes. It is fantastically and beautifully bizarre.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Lost Boys Symphony.

Mark
Joan took a too-large pinch of tobacco from her pouch and placed it into a too-small paper, rolled it loosely, and licked the glue. Her purple-red tongue looked like some vital organ that had migrated up into her mouth. Gabe offered his Bic, trying not to let her hand touch his as she shielded the flame and leaned in.


TQ:  What's next?

Mark:  I’m deep in on a second novel, which is very generally about a near-future world in which the experience of one person can be recorded and played back in the mind of another. The technology is fairly new, so while everyone has access to receivers, only major entertainment studios and medical institutions are doing any recording. It’s about an actress, a kid, a cult, and dark secrets. Lots of fun stuff!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Mark:  Oh please! This is so fun. Thank you.





The Lost Boys Symphony
Little, Brown And Company, March 24, 2015
Hardcover and eBook,352 pages

Interview with Mark Andrew Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony - March 25, 2014
A STARTLINGLY ORIGINAL, GENRE-BENDING LITERARY DEBUT IN WHICH A LOVESICK COLLEGE STUDENT IS ABDUCTED BY HIS FUTURE SELVES.

After Henry's girlfriend Val leaves him and transfers to another school, his grief begins to manifest itself in bizarre and horrifying ways. Cause and effect, once so reliable, no longer appear to be related in any recognizable manner. Either he's hallucinating, or the strength of his heartbreak over Val has unhinged reality itself.

After weeks of sleepless nights and sick delusions, Henry decides to run away. If he can only find Val, he thinks, everything will make sense again. So he leaves his mother's home in the suburbs and marches toward the city and the woman who he thinks will save him. Once on the George Washington Bridge, however, a powerful hallucination knocks him out cold. When he awakens, he finds himself kidnapped by two strangers--one old, one middle-aged--who claim to be future versions of Henry himself. Val is the love of your life, they tell him. We've lost her, but you don't have to.

In the meantime, Henry's best friend Gabe is on the verge of breakdown of his own. Convinced he is somehow to blame for Henry's deterioration and eventual disappearance, Gabe is consumed by a potent mix of guilt and sadness. When he is approached by an enigmatic stranger who bears a striking resemblance to his lost friend, Gabe begins to fear for his own sanity. With nowhere else to turn, he reaches out to the only person who can possibly help him make sense of it all: Val.

The Lost Boys Symphony is a beautiful reminder of what it's like to be young, lost, and in and out of love for the very first time. By turns heartfelt and heartbreaking, Ferguson's debut novel boldly announces the arrival of a spellbinding new talent on the literary stage, in a master feat of empathy and multilayered storytelling that takes adventurous literary fiction to dizzying new heights.





About Mark

Interview with Mark Andrew Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony - March 25, 2014
Ex-publishing professional. Current freelance designer, novel-writer, and book marketer living in New Jersey. Learn more by visiting his Goodreads profile found here.





Website  ~  Twitter @thefergusonian

Facebook  ~  Tumblr


2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson


2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.



Mark Andrew Ferguson

The Lost Boys Symphony
Little, Brown And Company, March 24, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson
A STARTLINGLY ORIGINAL, GENRE-BENDING LITERARY DEBUT IN WHICH A LOVESICK COLLEGE STUDENT IS ABDUCTED BY HIS FUTURE SELVES.

After Henry's girlfriend Val leaves him and transfers to another school, his grief begins to manifest itself in bizarre and horrifying ways. Cause and effect, once so reliable, no longer appear to be related in any recognizable manner. Either he's hallucinating, or the strength of his heartbreak over Val has unhinged reality itself.

After weeks of sleepless nights and sick delusions, Henry decides to run away. If he can only find Val, he thinks, everything will make sense again. So he leaves his mother's home in the suburbs and marches toward the city and the woman who he thinks will save him. Once on the George Washington Bridge, however, a powerful hallucination knocks him out cold. When he awakens, he finds himself kidnapped by two strangers--one old, one middle-aged--who claim to be future versions of Henry himself. Val is the love of your life, they tell him. We've lost her, but you don't have to.

In the meantime, Henry's best friend Gabe is on the verge of breakdown of his own. Convinced he is somehow to blame for Henry's deterioration and eventual disappearance, Gabe is consumed by a potent mix of guilt and sadness. When he is approached by an enigmatic stranger who bears a striking resemblance to his lost friend, Gabe begins to fear for his own sanity. With nowhere else to turn, he reaches out to the only person who can possibly help him make sense of it all: Val.

The Lost Boys Symphony is a beautiful reminder of what it's like to be young, lost, and in and out of love for the very first time. By turns heartfelt and heartbreaking, Ferguson's debut novel boldly announces the arrival of a spellbinding new talent on the literary stage, in a master feat of empathy and multilayered storytelling that takes adventurous literary fiction to dizzying new heights.

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the DaughtersReview: Stiletto by Daniel O'MalleyInterview with Mark Andrew Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony - March 25, 20142015 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson

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