Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THE MOON SISTERS: AUTHOR INTERVIEW, PERSONALITY QUIZ, AND A GIVEAWAY!

AVAILABLE ON SALE TODAY!
GIVEAWAY ENDED 
THE MOON SISTERS
BY THERESE WALSH
ABOUT THE BOOK:
This mesmerizing coming-of-age novel, with its sheen of near-magical realism, is a moving tale of family and the power of stories. 

After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights—is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother's unfinished novel to lay her spirit properly to rest. 

Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn’t be trusted. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, until they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
THERESE WALSH is a cofounder of the blog WriterUnboxed.com. She lives in upstate New York, with her husband, two children, a cat, and a bouncy Jack Russell named Kismet. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is her first novel. 

AN "Q & A" WITH AUTHOR THERESE WALSH:
What inspired The Moon Sisters?
A few years back, while toying with a story I’d eventually abandon, I wrote a scene involving a bog and a blind girl and a will-o’-the-wisp light. It was one of the few scenes I missed when I decided to tuck that story into a drawer, and so I pulled elements out of it and into a completely new tale.

A blind girl. A bog. A ghost light.

The Moon Sisters is the story of a young woman’s quest to find a will-o’-the-wisp light, because seeing one was her recently deceased mother’s unfulfilled dream. Also called “foolish fires,” these ghost lights are sometimes seen over wetlands and have a whole mythology of their own. They’re thought to lead those who follow to treasure, but they’re never captured and can sometimes result in injury and even death for adventurers. The metaphor of that fire—that some dreams and goals are impossible to reach, and that hope itself may not be innately good—eventually rooted its way into the tale as this young woman, Olivia Moon, and her sister, Jazz, try to come to terms with real-life dreams and hopes, and with each other, in their strange new world.

The story has a more personal meaning for me, too, as my father passed away when my youngest sister was still a teenager. Grappling with death and the very meaning of life has been something my two sisters and I have struggled with, individually and collectively, since that time.


One of your two main characters, Olivia Moon, has a condition called synesthesia. What compelled you to write about synesthesia? What did it bring to your story?
I put an article about synesthesia into a story ideas folder many years ago. It seemed an intriguing topic to explore via fiction—this notion that sensory areas might intermingle in ways most of us don’t experience, so that a person might taste sounds or smell sights.

The character of Olivia Moon evolved out of the idea of synesthesia. I think in many ways her personality reflects some of the aspects of the condition itself: She is colorful, unique, spontaneous, and a big proponent of the idea that there are typically at least two ways to look at things.

Ultimately, both the condition and the character set the stage for one of the book’s big themes: altering perceptions. For example, when Olivia meets new people, she relies upon her synesthetic senses to take their measure. We see an important instance of this when Olivia meets a tattooed train hopper named Hobbs. Though Hobbs warns Olivia that he can’t be trusted, she relies on his voice—not only how he speaks and what he says, but the shape of his voice—to determine his reliability. When Jazz meets Hobbs, she makes a more stereotypical assumption based upon his appearance and decides that they need to stay away from him. Though Olivia and Jazz have very different points of view, they separately come to question what they believe about Hobbs and many other things as the story unfolds.
 


What about the relationship between sisters did you want to explore? Are Jazz and Olivia Moon like your real sisters in any way?
In the early planning for The Moon Sisters, I knew Olivia would need someone’s help while on her journey. It was a natural leap to assume this person would be an older sibling—someone used to being in the “helper” role, whether they liked it or not. I may have considered a brother for Olivia for a full two seconds, but of course it had to be a sister. I know what it means to be a sister, and I understand the push-pull-love-hate blood bond that defines sisterhood; it’s a relationship dynamic with layers of conflict that can be rooted in childhood, and evolve and resolve over a lifetime.

Funny, but once I settled on the idea of a sister for Olivia, I didn’t fully develop that character until I met her on the page. Jazz appeared, chapter one, scene one, with an axe to grind, and I felt it. It was almost like she reached out of my computer to tell me, the author, “Hey, I’m extremely—extremely—important. Don’t mess it up.” (Except she wouldn’t have used the word “mess.”)

Since they each had a singular point of view, chapters alternate between their perspectives throughout the book. We not only see the distinctions in the way they process the world during their travels, and how each of them chooses or doesn’t choose to change over time, but we learn about the defining moments from their past. We come to understand quite a bit about their mother, Beth, too, as memories surface, and also through a slow reveal of old letters Beth wrote to her father. Life isn’t always a neat thing, and there’s a lack of resolution relating to those letters, which were never sent, and in the things the girls can’t go back and change about life with their mother—the things they said and didn’t say. That’s something they have to come to terms with, just as they have to come to terms with death itself in order to move on. With that in mind, I structured the story around the stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

It wasn’t intentional, but there are some similarities between Olivia and Jazz and my actual sisters. My youngest sister is a wanderer like Olivia, and tends to be dreamy and spontaneous like her as well. My other sister is pragmatic and committed to her family, like Jazz, even when that family drives her crazy. (She’s also much more inclined to drop an “F bomb” than anyone I know!)
 


The Moon Sisters is set in the state of West Virginia. Why did you make that choice?
For a few reasons. Here’s a quick story: When I traveled to West Virginia in order to research this book, I took the time to talk with people when I could. One conversation stands out in my memory, which took place when I visited an exhibit on the history of music in Appalachia. The woman I spoke with, who was part of the organizational team for the event, seemed apprehensive when I first mentioned that I was writing a novel set in her state.  As the conversation progressed, and she realized I wasn’t interested in propagating stereotypes about toothless hillbillies, she admitted how protective she and her fellow statesmen felt about their homeland and how they didn’t often open up to outsiders because of the cutting preconceived notions people have about West Virginia. It’s human nature. We erect barriers to defend ourselves.

That trip, and that conversation, confirmed for me that West Virginia was exactly the right setting for the book. I needed a location that felt a little wild, filled with bogs and swamplands and forests, where you might walk mile after mile without seeing another person. But beyond the suitability and beauty of its landscape, the setting of West Virginia supported the themes of perception and self-protection via defense mechanisms in The Moon Sisters.
 


You’re the cofounder of a popular writing site called Writer Unboxed. Has being involved with the site affected your writing life at all?
Writer Unboxed is a big part of my life; I manage the site, which has been around since 2006, and I help to oversee a Facebook community of over 5,000 writers. And though it might be said that it affects my writing life the most in terms of the time required for its upkeep, it’s more relevant to say that the people involved with Writer Unboxed inspire me continually—not just via the daily essays on the blog, but through the stories of struggles and triumphs that come through our Facebook group. The writing life can be a lonely one, but a true community of writers makes it anything but solitary.

How did the experience of writing The Moon Sisters compare to that of writing your debut?
I’d always heard that the second book is the hardest to write, and I hate to be typical but I did find that the five-year journey to complete The Moon Sisters took more out of me than my debut, which I worked on for six years. I honestly think knowledge of the book industry had quite a lot to do with that for me. When you’re writing a first book, you may know something about the industry, but you’re on the outside of it and so you have a certain amount of (blissful) ignorance. The second book is written with a full awareness of the industry—its expectations and realities, for better and worse. In a perfect world, the creative and business sides of a writer’s life would be separated, but that’s not easily done once you’ve been published.

All of that aside, I have a fierce love for The Moon Sisters—a greater love for it than for my debut, probably in part because of the challenge I felt in writing it. It stretched me as an author, and helped to prove something to myself about perseverance and commitment in difficult times. If I never pen another book, I’ll be glad that I finished this one; it’s the truest thing I’ve ever written.
 


MOON SISTERS PERSONALITY QUIZ...ENJOY!
To introduce you to THE MOON SISTERS by Therese Walsh, here is a fun personality quiz. Take it to determine if you’re more like Olivia or Jazz Moon, and learn something about the characters and yourself along the way. Just take note of the icon after each of your answers. The number of stars, suns, and moons will tell all in the end. Let’s go!

Someone offers you your favorite cookie. You:
a.    Take the cookie and eat it immediately, enjoying each and every speck of it.
b.    Take the cookie and thank the person, but decide to eat the cookie after dinner. ★
c.    Wonder if this person wants something from you in return. ☾

You’ve taken a long walk and unfortunately you’re lost. Which sounds most like what you’d do next?
a.    Keep walking. There’s so much to see, and you’ll probably find your way back eventually—or someone will come looking for you.
b.    Look for a nearby phone if you don’t have one on you, or ask for directions some other way. ★
c.    Roll your eyes at the question, because you would never be lost to begin with. Besides, who walks around in areas they’re not familiar with? You’re most likely busy doing other things, like making dinner for your family members who are too busy to do the same because they’re . . . out walking! ☾

Which quote resonates the most with you?
a.    “I have always been fond of recognizing the spiritual side of someone’s personality. It’s a very lovely concept.” —Drew Barrymore ★
b.    “I keep my own personality in a cupboard under the stairs at home so that no one else can see it or nick it.” —Dawn French ☾
c.    “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.” —Mae West 

An acquaintance of yours was caught doing something illegal. The evidence against him is overwhelming. You:
a.    Wonder what happened to get this person so off track, and hope that they find their way back and into a better life. You’ll keep him in your thoughts. ★
b.    Think that all of mankind is doomed to an existence of falseness and unhappiness, and wonder why your migraines are getting worse. ☾
c.    Believe in his innocence regardless, because you always thought he had kind eyes and a warm-syrup voice that made you smile.

If you were a color, what color would you be?
a.    Orange, the color of sunshine.
b.    Green, a color that inspires harmony. ★
c.    Blue, as reliable as the sky—which can also turn grey and black. ☾

If you couldn’t answer that question because your mood changes too often, gather two additional moons. ☾☾

If you couldn’t answer that question because color itself has personality, and you wouldn’t want to insult the color by adopting it without permission (yellow is really sensitive, after all), gather two additional suns. ☼☼


When you consider your dream job, you:
a.    Snort. It’ll never happen. Not in your town. ☾
b.    Sigh. It’ll happen. You’re not sure how, exactly, but you have faith.
c.    Smile. You’re in it. ★

You see a bear out in the wild. You:
a.    Want to run but don’t because it might antagonize the bear. Instead, you walk away carefully, eyeing it the entire time. Later, you have a panic attack. ☾
b.    Climb a tree, but not to escape the bear. The angle is better up there for taking a photo.
c.    Smile, because you’re standing in your living room and the bear is in the backyard raiding the bird feeder. That’s fine with you; everyone has to eat. ★

The book most likely to be found on your bedside table is:
a.    A novel. Maybe a fantasy. Something full of adventure and rich descriptions.
b.    A diary. To record all of the day’s activities and muse a little before bed. ★
c.    A book—fiction or nonfiction—by an existential philosopher like Albert Camus. ☾

It’s time for a family photograph. You:
a.    Take your seat and gather the rest of the family around you, quieting whatever arguments begin about who should stand where. ★
b.    Have a hard time sitting still, so you stand up behind your sister and splay two fingers behind her head to give her devil horns.
c.    Glare at the devil-horn giver. ☾

Have you gathered MORE stars, suns, or moons?

☾ If the answer is moons, you may be a Jazz! Jazz is a little hard-edged and skeptical by nature. She loves a good dose of sarcasm, several times a day, and is always reliable—though she may not like that aspect of herself or may feel others take advantage of her. She’s a frustrated deep thinker, and mercurial sometimes because of that. But she’s likely to face and conquer whatever challenges are thrown her way, sometimes despite herself.

If you’ve gathered more suns, you could be an Olivia! You have a spontaneous nature, and are as likely to climb a tree or a roof to watch a sunset as you are to hitch a ride across the country or hop a flight to Miami Beach (or to Hollywood . . .). You’re a creative soul who thinks the best of people, even if you sometimes drive them crazy with your wild ways. Your fearlessness is probably more charming than you realize.

★ If you’re a star gatherer then you’re a—surprise!—Babka! We added Babka—the wise grandmother in The Moon Sisters—to the list, because everyone needs a Babka in their lives. You’re that person, probably to many. You’re rarely rattled by life’s twists, but rather take them all in stride and handle crises with a brilliant mix of intellect and instinct. You’re a great listener, and your sage guidance is exactly what the Jazzes and Olivias of this world need.

If you have a jumble of stars and moons and suns, you may be too complex a person for this quiz to distill. So complex, in fact, that you should be a character in Therese Walsh’s next novel. Come just a little closer, why don’t you, and pull up a chair . . .
 
GIVEAWAY
THANKS TO DANIELLE AND THE GOOD FOLKS
AT RANDOM HOUSE, I HAVE A COPY OF
THIS WONDERFUL NOVEL, THE MOON SISTERS,
TO GIVE AWAY TO ONE LUCKY FOLLOWER
 
--U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY
--NO P. O. BOXES
---INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
IN CASE YOU WIN!

--ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SEPARATE TO 
COUNT AS MORE THAN ONE!
     
HOW TO ENTER:

+1 ENTRY: COMMENT ON WHAT YOU READ ABOVE ABOUT THE MOON SISTERS THAT MADE YOU WANT TO WIN THIS BOOK, AND DON'T FORGET YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS 

+1 MORE ENTRY: BLOG AND/OR TWEET ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND COME BACK HERE AND LEAVE ME YOUR LINK 

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON HOW YOU DID ON THE PERSONALITY QUIZ 

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON SOMETHING YOU FIND INTERESTING AT THERESE WALSH'S WEBSITE HERE 

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON ONE WAY YOU FOLLOW MY BLOG. IF YOU FOLLOW MORE THAN ONE WAY, YOU CAN COMMENT SEPARATELY AND EACH WILL COUNT AS AN ENTRY 

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON A CURRENT GIVEAWAY THAT YOU HAVE ENTERED ON MY BLOG. IF YOU ENTERED MORE THAN ONE, YOU MAY COMMENT SEPARATELY FOR EACH TO RECEIVE MORE ENTRIES
 
GIVEAWAY ENDS AT
6 PM, EST, MARCH 17
  

85 comments:

holdenj said...

Looks like another great story, I like the idea that she took part of it from something she had put aside for awhile.
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holdenj said...

Mostly suns, with some stars! A couple of them were no brainers--I always eat the cookie right away!
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debbie said...

I would really like to see how the two sisters come to terms with each other. It sounds like a really good book, I would love to read.
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traveler said...

Sounds fascinating. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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Stars for the most part. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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Margie said...

I'd like to see how the sisters come together after facing their problems. Thanks for the giveaway.
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Before turning to fiction, the author was a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine, and then a freelance writer.
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Linda Kish said...

It sounds interesting. The sisters are so different...much like my sister and I were. And each of us envied the other.

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I had a jumble of answers so I don't fit into any category.

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Mary Brandis said...

I want to read how the two sisters Olivia and Jazz cope on their journey after their mother's suicide. Would like to see what kind of relationship the two sisters develop on their travels. I like the concept that it's a coming of age story.
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Mary Brandis said...

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Mary Brandis said...

I have stars, moons and suns . Mostly stars, then moons and only 2 suns. So it's a jumble, a complex person :)
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Mary Brandis said...

I thought it was interesting that before she started writing fiction she researched and wrote for The Prevention Magazine.
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rubynreba said...

Sounds like a good story with the different dynamics of each sister.
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