… for my imaginary book club! I’m not in any real book clubs because I’m terrible at it. I only read the books I pick myself, and even when someone else’s pick sound terrific, I tend to buy the book and forget about it until the night before, at which point I read the book club questions in the back in a frenzy planning to fake it. Then at the actual club I walk in and the second thing out of my mouth is a confession that I didn’t read the book, because the book club questions make no sense to me and faking it would be futile.
This surprises absolutely no one who knows me. I will read the books in my life in the order I see fit, and if that means I’ve read two serial killer thrillers before getting to that Pulitzer Prize winner, so be it. Does anyone want to start a book club with me to discuss the books we were actually reading when we were supposed to be reading our book club books?
If I were in a book club I would want the trio of best friends from THE GLASS WIVES, Evie, Laney and Beth, to be in my club too. They are fun and funny and seem to have excellent taste in men, clothes, and especially cookies. And they are powerfully and sometimes painfully honest with one another, which would make for a lively club discussion. We would probably never get to the sanctioned back-of-the-book questions, though. Too many other things to gossip about.
Today, in honor of Deb Amy’s big launch, I’m going to suggest some ‘book club questions for the rest of us’ for THE GLASS WIVES. Sure, there are great and thought-provoking book club questions at the end of the book itself and plenty of things to chew on from the story, things that will really get your brain going. But what if you don’t want to provoke that much thought? As always, when it comes to not thinking too much, I am here for you.
To follow along, you’ll need to know the general thrust of the story, and so I give you The Jacket Copy to start us off:
Evie and Nicole Glass share a last name. They also shared a husband.
When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?
Or, to put it another way, there’s this woman, Evie, whose husband has recently left her for the younger and blonder Nicole, and fathered a kid with her, and then boom, had the gall to kick the bucket, leaving them all somewhat adrift, emotionally and fiscally. And Evie has these two friends, see, who help in some ways and hinder in others. And they all have to renegotiate everything they thought they knew about each other. And there are cookies.
Everyone up to speed? Great! Then I present:
Deb Kelly’s Book Club Questions for the rest of us!
(Don’t forget to comment and get your chance to win a free copy of the book… answering one of these questions gets you brownie points if not bonus points in the sweepstakes…)
1. If you could steal the life of one of the characters in THE GLASS WIVES, which would it be?
2. Does this book pair better with red or white wine? Why? And does anyone have any red or white wine?
3. What food item in the book do you most wish you had a recipe for? What food in the book would you never ever eat? Hint: there is chopped liver in the book.
4. Have you ever lived in a place like Evie’s idyllic Chicago suburb? Would you love or hate having your neighbors know your bidness?
5. Which character (dead or alive) from the book would you be happiest to drop off at a distant bus stop and never come back for? What about which real-life neighbor?
6. Which is a worse quality in a friend: being too nosy or being too secretive?
7. Which are you?
8. Could you ever befriend an ex’s new squeeze? Have you? Would you always be secretly looking for their flaws/trying to feed them fattening food, or is that just me?
9. Did anyone bring cookies to this club meeting?
10. How excited are you to read THE GLASS WIVES?
From the moment I met Evie Glass, the protagonist in Deb Amy’s engrossing debut, THE GLASS WIVES, I felt as if I knew her. She seemed so…well, so real. Evie is a Jewish woman who went to Northwestern and likes to bake cookies. I am a Jewish woman…who went to Northwestern*…and likes to bake cookies. Hmm…
Okay, so there are numerous ways in which Evie’s struggles and crises are different than my own (thank goodness!), but Amy portrays Evie’s story so vividly that I could identify with all the challenges Evie faced throughout the story.
There were so many things I loved about THE GLASS WIVES, from the layered, complicated friendships to the evolving notion of “family,” but for this Jewish gal who likes to bake cookies, I particularly appreciated the references to Jewish food and culture peppered throughout the story. The book opens at a shiva and closes at a Passover seder, with a smattering of Jewish and Yiddish references in between. There’s talk of brisket and chopped liver and Tam Tams and macaroons. Be still my heart!
As you may have gathered from my previous posts, I love all things food and cooking, and Amy totally nails the importance of food in Jewish culture. Jews like to feed people. It is what we do. In the opening chapter, as people bring Tupperwares and foil-wrapped trays filled with food to the shiva after the death of Evie’s ex-husband, Amy writes, “Death was horrifying enough, but death and hunger would be a shanda, a disgrace.”
Yes. A thousand times yes.
One character brings rugelach, a cookie-like Jewish pastry, and so I figured to celebrate the launch of THE GLASS WIVES (Out TODAY!! Go buy your copy!!) I would share my Hungarian great grandmother’s recipe for rugelach. For some reason, my family always called these schnecken when I was growing up, which doesn’t really make sense because I’ve since discovered schnecken are an entirely different Hungarian pastry, but I digress…
So, without further ado, I give you the Greenspon family rugelach recipe. Let’s all bake cookies and celebrate with Deb Amy as her book baby enters the world! And if you’d like to win a copy of THE GLASS WIVES, just comment below and tell us what roll food plays in your family and/or culture!
* Okay, so I went to Northwestern for grad school, not undergrad, but for the sake of my argument, let’s not quibble over details.
Image by imperatricks via Flickr Creative Commons
Rugelach (or as my family called them, schnecken)
Yield: ~60 rugelach
You can fill your rugelach with whatever you like — raspberry jam, chocolate chips, nuts, you name it. My favorite fillings are apricot jam and golden raisins, or raspberry jam.
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. cream cheese
2 cups sifted flour
1 egg yolk (save the white)
1 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Fillings of your choice (apricot jam + golden raisins, raspberry jam, Nutella, etc)
To make the dough, mix all of the dough ingredients together in a stand mixer or food processor until the dough comes together. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before making the rugelach. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the dough into 7 wedges. Using one wedge at a time, roll out into a flat circle about 1/8″ thick. Spread a thin layer of preserves or other spreadable filling along the outer edge of the circle. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar evenly all over the inside of the circle. If using apricot preserves, line the edges of the circle with golden raisins. Cut the circle into eighths. Roll each eighth from the outer edge in, forming a crescent shape. Seal the ends. Brush with the reserved egg white and roll in the remaining cinnamon sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
I am privileged this morning to invite you to party week here at the Deb Ball, where we are celebrating the release of The Glass Wives by one of our illustrious Debs – Amy Sue Nathan. I’m sure you’d like to see a picture of the cover, so let’s start there:
Very pretty, isn’t it? Sort of peaceful and companionable. But appearances can be deceiving.
Evie and Nicole Glass share a last name. They also shared a husband.
“When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?”
The awesome reviews are already piling up for Deb Amy’s novel. This one, by Shine, Shine, Shine author Lydia Netzer hits the nail right on the head, as far as I am concerned:
“Reading The Glass Wives is like driving down a familiar street and having one of the houses you thought you knew open up on hinges to reveal its secrets. Nathan firmly but with good humor peels back the layers of suburban “normal” to reveal ethical ambiguity under a publicly rigid moral code and tenuous bonds between strangers under strict definitions of family. Evie Glass is the neighbor you want to know all about, and her story is told with charm and frankness to create an illustration of friendship and motherhood that feels very real.”—Lydia Netzer, author of Shine, Shine, Shine
I would add to this only that Amy excels at capturing on the page a realistic process of grief in all of its manifestations. Her depiction of friendships between women is equally real and from the heart.
As part of the fun this week, we are offering up a copy of The Glass Wives to one lucky commenter. All you have to do to win is show up here at the Ball and comment on the posts. The more you comment, the better your chance of winning! And you know you want a copy of this lovely book for your very own.
That said – why wait? The Glass Wives is available now for pre-order, and officially releases tomorrow.
We’d love it if you would drop a comment below to congratulate Amy on the birthday of her first book!!!
The Debutante Ball wishes each and every mother a very happy Mother’s Day!
From the 2013 Debs…
Deb Kerry is very excited about Amy’s release of THE GLASS WIVES!!! Also, she will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Spokane Valley on Sunday, May 18th.
Deb Susan received a splendid review from Kirkus, who called CLAWS OF THE CAT “an absorbing look at Japanese culture, along with a sharp mystery.” Yes, I did the happy dance!
Deb Dana cannot wait to celebrate Deb Amy’s launch of THE GLASS WIVES this week!
Deb Amy AAK! THE GLASS WIVES goes on sale TUESDAY!
Past Deb News
Kirkus reviews called Deb Erika Marks’s THE GUEST HOUSE “A satisfying read that evokes the leisurely warmth of long summer days and true connection.” Congratulations, Deb Erika!
Deb Tawna Fenske’s next romantic comedy has an official title – in 2014, look for Deb Tawna to tell us exactly why SIZE MATTERS
Congratulations to Deb Friend Erika Robuck, whose new novel, CALL ME ZELDA, released last week!
Deb Dish – How has your mom – or being a mom – helped you on your writing journey?
Deb Amy: I thought, no I knew, that for my kids to see me doing something important to me, that I enjoyed, that had nothing to do with them, was really important. It wasn’t the motivation to start writing again, more of a benefit. We always want our kids to pursue their passions and I believe my kids often enjoyed seeing me pursue mine, especially as they got older!
Deb Kerry: My mom read to me, every day, from as far back as I can remember right up until the day I informed her I would be reading my own books from now on. Besides teaching me a great love for books, she also taught me that I could do or be anything if I put my mind to it. I’ve tried to pass these things on to my own kids.
Deb Susan: Like Deb Kerry, I had a mom who read to me every single day – often for far more minutes than grown-up me can believe. When I wrote my first (horrific) manuscript in high school, she supported me every step of the way. She paid for me to attend my first writer’s conference (shortly after I graduated from college) because I couldn’t afford it on my own. Most of all, she believed in me every step of the way – which is why I dedicated Claws of the Cat to her. No one could deserve it more.
Deb Dana: From the time I was a little girl, my mom has always been supportive of my dreams and passions, whether it’s been writing or cooking or playing the flute. In middle and high school — and even occasionally in college — I would ask her to read my papers or stories, and she would always oblige, even when she had a zillion things of her own to do. What I most appreciated was her honesty. If what I’d written was fabulous she’d say so, but if it wasn’t my best work, she’d tell me that, too (though kindly). That way, if she raved about something, I knew she meant it — and that what I’d written was actually good and not just good in a mother’s eyes. As a new mother (9 weeks and counting!), I hope I can give my son that same gift of supportive honesty.
Your Turn!! We’d love to hear about your mom, or your experience being one!
Please join us in welcoming author Caroline Leavitt to the Ball this weekend! Caroline is the New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU, which was one of the best Books of 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks and Kirkus. Her new novel IS THIS TOMORROW is a May Indie Next Pick, that Vanity Fair has called “riveting.” You can find more about her at carolineleavitt.com.
Since we’ve been talking covers all week, Caroline decided to give us her take on cover art. Take it away, Caroline!
Can you tell a book by its cover?
Covers count. That’s the truth. But the other truth is that often they are out of your hands. Covers are actually a marketing decision and sometimes what the author wants is not what the publisher has in mind. The sales force weighs in, the top honchos. Everyone wants your book to sell as much as you do. I had even heard rumors that the head book buyer at Barnes and Noble would weigh in on a cover, as well.
I’ve been lucky with most of my covers, though no one has ever asked my advice until I got to Algonquin. For my novel Coming Back to Me, the hardcover was this dark beauty. It looked like an Edward Hopper painting of a young father feeding a bottle to baby late at night in a diner. Behind him, the night sky was spangled with stars. Perfect, right? But for the paperback, they went in a softer direction. The cover was pink and green, with a bathrobe hanging on a hook and in an inset of a GQ looking smiling guy carrying flowers. Now, in this particular book, the main male character was taking care of his newborn child because his wife was mysteriously ill. There was no way on earth he’d be smiling! I called my agent upset. She called the publisher but they refused to change anything except to make the guy’s smile a little less bright. Ever since then, when people ask about that book, I show them only the hardcover. That terrible paperback still haunts me.
You want a cover that will make people curious. You want a cover that has something to do with the novel itself. I loved the cover of my novel Girls in Trouble about open adoption, which showed a pair of young legs walking on a fence, but I would have loved it more if the legs were so disembodied, if there had been a whole figure.
When I got to Algonquin, I told them how I worried about my covers and they assured me that I would never have to have a cover I hated. And they asked my input. They showed me sketches and gave me choices.
For Is This Tomorrow, my editor and I knew we wanted something eerie, haunting and literary. I kept seeing an image of a boy running across a lawn, maybe in shadow. Andra, my editor, thought that might not be unique enough. And then I found a photograph, black and white, 1950s looking, of a mother and three kids looking up at the eclipse with special glasses! It even had the right sexes of the kids to fit in with my novel! Even better, Andra happened to know the photographer. I thought everything was all set, but then Andra called a few weeks later to tell me they were going in another direction and would I take a look.
Of course I was panicked.
But then I saw the cover. An eerie, unsettling image of two hands holding a box, and inside the box–right there–is the running boy I wanted. The whole cover, too, was this strange suburban green. Like grass on a hot summer day. I loved it. In fact, the truth is, I loved it so much, I bought a spring coat to match it, and I’m now wearing it on tour.
This is the cover for THE GLASS WIVES:
And now, look at the original cover for THE GLASS WIVES:
Do you see the difference?
Most people say that the cups are turned differently. They’re not. It’s simply that now the cup on the right is blue, not pink. What happened? The powers that be, and are, decided that the cups were not representative of the different women in THE GLASS WIVES. The women are different, so the cups should be different. This sent me into a minor tizzy at first, but that’s because I’m a literal gal. I did not believe that my main character, Evie, would have more than one set of china cups! How could that be? Oh, right. It’s not literal. Then, along with Facebook friends and fans and the readers of my personal blog, Women’s Fiction Writers, we had to decide which cup was going to change to blue. There was a poll, there was banter, there was a lot of eye rolling. In the end, people I trust and my own esthetic sense, and gut, opted for the blue cup on the right. And now the pink/pink cover looks, well, just too darn pink!
What do you think? Do you like literal covers or something more artistic/representative of the book in some way?
When I signed my contract with Minotaur for the first three books in the Shinobi Mystery series, I accepted that my cover art was out of my control. And I made a decision:
Whatever my cover looked like, I would love it.
Many authors compare their books to children, and seeing my cover art bore many resemblances to the birth of my son. I didn’t know what my son would look like (in fact, I only learned his gender a week and a half before his birth) but I knew–without question–that I would love him, no matter how funny-looking other people might find his face. (As it turns out, he’s very handsome–but it wouldn’t have mattered to me.)
I made the same decision about my book.
Whatever it looked like, I would love it.
I told myself this over and over … and yet, some fear remained. Would I love it the moment I saw it, or would I have to learn to love? Would the emotion be instantaneous, like holding my son in my arms? Or would it come slowly, like learning to drink my coffee without added sugar?
I didn’t know.
I did know that series covers often share a style or a vibe, and that the cover of Claws of the Cat would set a pattern. The subsequent covers might or might not look similar – but whether or not that happened, I knew the first one would set the tone.
My fabulous editor sent me a concept sketch before the photo shoot for my cover. I was hooked from the moment I saw it. Minotaur’s decision to feature the neko-te – a weapon favored by female ninjas (“kunoichi,” in Japanese) delighted me beyond measure. For the record, the English translation of “neko-te” is “claws of the cat” – and that isn’t coincidental.
When my editor emailed me the finished cover, I actually cried.
I loved my “baby’s” face immediately and completely.
I carried my iPad into my husband’s office at once to show him my beautiful cover art. He took one look at me, in tears, and thought someone had died. (In fairness, the last time he’d seen tears in my eyes was several years before–and someone HAD died, so it wasn’t an altogether unreasonable assumption. Shows you how often I cry.)
One extra secret I haven’t shared about my cover before: my father died six months before I started writing Claws of the Cat. He knew about my passion for fiction, and writing, but did not live to see my work in print. In addition to books (he loved mysteries) and sailing, my father’s great passion was raising roses and also cymbidium orchids. Among the orchids, his favorite ones were green with reddish-brown spots at the center … exactly like the orchids which appear on the cover of Claws of the Cat. Orchids which didn’t appear in the concept sketch my publisher sent me.
It was the orchids that made me cry when I saw it, because they fit the cover perfectly and also because they remind me of my father.
He would have loved the cover as much as I do.
Have you ever had a cover remind you of something important, or something you love? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.