Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Scotland and Other Hijinks

As you may know, I'm moving over to my new blog home, slowly but surely. At the moment I'm posting a series on the 1920s, and I'll be following that up with a series on San Francisco at the turn of the last century with intermittent posts on tips for writers.

But for today I'd like to share some pics from a trip my hubs and I took to Scotland in October and November. This was partly a research trip, for my next book due out from Viking in early 2016. I have a few castles for you:

...and a burn in the Scottish highlands:
...and the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar:

More coming soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Darlene Beck Jacobson and WHEELS OF CHANGE

Today on the blog I'm pleased to host an interview with Darlene Beck Jacobson, whose debut middle grade WHEELS OF CHANGE is an inventive look at a window of history as the car was making its debut. Here's just a bit of the great review Kirkus gave the novel:

"Twelve-year-old Emily loves helping her father in his barn; she even dreams, in futility, of becoming a blacksmith like her father’s beloved employee, Henry. She and her best friend, Charlie, ponder such things as gender roles, women’s suffrage and “horseless carriages.” She dutifully tries to become a lady even while working on a secret that uses her “masculine” skills. As the year progresses, Henry falls ill, and Emily and her family are subjected to the uncertainties of changing times as well as some nasty treatment from white supremacists. Resemblances to To Kill a Mockingbird are strong, especially during a tea party hosted by Emily’s mother. A nice touch: Throughout much of the book, Papa teaches Emily—and vicariously, readers—new vocabulary words. The strength of the text lies in Jacobson’s ability to evoke a different era and to endear readers to the protagonist. The prose is straightforward and well-researched, heavily peppered with historical references and containing enough action to keep readers’ attention."

Now, here's Darlene:

Hi Darlene! Please give readers a synopsis of WHEELS OF CHANGE.

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old Emily Soper, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

I love stories like yours that are set on the cusp of change. What inspired you to choose this particular time period and the shift from the era of carriage to car?

There were two family facts I discovered while researching my family tree. One was that my paternal grandmother’s father was a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The other was that grandma received an invitation to a reception held at the White House by Theodore Roosevelt. She attended that reception and met TR. The story grew from there.
While I was doing research I discovered just how much change was taking place during this time period in history.  The more I looked, the more I realized how frightening it must have been to many people.  I wanted to show how change affects us all and can bring welcome and unwelcome things into our lives. It’s up to each of us to decide the importance of those changes. We can’t stop change–it still happens all around us. But, if we make it work for us, we can see a better outcome.

Emily is a strong character. Do you generally begin with character or with plot?

I usually gravitate toward characters first, trying to find something special or unique that makes that particular character stand out.  I also enjoy where the characters take me in a story; it is often to a place I hadn’t envisioned.   Plot is always more difficult for me.  I generally need several rewrites to flesh out plot elements.  With WOC several plot elements were expanded or added after the manuscript was accepted. 

You have several important subplots (in particular, Henry's). Please tell us about them and how they came to be.

Henry was always part of the story.  I wanted a character that was unexpected for the time and place, yet real and meaningful to Emily and her family.  I doubt that a person of color like Henry would have been employed by my great-grandfather; but it seemed important to make that happen.

The rights and gender roles of girls and women became more fleshed out in rewrites than in my original version.  The subplot with William and the mouse was also added later, as was the thread buying scene, and Emily building a miniature carriage for Papa.  It amazes me how an editor – especially one who also writes, like Marissa Moss my editor at Creston Books – can make a suggestion that takes my mind in a whole new direction.  I love that part of the revision process.

Do you have anything new in the works?

I have two projects actually.  The first is a PB titled TOGETHER ON OUR KNEES about a little known abolitionist and suffragist, Matilda Joslyn Gage.  The other is an MG historical set in a Pennsylvania mining town during Prohibition.

Here's Darlene's charming trailer for WHEELS OF CHANGE:

Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties.  She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day. Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters.  Check out her website at:  or on Twitter: @dustbunnymaven

WHEELS OF CHANGE  is available on AMAZON, Barnes & Noble, Indie bookstores, or on the Creston Books site:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Migrating: Hail and Farewell

I began this blog - knowing absolutely nothing about blogs - in 2007. I sat at my car dealership waiting on a car servicing, and opened my laptop and logged into Blogger for the first time. When asked for a name, I chose "Through The Wardrobe" because my first book love was THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. And, like Lucy, I felt that every time I opened a good book or my imagination I tumbled into a world I didn't want to leave.

But things change. I've been persuaded (it took a little arm-wrestle) to move my blogging over to my website. From there I can post all sorts of cool stuff. I can post a series (like I'm about to do) on any of my books...I can post findable author resources...I can continue to serve the community through interviews and guest posts...all the material will be indexable and right in one place.

However, I lose the wardrobe. I confess this makes me sad.

I'll be cross-posting here for at least 6 months while I figure it all out. So the wardrobe isn't closed yet. I encourage you to check out my website and the new material I'll be posting there in the next several months. I have a series of author help pages planned, a tour of 1906 San Francisco, a tour of the 1920s, and much more.

Please stay with me through this transition and I hope to make it worth your while. Thanks.

PS...Here's my first unique post on my new site - a way to write a synopsis. Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2014


Okay kids, this novel is an incredible read - moving, mysterious, and deeply engaging. It is not for the faint of heart, nor for the easy-reader; it's a novel for those who love to think and be prodded out of their comfort zone. I devoured it in a single day. Lindsey Lane's debut YA THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (out now from Farrar, Straus, Giroux) is a not-put-down story of the disappearance of one Tommy Smythe, a brilliant if odd teen. Here's a portion of the School Library Journal review and summary:

"The story unfolds through interviews with witnesses, scraps of scribbled notes from Tommy himself, and private moments between seemingly unrelated people. Tommy’s disappearance is at the forefront of some stories, at the back of others. Chapters are arranged by lead-characters or items, some more hard-hitting than others, but the picture of a small border town caught up in a mystery and bound by its secrets is an intriguing one that Lane does well. Some chapters do deal with more adult subject matter (drug use, teen pregnancy, racism, prostitution) and adult language is prevalent throughout, but isn’t gratuitous. Give to fans of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s I’ll be There (Little, Brown, 2012) and Todd Strasser’s Give a Boy a Gun (S. & S., 2002)."

Full disclosure: Lindsey is a dear friend. I've admired her work for as long as we've known one another - almost ten years! And we are agency mates, clients of Erin Murphy. I couldn't be more pleased.

Now, not only do we get to hear about this beautifully written novel, we've got a surprise - the first appearance of the novel's trailer! Here's Lindsey:

Please give readers a synopsis of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN.

Instead of writing a synopsis of EVIDENCE, I’d like to debut my book trailer on your blog (yay!!): 

I was sucked into the story right away, and I confess that one reason was that Tommy is such a strong presence even in absence. How did you come to feel about Tommy?

I’m glad you felt Tommy’s presence strongly. Originally, he showed up in one of the stories when the novel was linked short stories that all occurred around this patch of dirt by the side of the road called the pull out. It was my critique partner Anne Bustard who said, “I think this particular story might be a bit bigger.” That’s when I went back in and did a floor to ceiling kind of renovation of the book and Tommy became a thread through all the stories.

I love the multiple points of view, the interweaving story lines. Did you write this novel in a linear fashion?

Do you mean did I write it from start to finish with a beginning, middle and end? Nope. When it was linked short stories, I wrote them one after another. Boom. Boom. Boom. But after I had the piece of Tommy going missing, I had a time frame so I had to weave each thread in relation to the moment he disappears. That’s all when I added in the first person sections of the kids who knew Tommy. Gradually, I found that what I was doing was writing around the negative space. If you have something or someone who goes missing, what remains is cast in sharp relief. Even if Tommy wasn’t part of another character’s life, his absence still affects that character. Like, when you lose your keys, you are kind off course looking for it and all the people you ask if they’ve seen them start looking and they go a little off course. Or worse, when your child wanders away from you at a store and you and everyone around you goes into a freak out until you find her. So if the center of a story goes missing, everything wobbles. I wanted all the stories around Tommy to have that feeling that life is just a little bit off course.

You know, Tommy would say that I did write the novel in a linear fashion because I wrote it in linear time whether or not I went back and shifted the structure of the book. That’s the kind of guy he is. I feel his presence every day. I probably always will.

The notes are brilliant, allowing us to see not only more deeply into Tommy's way of thinking, but they connect the story of his disappearance with the physics of dimensional possibility. Was that something you came up with early on?

Almost as soon as Tommy showed up in my imagination, I knew he was a bright geeky kid who was a little bit off socially. Once his absence was a central thread, I started keeping Tommy’s journal. I wanted to know the way he thought. I wanted to know who he was. What I discovered was this brilliant kid who was in the middle of having his mind blown by particle physics. I knew his journal was important but all that I included in the manuscript that sold to FSGBYR was that little snippet at the beginning, which is still there. My editor Joy Peskin loved it so I included a bit more when I did a revision for her.

I believe I recall that this novel was inspired by true events. Is that correct? If not, where did it come from?

In the category of truth is stranger than fiction, I was double checking facts and I called the Blanco Chamber of Commerce because I set EVIDENCE in that neck of the Texas Hill Country in a town about the size of Blanco and I needed to check a few facts. I told the woman who answered the phone what my book was about and there was this long pause. “We had a boy that sounds just like your character who went missing a few years ago.” Then my side of the phone went silent. Turns out the boy came back but he had whole town in an uproar for a couple weeks. Wild, eh?

As for the stories in the rest of the book, they aren’t real but they are inspired by real events. For instance, when I interviewed Karla Faye Tucker on death row many years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about how her story had led her to kill someone. Like where did the stitch in the fabric of her life break so that the whole tapestry unravels one very bad night? She haunted me until she showed up in this book.

Truth and factual events captivate me. Then I like to go back and look at the why and how of it.  I’m a sucker for epiphanies. I love the aha of life.

That's an amazing story. We were at Vermont College of Fine Arts together, a memory and friendship I cherish. Was any of this novel a part of your Vermont College experience?

When I graduated from VCFA, two stories--Comic Book and Lost--are in my creative thesis. But what was really important about the VCFA experience and this novel was faith. Faith in my writing. Faith in following and developing an idea. Faith that my ideas were worthy. I don’t know if I could have found that faith without going to VCFA. Every month for two years, I leaped off a cliff and sent my advisors pages and pages of writing. Each month, I made those pages better with tools in my writer’s toolbox. The VCFA experience was pivotal in my development as a writer and certainly this book.

You know the title of this novel comes from a quote in the bible about faith: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In way, this book is a result of that faith in myself as a writer.
What's your typical writing process? Plotter, or pantser?

Hmmm, I bet I’m going to write every book just a little bit different every time. Even though, I probably pantsed my way into this novel, I held each thread in my head before I wrote them down. I knew where I was going with each section. I knew who the characters were.

On the next book, I purposefully journaled for quite a while. I figured out the characters, the backstory, the crisis and the climax. What was most important was finding the inciting incident. It is the moment that makes the story unravel to an inevitable conclusion. I think of backstory as the hand of god. The reader will believe one coincidence at the beginning of the book. I try to make sure that one coincidence will make all the dice in the hand of god fall on the table. Gradually. Inexorably. Fatalistically. Lovingly. (I have to absolutely love my characters.) After I finish drafting and let it rest, that’s probably when I will do that hard work of making sure it hangs together on the arc of a plot. I do like to write intuitively when I’m drafting but I’m holding the story in my head so I have a map of where I’m going.  If writing a novel is like a road trip, then I’m all about the surprises along the way in the first draft. I still get to the destination because I have the map but I’m stopping at cafes and pull outs and overlooks all along the way.

What are you working on now?

The working title is Inside the Notes. Here is the inciting incident: A young girl arrives in Boston. First time away from home. She is staying with a couple near the music conservatory where she is studying for four weeks. As she is unpacking, the clock radio in her room clicks on (the coincidence) and she hears men’s voices reading poetry and letters. It is a prison radio show. The girl knows her father is in prison for killing her mother when she was two years old. It is the first time she has considered he might be real and have a voice. The journey begins.

It does indeed. You can find Lindsey here:

Twitter @LindseyAuthor