In author Suzanne Jenkins’ first novel, Pam of Babylon, fictional Pam Smith has led a charmed life. She has a beautiful home by the water in tony Babylon, New York. A homemaker, her children have grown and left home, but fifty-something Pam is content in her long marriage to Jack, a successful businessman. Following Jack’s sudden death, however, Pam leans that her husband’s life was not what it seemed. A series of revelations force Pam to deal with loss and disappointment as she discovers that her husband was markedly different than he appeared. Betrayals far worse than any Pam could have imagined force her to retreat to her meticulous beach house to process what she has learned and embrace her future. But first she must learn to forgive.
It is my honor to welcome acclaimed true crime author Caitlin Rother to Colloquium today. She has penned eight fiction and nonfiction works, including Dead Reckoning, in which she recounted the story of Tom and Jackie Hawks, the couple from Newport Beach, California, who lost their lives when they were thrown overboard, tied to the anchor of yacht, by Skylar Deleon and his accomplices. She also chronicled the demise of Kristin Rossum in Poisoned Love. Rossum, addicted to crystal meth while employed in a toxicology lab, was found to have poisoned her husband in order to prevent him from exposing her drug addiction and affair with her boss.
Lost Girls chronicles the desperate searches for two teenage girls, Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, by San Diego-area authorities. Eventually, John Albert Gardner stood trial for their murders and received a life sentence. He was a convicted sex offender who violated the terms and conditions of his parole several times, but was not returned to prison. Because of his previous conviction, Gardner was ineligible to enter many mental health programs and facilities, even though he reported feeling out of control and likely to hurt someone. The case resulted in legislation designed to prevent similar cases by providing stronger protections for California children.
Why I Felt Compelled to Write Lost Girls
First, I have a confession to make. After writing Body Parts, a book about serial rapist-killer Wayne Adam Ford, I really didn’t think I’d ever be able to stand getting into the head of another man like him, let alone one who had molested, raped and killed teenagers. I also have a standing rule: I cannot and will not write stories about young murdered children. I just can’t stomach it.
Jacqueline E. Luckett is my special guest today. She is the author of Searching for Tina Turner and Passing Love, an engrossing tale about a woman who fulfills her lifelong dream of visiting Paris and while there, learns about her life.
All of her life, Nicole-Marie Handy has loved the French language and anything having to do with France. As her best friend is dying, she extracts Nicole’s promise to break free at last from the confines of her life and visit Paris. In a quaint little shop, Nicole finds an old photograph of her father — inscribed not to Nicole’s mother, but to a woman Nicole has never heard of, setting in motion a quest to learn who the woman is and how the photograph ended up for sale. The story alternates between Nicole’s present-day search for answers and the 1950s when Paris was filled with jazz and Americans looking to fulfill their own dreams, exploring Lost love, secrets, and betrayals. Will the knowledge Nicole obtains in Paris change her life?
As Close As a Person Can Get to God
I walk onto a stage and into a cone of light. Musicians are behind me. Perhaps a full orchestra. I can only hear, not see them. The music plays, softly at first. I listen, waiting for my cue. I start to sing. My voice is strong and steady. It’s like fine chocolate and good wine. I hear my voice reverberating off the walls and the finely-tuned sound system. I belt out one song, and one song only. The audience goes wild.
Emily Jeanne Miller’s first novel, Brand New Human Being, has just been published and is garnering praise for its “wonderfully real characters” and quick paced exploration of the “struggles of family, marriage, and mid-life identity crisis.” One review christened it an “addictive summer novel.”
Brand New Human Being is the story of Logan Pyle, a lapsed grad student and stay-at-home dad who’s holding it together by a thread. His father, Gus, has died; his wife, Julie, has grown distant; his four-year-old son has gone back to drinking from a bottle. When he finds Julie kissing another man on a pile of coats at a party, the thread snaps. Logan packs a bag, buckles his son into his car seat, and heads north with a 1930s Lousville Slugger in the back of his truck, a maxed-out credit card in his wallet, and revenge in his heart.
After some bad decisions and worse luck, he lands at his father’s old A-frame cabin, where his father’s young widow, Bennie, now lives. She has every reason to turn Logan away, but when she doesn’t, she opens the door to unexpected redemption — for both of them.
Want the Short Answer, or the Truth?
A lot of people have been asking me how long it took to write my new novel, Brand New Human Being, and my short answer is, “About a year.” The longer — and more genuine-feeling—answer is that more than a decade elapsed between the moment I first encountered the people who inspired Brand New Human Being and the time I finished writing it.
Today my special guest is author Meg Mitchell Moore, whose second novel, So Far Away, was recently published.
It is the story of how the lives of a wayward teenager and a lonely archivist are unexpectedly joined through the discovery of an old diary.
Natalie Gallagher, age thirteen, is trying to escape from her parents’ divorce and the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family’s basement and determines to unlock the secrets it holds. Meanwhile, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, Kathleen Lynch, is carrying some painful secrets of her own. A widow, she and her only daughter are estranged. Natalie’s quest for information about the diary leads her Kathleen, who sees traces of her lost daughter in the young girl.
Details about the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant in the 1920s provide valuable lessons for both Natalie and Kathleen. The pages of the diary demonstrate for both of them that their fears and frustrations are universal and timeless.
No Place Like Home
My second novel, So Far Away, is set in and around the town in which I now live. That town is Newburyport, Massachusetts, about forty-five minutes north of Boston. It’s a lovely little town with an abundant history. We have a historical society, a maritime museum, and a Coast Guard station that is reputed to be one of the first in the country. We have many homes dating back two hundres years or more. We have Federalist mansions lining a main street that is easy to imagine in its past life as an old-fashioned thoroughfare. We have homes with signs outside indicating that they were once part of the Underground Railroad.
Today I welcome best-selling author Linda Lael Miller to Colloquium for the first time!
Linda’s latest book, Big Sky Country, has just been released. Sheriff Slade Barlow grew up in a trailer hitched to his mother’s hair salon, the Curly-Burly hair salon. Slade has never been acknowledged by his father, a wealthy rancher. But Slade’s life changes suddenly when he inherits half of Whisper Creek Ranch, one of the most prosperous in Parable, Montana. His half brother, Hutch, grew up with all the privileges associated with being a member of the Carmody family and is decidedly unhappy about sharing his legacy with an illegitimate sibling.
Joslyn Kirk, local homecoming, rodeo and beauty queen has returned to Parable only for a short time — just long enough to pay back all of the folks that her unscrupulous stepfather swindled and Slade has a town to protect, in addition to his own rebellious teenage stepdaughter. Is Slade the right man to convince Joslyn that she’s not responsible for her stepfather’s misdeeds, but she is responsible for the impact she still has on Slade, despite his disillusionment with love?
Q & A with Linda Lael Miller
1. What is your daily routine as a writer?