Thursday, July 23, 2009

If I Were the Casting Director for TELL NO LIES

One of the most frequent questions I get about my novel Tell No Lies is: Who would I want to play the characters if a movie were made?

Well, thanks to Marshal Zeringue, I finally sat down and gave it some thought. Marshal has several different blogs devoted to books and reading (in the past I'd taken his Page 69 Test about Tell No Lies), and he recently contacted me and asked if I'd like to do a post for another of his blogs, My Book, The Movie. The premise of the post was simple. I simply needed to answer the casting question posed above. Answering this question, I found out, was not so easy.

So for all those who've asked me the same question, check out My Book, The Movie: Tell No Lies, to see which actors and actresses I chose and why I chose them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why I'll Never Forget Frank McCourt

I've told this story to many friends and have always wanted to write about it, but never did. With Mr. McCourt's passing on Sunday, July 19, 2009, I've decided it is time, if not overdue.

In the mid to late '90's, I was a young mother and an aspiring writer living in the Boston suburbs. I was new to the area and had become close friends with another woman, close enough that when I told her I was anxious to read Angela's Ashes, she agreed to lend me the copy she'd been reading. This was quite an act of faith because it belonged to her mother and had been signed by Mr. McCourt. She gave it to me with the admonition, "Whatever you do, DON'T let anything happen to this book! My mother treasures it and would kill me!" I assured her that books were precious to me and that I always treated them with care. Her mother's signed copy would be safe in my possession.

I immediately began to read the book and became enthralled with it. I couldn't put it down, and I mean that literally. At the time, my older daughter was in kindergarten, but the younger one, a three year old, stayed home with me. If she needed me, I went to her with the book still in one hand, sneaking in sentences and paragraphs at every opportunity. At some point, though, I set the book on the kitchen table, opened to the page I was reading, to do a chore at the sink. I don't remember what pulled me away, exactly. Perhaps I was preparing my daughter's lunch, or maybe I was doing dishes. All I remember is my daughter's voice saying, "Mommy, look! I'm writing a book!" or some such exclamation of pride. I looked over and, to my horror, my little girl sat at the table in front of the signed copy of Angela's Ashes, black Sharpie in hand, drawing with abandon on page after page of the book. I'm pretty sure I screamed.

I agonized over what to do. How could I tell my friend what had happened? An idea started to form in my head: what if somehow I could manage to get another signed copy? The first one had not been personalized, so I figured when time came to return the book, I could give my friend the new one, and no one would ever know the difference. But Frank McCourt had become the literary equivalent of a Hollywood celebrity. How, I wondered, would I ever get my hands on another signed copy?

Being a writer, I did the only thing I could think to do: I wrote a letter. A long, honest letter in which I explained the story I've just explained above. Then I bought a new copy of Angela's Ashes and mailed it, along with my letter and a self-addressed stamped mailer large enough to hold the book, to Mr. McCourt's publisher. I asked the publisher to please forward my letter, the book and the mailer to Mr. McCourt. And then I crossed my fingers.

To be honest, I thought I'd never see that new book again. I thought I'd finally have to go to my friend, groveling, and ask for her and her mother's forgiveness. But Mr. McCourt proved me wrong.

One day not long after, a package showed up in my mailbox. At first I didn't register what it was, but one look at the return address and I knew. The return address wasn't the publisher's. No, right there on the package was Frank McCourt's name and the address for his apartment in New York City. I was stunned.

Inside I found another surprise. Yes, he signed the new book and returned it to me as requested, but even better, he sent back my original letter with a small Post-It stuck to the front. On the Post-It I found a personal note from Mr. McCourt – the man who had written one of the saddest books I'd ever read – and to this day, I still cherish the note and the irony behind it. He wrote, simply, "Who could resist such a sad tale?"

Now a published author myself, I have since had the privilege of meeting some big names in the business, but none will ever thrill me the way Frank McCourt thrilled me when he took the time to write that one, clever sentence. Thank you, Mr. McCourt, and may you rest in peace.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Magic of the Internet

I received an email yesterday from a friend of mine, Margaret Reyes Dempsey, thanking me for my friendship and the support I'd offered her over the past year and sending me a link to a recent post she'd made on her own blog. I will admit to getting a little choked up when I read the email and the blog post. What a nice and unexpected thing she did! (To see why I had this reaction, read her blog post at Conjuring My Muse.)

The thing is, but for her generosity and taking the time to reach out to me, I would have never met her. She first contacted me after seeing a blurb in our alumni magazine about my first novel, Tell No Lies. (We both attended Washington University in St. Louis at about the same time, though we never met). She wrote me, a complete stranger but for our Wash. U. connection, to offer her congratulations. She went on to buy my book, read it, and then tell all her friends about it. As she explains in more detail in her blog, we stayed in contact by email, and then also through Inked-In, an online social network for writers, artists and musicians started and run by Joseph Hayes and Jennifer Greenhill-Taylor. I won't go into much more detail, because Margaret has explained it all in her post, but suffice it to say, you never know when one small email to another will lead to a much deeper friendship. By the way, Margaret's first novel, The Benefactor, is being released this November.

Another example of this is the email I received from a reader in Scotland, shortly after Tell No Lies was released in the UK in February 2008. Nick Klepper wrote to me and told me how much he liked my novel. Nick is the author of two nonfiction books about Romania, and at the time, he was working on his first novel, Serendipity, a psychological thriller. We continued to correspond by email. This August, after my husband and I had made plans to vacation in Edinburgh with a group of friends (again, see Margaret's post above!), it dawned on me -- hey, Nick lives in Edinburgh. So I contacted him and invited him and his wife to join all of us for dinner one night. He, in turn, invited me to be his guest at a Society of Authors luncheon during the Edinburgh Book Festival. All this because he happened to write to me after reading my book . . .