Friday, June 21, 2013

Caroline Leavitt - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our Spotlight is on New York Times Bestselling Author Caroline Leavitt. She is a Literary Novelist. Caroline also is a writing teacher and book critic.

Author Genre: Literary Novelist

Website: Caroline Leavitt
Blog: Google +
Twitter: @Leavittnovelist
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
LinkedIn: Check Out LinkedIn
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
I'm the New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You, and the award-winning author of eight other novels. Pictures of You was a Costco "Pennie's Pick," a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, and it was also on many Best of 2011 lists, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine, and Kirkus Reviews, which also put the novel on their Top Five Novels about Family and Love list.

My new novel IS THIS TOMORROW, about a missing child in a 1950s suburb, is a May Indie Pick, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick/Editors Choice, and it has won raves from the Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, Vanity Fair, MSN Entertainment, and more . I've been writing since I was in grade school (I was the one who made up books and then wrote book reports for them.) I always knew I wanted to be a writer, though being a screenwriter came in a close second. I live for books and the movies and I teach writing at UCLA and Stanford online, have private clients, and I'm a book critic for People and the Boston Globe. I'm deliriously happily married to the writer Jeff Tamarkin (his book, Got A Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane, was one of the top music books of the year) and we have a teenaged son.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on Is This Tomorrow. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Halfway through writing Is This Tomorrow, I sold a proposal and first chapter for my next novel, CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD, which takes place in the late 60s and early 70s. I have until 2015 to write it! Set in a world of free shcools, the back-to-the-land movement, cults and an unsettling relationship between a high school girl and her teacher, the book explores that moment when the peace and love of the sixties began to sour.

You have a great following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process?

I love social media! When I had to research IS THIS TOMORROW, one of my best sources was FaceBook. All I had to do was ask, "Are there any cops from the 1950s who would talk to me?" and people instantly contacted me. Getting those personal stories was just invaluable. Social media is also my water cooler. I've felt that I was writing that book with the help of Social Media encouraging me--and I even put FB and Twitter in my acknowledgements. It certainly helps as far as launching a book, because I can list all my events, I can post photos, and I can make people feel a part of the events, even if they can't show up.

You do a lot of book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I've been touring since early April, so I'm just starting to wind down! Everything is posted on my website under appearances, but I'm pretty good about posting about events before they happen and reminding people! I'm going to Colorado next week, to Tattered Cover, Maria's Bookshop and Bookworm of Edwards. I'll be at R. J. Julia's in Connecticut on July 9th at 2 and then at the Monclair Public Library, August 7th, and the Huntington Review in Long Island on the 19th.

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thank you! I've been really lucky with Algonquin. They ask me for suggestions and they listen to my responses. For Is This Tomorrow, I found a photograph I loved and it turned out that my editor knew the photographer. I was sure that was going to be the cover and then Algonquin said, "We wanted to go with something more literary," and I didn't know what to think, until I saw the cover. I LOVE the cover! It instantly felt unsettling and haunting and also, I felt that it captured the book perfectly. I haven't always been so lucky. A previous publisher gave me a magnificent hardcover cover that looked like an Edward Hopper painting. Everyone loved that cover! And then for the paperback, they made it mint green. With a bathrobe on a hook. And an inset of a smiling man. I was horrified. My agent got involved. But all they would do is take the smile off the guy's face. As I said, I know how lucky I am now being with Algonquin!

You have several great book trailers. (See links below.) Do you know how much impact they have had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailers? They look very professional. Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

I really don't know if trailers work as far as getting people to read. I just love movies and wanted to have one. I wrote the script for the one for Pictures of You and hired a friend's daughter. I worked with her to get the mood right--I wanted something eerie and unsettling. The second trailer was done by my friend Jeff Clarke, who is a talented actor who was in Mad Men. I gave him a basic script that he tinkered with and he put his wife (and my friend), the novelist Gina Sorell in the video to play Ava, my main character. I loved what he did. The trailer came way after the book was finished but the look of the trailer is pure IS THIS TOMORROW!

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

My writer support group is Facebook, Twitter, and my friends! Algonquin is a genius at marketing and publishing, but sometimes people will tell me about something I should consider doing, and then I field it to my publisher.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I never sleep. Really. I'm a bad sleeper, and I'm obsessive-compulsive, so i am always working and juggling. But I'm also very happy being busy!

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?

Great question. I see a lot of kids reading e-books, and that makes me happy. My personal feeling is anything that gets people reading is great. I do wish, though, that all e-books could be read on all e-readers. I want to support the indie bookstores as much as possible!

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

Giveaways are like a gift that keeps on giving--you give a book away and the person who receives that book tells his or her friends, and that's how you build word of mouth. Never any obstacles! (Though I hope no one takes that giveaway and sells it on ebay. That always distresses me.)

Today there is a buzz in the industry about rankings on retailer’s lists because of on-line advertising sites. Do you ever promote your novels with paid advertising

I never have.

You have published books in several different genres. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which genre did you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give you some change of pace?

Hmmmm.... actually don't think that I have! I'm considered a literary writer and I think I always tend to write about the thorny difficulties of family. The only different thing I've done is to set a book in a different time period with IS THIS TOMORROW, something I never did before, and something I loved so much that my next book, CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD, is going to be set in the 1970s!

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and promoting other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

Thank you so much! I started the blog because I thought writers were supposed to have blogs, but then, I began to feel that just writing about myself was navel-gazing. I give it over to other writers. I did this first because, as a reviewer, I can't ethically review people I know, but I wanted to give my friends some ink. Interviews seemed the perfect solution! This also gave me a chance to seek out and talk to many writers I didn't know, whom I really admired. It was exciting! The blog also makes me feel as if I am building writers' community, something I dearly love. I'm not always successful in finding the time, but I try. I set up schedules for myself and I try to keep to them!

Thank you so much for these great questions!

Author's Book List
Is This Tomorrow: A Novel
In 1956, Ava Lark rents a house with her twelve-year-old son, Lewis, in a desirable Boston suburb. Ava is beautiful, divorced, Jewish, and a working mom. She finds her neighbors less than welcoming. Lewis yearns for his absent father, befriending the only other fatherless kids: Jimmy and Rose. One afternoon, Jimmy goes missing. The neighborhood—in the throes of Cold War paranoia—seizes the opportunity to further ostracize Ava and her son. Years later, when Lewis and Rose reunite to untangle the final pieces of the tragic puzzle, they must decide: Should you tell the truth even if it hurts those you love, or should some secrets remain buried?

Book Trailer: Is This Tomorrow: A Novel

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Pictures of You
Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman, April, has left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. As these three lives intersect, the book asks, How well do we really know those we love—and how do we forgive the unforgivable?

Book Trailer: Pictures of You

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Kids' Family Tree Book
Who are my ancestors? What nationalities were they? What work did they do? Kids are always bursting with questions about their family history; they want more stories, more details, more facts. With these research ideas and creative projects, young would-be genealogists can get the knowledge they crave. Find out how to interview family members, dig up information from libraries and the Internet, and check the National Archives for passenger lists of newly-arrived immigrants. Uncover clues in old photos or birth, marriage, and death records. Preserve the knowledge you’ve gathered in a crayon batik family tree or a homemade diary that features favorite family stories, recipes, and traditions. Keep the togetherness going by planning a family reunion, starting a family newsletter, and more.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Girls in Trouble: A Novel
In this heart-wrenching story of an open adoption gone wrong, Caroline Leavitt reveals the astonishing power of family bonds and maternal love. Sara, sixteen, is in denial about her pregnancy and too far along for an abortion. Her once-devoted boyfriend has disappeared so Sara decides her only option is an open adoption with George and Eva, a couple desperate for a child. After the birth it's clear Sara has a bond with the child that Eva can't duplicate and Eva and George make a drastic decision, with devastating consequences for them all.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Coming Back to Me: A Novel
It can take a long time to build up a life, and only moments to destroy it. Gary and Molly met in the way couples do: after a long haul of being single, quickly becoming soulmates and rejoicing in that fact. Beautiful, red-haired Molly ignites a fire in Gary and he eases the pain she feels about her past. Starting a family is something they both want badly to do, and with great joy Molly finds herself pregnant. When she leaves for the hospital that things start to go seriously wrong. Just a few weeks later Gary is alone with a newborn and a mountain of medical bills he has no means to pay for. Desperate for help, he calls on Molly's long estranged sister, Suzanne. From Sue Miller to Elizabeth Berg, bestselling authors have tackled the challenges of love and marriage. Caroline Leavitt claims the turf in her own exciting way, twisting and turning a medical nightmare into an opportunity for redemption and hope.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author’s Corner. Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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