Thursday, July 19, 2012

ELIZABETH FLOCK: GIVEAWAY, Review, Q&A and Novel Showcase


About Elizabeth:  Former journalist Elizabeth Flock reported for Time and People magazines before becoming a television reporter and anchor in San Francisco, California. 
After moving to New York, Flock became an on-air correspondent for CBS News covering breaking news both in the United States and abroad. 
Notably, reporting from Havana, Cuba, for Pope John Paul II’s visit with Fidel Castro; reporting from London following the death of Princess Diana; and reporting from Hong Kong where she covered the handover from the British to the Chinese.
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Flock's acclaimed first novel, But Inside I'm Screaming, a fictionalized account of a journalist's fight for sanity, was published by MIRA Books in 2003. Reviewers called the novel "riveting," "insightful," and, in the words of the Oakland Tribune, "hard to put down." But Inside I'm Screaming has since been translated into six languages and has sold nearly a quarter of a million copies.

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Me & EmmaIn 2005, Flock's second novel, Me & Emma (MIRA Books), spent six consecutive weeks on theNew York Times bestseller list. Called "a triumph" by bestselling author Kathleen DeMarco, Me & Emma has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, and was referred to as "haunting…not soon forgotten," by BooklistKirkus Reviews wrote, "Flock captures [the main character's] powerlessness and resourcefulness beautifully…tremendously touching." Me & Emma was chosen as one of the "Best Books of 2005" by Booksense and was a Highlight Pick of the Year. In addition to being a bestseller in the UK, Me & Emma has been published in 10 countries, translated into 7 languages and has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.


*View my review of Me & Emma HERE


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MY REVIEW:  WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SISTER

There was something about the novel Me & Emma that stuck with me.  I wondered for so long what happened to Carrie?  How was she after all she had been through?  How did her story really end?  I was craving some closure on the story.  So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Flock had written a follow up to Me & Emma entitled What Happened to My Sister.

What Happened to My Sister: A NovelI was so excited to get my hands on an early reader copy of What Happened to My Sister and I devoured it in nearly a day.  The story continues roughly a year after Me & Emma left off.  Carrie is now 9 and leaving the mountains and all the anger, hurt and loss behind.  She and her mother are hoping to find happiness that has eluded them up to this point.  What they find will not only change the course of their lives, but also their whole perception of the past! 
 Fans of Me & Emma will be pleased to know that all the elements they loved in Me & Emma are alive and present in What Happened to My Sister; great dialogue, an interesting story with twists and turns right up until the VERY last page. There are very few authors that can write so convincingly in both adult and child voices.  Flock does so masterfully, while weaving a story that needed to be told.
                                                                                           
What really happened to Carrie's sister Emma?  Was she really Carrie's imaginary friend or was there something more to it....
Preorder your 5 STAR copy today to find out for yourself!!! Fans of Me & Emma will not be disappointed and will find the wait well worth it.

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Everything Must Go (MIRA Books, 2007), Flock's third novel, is set in the Connecticut of her childhood. The Dallas Morning News wrote, "in Ms. Flock's talented hands, [Henry] becomes someone readers will keep rooting for long after it would seem the game is over," and Booklistwrote, "another strong characterization from Flock, who uncannily immerses herself in [the main character's] vulnerable, yet stalwart, psyche." On the show Sunday Papers, WGN-Radio's Rick Kogan called the main character "one of the most interesting characters in contemporary fiction."

"Sleepwalking in Daylight is a finely wrought heartbreaker of a novel. Flock writes in compulsively readable prose…shoot[ing] a quiver of arrows straight to the heart."

The Denver Post

"Flock has crafted a most believable cast of characters. Her dialogue reads like you're eavesdropping at a coffeehouse; it's that authentic." —The News-Herald

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Q&A

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. I am fortunate enough to live in New York City, where I find inspiration every single day. It might be on the subway, on a bus, or while waiting in line at a coffee shop -- I see and overhear fascinating details that find their way into whatever I am working on in the most curious ways. Take yesterday, for example. I was waiting on the sidewalk for a friend who was running late to meet me for dinner. I was impatient but finally resigned myself to watching the drama of everyday life play out like theater right in front of me. And then, from under the spotty shade of a newly-planted sapling, I spotted two young women approaching. Girls more likely -- life's burdens made them appear older because one was pushing a dirty, rickety stroller carrying an over-tired toddler with an unwiped face. As they passed me, the very young mother said to her friend who was sipping a gargantuan frozen drink from Dunkin Donuts that was so big she needed both hands to hold it, "I blame it all on Aisha" to which her friend quickly replied, "well. Aisha and that damned Bacardi." "Mm-hmm," the young mother nodded in earnest agreement. 

Now it just so happened that for days I had been having trouble sketching out a character in my next book. A 17 year-old with a knack for making bad decisions. I needed her to drop out of school but hadn't been able to figure out the "why" of it -- among a myriad of other questions troubling me was the core problem: WHY would this former overachiever leave a school she had fought so hard to get accepted to? I had been agonizing over this for nearly a week and those two girls handed me the solution: my character got pregnant and decided to keep the baby and raise it alone! Inspiration alighted on my shoulder right there on Broadway at 82nd Street on an evening that began like any other. 

Thank god my friend ran late. 

 Q.  What inspired you to write the follow up book to ME & EMMA entitled  WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SISTER (Released August 7th)?

A. When I finish a book the characters usually float away like dandelion tufts on a breeze. They become ghostlike to me, which is a good thing because I can then devote myself to new ones. But Carrie and Emma Parker didn't budge. In the seven years since ME & EMMA was published I have been lucky enough to hear from lots of readers and have been invited to speak with countless book clubs about that particular novel, which I do happily because ME & EMMA is very close to my heart. But there was one question I could never answer: what happened to Carrie Parker after the book ended

For a few years that question haunted me, and not for the reasons you might think. I had plenty of ideas for Carrie and thousands of thoughts about the trajectory the Parkers were on but for some weird reason the thought of writing a sequel never occurred to me. And then it did. 

About halfway through my first legal pad (I write most of my first drafts longhand) I figured out what had been holding me back. See, I purposely never named the year in which the action of ME & EMMA took place. I liked the idea that the story was, in essence, timeless. When I asked book clubs, nine out of ten would report that they were sure the story unfolded in "the 1960s." Truth be told, I had the 1960's and 1970's in mind when I wrote ME & EMMA but I thought that the neglect and abuse the Parker girls endured was, sadly, just as possible in today's world. And this is what I shared with readers, both in print interviews and in person. 

So why didn't I just continue the story or keep it in a nebulous non-era? Because the only reason I wanted to re-visit Carrie Parker was to see what would happen when she left the cocoon of her remote hill town and alighted in the big-box-store-internet addicted-overindulgent 'real world' of 2012. What would the dirt-poor, always-hungry Parkers make of the excessive gluttony they would come face to face with in a large city?

I decided I would plough onward and hope for the best. Now I'm so glad I did because my early readers didn't give it a second thought -- granting me literary license without my even having to ask for it. 

 Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A. I love so many things about being a writer (I prefer calling myself that over "author" because, really, the only distinction to my way of thinking is a publishing contract and that does not a writer make). Following up on the thread I began in my answer to your last question, I love writing about whatever intrigues me. In winter, when leaves have abandoned trees and dark feels darker, I have always enjoyed driving or walking past warmly lit homes, imagining who lives inside and what might be going on at that very moment. Writers are bona fide voyeurs. We are a curious, detail oriented bunch and I love that I have a job that calls for and capitalizes on powers of observation.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an author?

A. Oh, that's easy. Discipline. Or lack thereof. Being a writer means having to be extremely self-motivated and disciplined, two things that do not come naturally to me. I am the queen of procrastination -- I can cook up the most inane errands you can imagine. I'll throw roadblocks at myself, sabotaging my better intentions with To-Do Lists that would make you blush with embarrassment. For me. 
     
Writing is the toughest job I have ever had, hands down. But it's also the best job I've ever had. So there's that.

Q.  If you could not be author, what would you do/be?

A. I would be a globe-trotting photographer. 

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. Chasing the Unicorn. (don't even ask) Or, wait. Maybe it would be entitled "The Twists and Turns Always Make Sense In the End."

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. That's impossible to answer -- it changes all the time, depending on what's going on in my life. How about I give you a few in my top five (my top ten can be found here:http://www.toptenbooks.net/authors/Elizabeth-Flock): "The Folded Leaf" by William Maxwell is so moving, so relevant and so precise. "Madame Bovary" is also a favorite, as is Drieser's "An American Tragedy" and Thomas Hardy's "A Tale of Two Cities." I love the line "mine was the life that could have been" -- in fact I think that thought has influenced my writing more than any other. The whole destiny-can-be-changed-by-missing-a-bus philosophy.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. The tree in "The Giving Tree." Nothing makes me happier than making the people I love happy.

Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?

A. Well, I used to think I was most like Henry Powell (in EVERYTHING MUST GO) because I love how loyal he is. His love of family, his sense of obligation, his work ethic -- all are qualities I take pride in myself. Until, that is, I got a lot of reader feedback about how "pathetic" he is! So maybe I'm a little more like Honor Chaplin (in WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SISTER). I'm pretty prepared for just about any disaster.

Q. Which of your book covers is your favorite and why?

A. The first cover of ME & EMMA is my favorite because that is exactly how I pictured Emma when I was writing her. 

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Fall. Mentally, I still live on a school schedule, though I work year-round of course. But to me, the start of the year begins not in January but on September 1st. I love office supply stores a little TOO much, actually. Fall, to me, is all about sharpened pencils, new notepads, clear calendars and crisp nights. 

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. How about I tell you my favorite moment on a book tour ever. I've never talked about this publicly before but one of the most significant moments of my life took place while on tour for ME & EMMA. I was a couple of days into an eleven city, ten day trip. March, 2005. San Francisco. Now, I should explain that I lived in San Francisco for eight years in my twenties. I began my career there, fell in love there, tried all the things you try when you're in your twenties, made dear friends -- the works. It was also during my San Francisco years that I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease (lymphoma). As luck would have it, Stanford University Medical Center is on the cutting edge for cancer treatment and happened to be an easy drive from my home so I was treated there (http://stanfordhospital.org/clinicsmedServices/). After nearly a year of chemotherapy and radiation I went into remission and am proud to report I am now officially 'cured.' Anyway, I stayed in touch with my wonderful team of nurses, doctors and other staffers there and when it came time for me to return so many years later for the ME & EMMA book tour, I sent all of them an invitation to the reading. 
    
About an hour before we were to be at the bookstore in downtown San Francisco I got one of the best phone calls a writer can ever get: I made it onto the New York Times bestseller list! My mother, who had come along on that portion of the trip, shrieked with delight and we both hugged and cried and started calling relatives with the amazing news. We floated to the bookstore and... IT WAS PRACTICALLY EMPTY. I felt the air go out of both of us and it was back to reality. The reading was to start at 7:00 and at 6:55 the seats were nearly empty -- the only people in the store appeared to be shoppers, milling about in the stacks unaware of the event.
     
And then? Those shoppers? They started turning around to face me. Smiling over at me from "Fiction" was my beloved chemo nurse, Chris. Waving from "Non-Fiction" was my radiologist, James. One of my oncologists tapped me on the shoulder and enveloped me in a huge hug. One by one others streamed in through the front door. Old friends from my first television job. A high school friend who happened to be in town that night. Old neighbors. Basically, everyone I knew in the Bay Area was there.
     
That alone was a great moment. But then the manager of the bookstore ("A Clean, Well-Lighted Place For Books" -- now closed) asked everyone to be seated and began her introduction. When she said, "An hour ago we got a call from Liz's publisher and I am thrilled to tell you that ME & EMMA just made it to the New York Times bestseller list!" a cheer went into the air, chairs were knocked to the ground as everyone jumped to their feet clapping, hooting, hollering, and yes, even crying. These were the people who had seen me at my absolute worst, lowest point. They were the ones who had held my hair back as I vomited toxicity into the toilet. They held jobs open for me when I had to take time off to treat my cancer. They held my hand when I needed it most. And here I was, many years later, standing in front of them in triumph at one of the happiest professional moments of my entire life. Tears were streaming down my face. It was truly like a church tent revival, these wonderful people holding me up and celebrating along with me. I will never forget that moment. Ever.

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes, I'm working on my next novel, due to Random House in February. It's totally different from anything I've done before but I can't explain it now. It's too early on -- I don't know where I'm going with it yet.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.   I would like to say "thank you" to all who have read this post and to YOU, Emily, for inviting me into your lovely world. You are a champion of books and reading and I think I speak for all of us when I say the world would be a better place if there were more Emily Lewises around.



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