TMI: My Life in Scandal by Perez Hilton

The phone call from Perez Hilton came two days earlier than planned.

“He can do it now instead,” his assistant emailed me on Wednesday.

I was totally unprepared. Hilton’s autobiography, “TMI: My Life in Scandal” (Chicago Review Press) — the one we’re supposed to talk about — sat unread on my desk.

Thinking “right now” might mean I had a few minutes to speed read, I reached for it. The phone rang.

Perez.

“I love your book,” I said, just to start it off. That’s all it took.

“Thank you,” Hilton responded. “I was so afraid that people wouldn’t like it. There’s so much of me in it, I’m one of the most transparent and honest people there are. People like that, and they like nostalgia and that’s me, I’m a dinosaur.”

Jurassic throwbacks seem a little bit overdone. Hilton hit the scene 20 years ago, garnering almost instant attention with his blend of gossipy take on celebrity distilled through his blog, podcasts, personal appearances and general lifestyle. He didn’t just report of celebrities, he hung with them. If he didn’t like them or had a juicy story, he reported it. His blog quickly was dubbed the “most hated blog in the world,” though he garnered millions of followers.

But the more he talks about being a dinosaur, it starts to make sense. He was one of the first bloggers.

“I started in 2004,” he said. “There are 13-year-old kids who don’t know about blogging, they’re doing TikTok. There were names that were big that no one thinks about anymore. You may luck your way into celebrity, but you have to have perseverance to be a success. You have to learn to reinvent yourself. I reinvented by going into podcasts; I have two YouTube channels. I started Instagram way back in 2011 when it first came out. It’s about knowing when the next trend is coming, and I’ve always been good at that. I’ve outlasted a lot of the stars I wrote about.”

But Hilton is still worried. Sure, he’s constantly metamorphosing, but he’s learned some lessons and he wants to share a few with me, starting with how important it is to live below your means.

“I have three children, I have to save for their education, I have to take care of them,” he said. Does he know about that new purse I bought? I wonder, vowing to return it.

He also worries about the Kardashians. I should note that by this point, I realized Hilton doesn’t have a filter, which is one of the many characteristics that make him so delightful.

“People reach a tipping point,” he said, explaining why he’s concerned about these glamorous, fully-endowed women who seem to have the most beautiful jewelry, homes, children, clothes, husbands, ex-husbands and boyfriends and a fascinating jet-set lifestyle.

I know about the jet-setting because last year, when I was on Providenciales, one of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, we’d made reservations to have dinner at the Conch House, a beach joint where fisherman dive for conch right off the shore and the cooks turn the meat info fritters, stew and all sorts of conch delights. But then the restaurant called and canceled our reservations. Why? Well, the Kardashians had just flown in and wanted to eat there, and they didn’t want non-cool people around. Their evening was filmed for their show. I didn’t watch it. We went the following Kardashian-less night.

But Hilton knows about tipping points. He reached his own a while back and it taught him lessons even if the Kardaashians aren’t listening to his advice right now.

“Now I’m the cheapest person I know,” he said.

Born Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. and raised in Florida, he graduated from New York University, dabbled in acting and public relations but found career success in his ability to feed our celebrity fascination.

“I’m sharing stories in my new book,” he said, “because I want to make money.”

All the juicy escapades with and about stars that I read when I finally read his book are delightful, but they come at a price.

“I work 17 hours a day,” Hilton said. “I never rest. But that’s part of perseverance. The more you work, the more you notice the patterns and you can see how they’re coming together, and which ones will become trends. That’s how you know what the next thing is going to be.”

For your information

What: Perez Hilton Virtual Event

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 30

Cost: This is a ticketed event, and a purchase is required to attend. Anderson’s offers a variety of ticket options. Every book ticket will include a signed copy of “TMI: My Life in Scandal.” 

FYI: To obtain tickets for the Perez Hilton virtual event, visit http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/event/perez-hilton. 

Old School Love and Why It Works

“We’ve had hard times, but we have resilience and we always knew we wanted to be together,” says Rev Run, front man of Run-DMC about how he and his wife make their marriage work.

              A Hip Hop artist, even one who whose group has sold millions of records globally and was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, isn’t the person we typically turn to when needing relationship advice.

              That is, until, you pick up a copy of Old School Love and Why It Works (Dey St. 2020; $26.99) by Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons and his wife, Justine Simmons, long admired by friends for the longevity of their 30 year marriage.  

              “We’ve had hard times, but we have resilience and we always knew we wanted to be together,” says Rev, front man of Run-DMC.

              “Now people come up to us, people who see us on TV or follow us on Instagram,” says Justine about their reality shows—Run’s House, All About the Washingtons and Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers. “They ask us for advice or say we should write a book about how we make our marriage work.”

              You can’t have a marriage without a love story, so let’s start with theirs. They met when Rev Run was just Joey but, still at the age of 15, an up and coming musician. He met Justine when performing at a roller rink. She was 14 but a vision in blue as he remembers. They went out, they liked each other, he wrote her a letter saying, “I will marry you one day.” But though they both lived in New York, the physical distance eventually worked against them. They parted. Joey became Rev Run, front man for the first rap group to earn a Grammy Lifetime Achievement honor. He was on top—fame, gold and platinum records, millions of fans, long days and crazy nights as he recalls. For some that would be all you’d ever need.

But there must have been something missing because years later when his cousin asked him if he remembered a girl named Justine, Rev Run asked him to get her number. He called and just like that the relationship was on again.

  So what makes a marriage last, I ask Rev and he refers me to the chapter he wrote about that very subject. It’s simple but it all makes sense. “If you want to go partying and clubbing and carousing and drinking, here’s a better piece of advice: Do. Not. Get. Married.” Instead just stay single.

              He has more to say.

              “Be selfless, not selfish,” he tells me. “Pay attention, listen to what your spouse is saying, don’t let it be in the background. “If I can see she really wants something or if she doesn’t see my point of view, then I back up.  One of the biggest takeaways I want for this book is that it’s important to listen to the whispers to avoid the screams later.”

              Takeaways are a big component of their book. Each of the chapters, written alternately by Rev and Justine end with a page of “Takeaways” or their advice on nourishing relationships. 

              Here’s a big one from Justine.

              “Both my parents were divorced and remarried,” she says. “If you have children and go into another relationship, make sure that they love your kids like they love you. And make sure you love their kids. If not, then don’t marry that person for your own selfish reasons because your child or their children will suffer.”

              Luckily, when Justine met Rev she loved his three daughters. When the two adopted after the death of their infant daughter, they all blended into one family. Parenting became so important that the couple wrote Take Back Your Parenting: A Challenge to America’s Parents about how to make it all work.

              Which brings us to this. Both Rev and Justine, who are a deacon and deaconess, want to help guide others—whether it’s in parenting or love. Helping is what they are all about.

              One last thought. The letter 15-year-old Rev wrote the note pledging to marry Justine one day—well, she saved it and when they reconnected, she gave it to him.

What: Rev Run and Justine Simmons presentation, Q&A and book signing event.  Old School Love and Why It Works

When: Friday, January 31, 7- 9 pm

Where: Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, IL

Cost: Each ticket includes a copy of the book and admits one or two people. You will receive your book when you arrive at the event. They will not be available for pick up before that time. Rev Run and Justine will be signing each attendees book and posing for photographs after their presentation.

fyi: For more information and to purchase tickets, 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

Signed Copies of Derrick Rose’s New Book Available at Anderson’s Bookshops

While supplies last, Anderson’s Bookshop locations have autographed copies of I’ll Show You, by former Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose. A unique gift for any Bulls fan!

I’ll Show You was written by Rose with award-winning sportswriter Sam Smith. From a kid raised in one of Chicago’s roughest neighbors, Derrick Rose showed himself to be capable of ruling the basketball universe! D-Rose’s inspiring story is candid, difficult at times and illuminating.

About the Book:  In 2012, Derrick Rose was on top of the world.

After growing up in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Rose achieved an improbable childhood dream: being selected first overall in the NBA draft by his hometown Chicago Bulls. The point guard known to his family as “Pooh” was a phenom, winning the Rookie of the Year award and electrifying fans around the world. In 2011, he became the youngest MVP in league history. He and the Bulls believed the city’s first berth in the NBA Finals since the Jordan era was on the horizon. Rarely had a bond between a player and fans been so strong, as the city wrapped its arms around the homegrown hero.

Six years and four knee surgeries later, he was waived by the Utah Jazz, a once surefire Hall of Fame career seemingly on the brink of collapse. Many speculated his days in the NBA were over.

But Derrick Rose never doubted himself, never believed his struggles on and off the court were anything other than temporary setbacks. Rather than telling the world he had more to give, he decided to show them.

I’ll Show You is an honest, intimate conversation with one of the world’s most popular athletes, a star whose on-court brilliance is matched only by his aversion to the spotlight. Written with New York Times bestselling author Sam Smith, Rose opens himself up to fans in a way they’ve never seen before, creating a document that is as unflinching—and at times as uncomfortable—as a personal diary.

Detailing his childhood spent in one of his city’s most dangerous neighborhoods; his relationships with both opponents and teammates; the pain and controversies surrounding his career-altering injuries; his complicated relationship to fame and fortune; and his rise, fall, and reemergence as the player LeBron James says is “still a superhero,” I’ll Show You is one of the most candid and surprising autobiographies of a modern-day superstar ever written.

About the Authors: Derrick Rose currently plays for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. He played one year of college basketball for the Memphis Tigers before being drafted first overall by his hometown Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA draft. After being named the NBA Rookie of the Year, Rose, at age 22, became the youngest player to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2011.

Sam Smith has been covering the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for more than three decades, as reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune for 28 years, and currently for Bulls.com. Recipient of the prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award from the NBA Hall of Fame, he also received the Professional Basketball Writers Association Lifetime Achievement award in 2011. He is the author of the classic bestselling book The Jordan Rules, for which he had unparalleled access to Michael Jordan and 1991-92 Chicago Bulls. He has written extensively for media outlets around the world, including ESPN.com, ESPN Magazine, NBC Sports, Basketball DigestThe Sporting News, and for major publications in Japan and China.

Anderson’s Bookshops are located at 123 W. Jefferson Ave., in the heart of Naperville (630) 355-2665; 5112 Main St., Downers Grove (630) 963-2665; or 26 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange (708) 582-6353. On visit online at   www.andersonsbookshop.com.

REPUTATION: Everybody’s got something to hide

“Reputation is a book about different members of a university community and how they react to a school-wide email hack– and a subsequent murder,” says Sara Shepard, author of the New York Times best seller, Pretty Little Liars. “There are a lot of different perspectives, a lot of scandals, and a lot of twists, but the crux of the novel deals with two estranged sisters, Willa and Kit, and how they come together again in a time of crisis. “

               Sitting in the bar of a posh hotel, Kit Manning-Strasser fumes that the Hawsers, the mega donors she flew into town to wine, dine and hit up for a huge donation to the university where she works, canceled at the last minute. Back at the offices of Aldrich University Charitable Giving, her subordinate Lynn Godfrey is also angry. She’s the one who spent hours and hours grooming the Hawsers for the big kill but it’s Kit who’ll get the credit when the check arrives.

Sara Shepard

               A text flashes on Lynn’s phone. Get ready, it reads and as she’s pondering its meaning and who sent it, every computer in the office goes dark. They’ve been hacked and their data stolen. But as disastrous as that is, there’s opportunity as well. For one quick moment a master list containing every file for every employee appears. Does Kit have secrets she might be able to use, Lynn wonders, as she click to open her file.

               And so begins Sara Shepard’s latest novel, Reputation, a take on modern technology and the old fashioned premise that everybody’s got something to hide.

               “Reputation is a book about different members of a university community and how they react to a school-wide email hack– and a subsequent murder,” says Shepard, author of the New York Times best seller, Pretty Little Liars. “There are a lot of different perspectives, a lot of scandals, and a lot of twists, but the crux of the novel deals with two estranged sisters, Willa and Kit, and how they come together again in a time of crisis. “

               Willa is Kit’s younger sister, who scarred by an incident in her hometown, took off for California when young. Throughout the years, Willa has avoided returning to her college town or having any semblance of a real relationship with her older sister, who followed the more traditional path, remaining at home. Marrying, Kit had two daughters and then became a widow. But from the outside, anyway, she appears to have upgraded her life to a bigger house, great vacations and a cushy life, with her remarriage to a wealthy doctor.

               “But maybe it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be,” says Shepard. “It’s Kit’s husband who ends up being murdered because of rumors about him that come out in the hack– and suddenly, all eyes are on Kit, wondering what she might have done. But did Kit kill her husband? And maybe Willa is hiding a dark secret no one in her family knows, too.”

               Shepard conceived of this book at the newspapers were filled with stories about the Sony hack.

“I couldn’t believe that people’s run-of-the-mill emails were suddenly broadcast everywhere for everyone to read,” says Shepard. “It got me thinking about what I’d do if my emails were on a similar server– or emails inboxes of people I knew. We all have things we aren’t proud of, you know. As for setting the novel in a college town, it seems like colleges are a big target for hackers– and for scandals. Try Googling “college scandal.” You’ll get so many varied results, your head will spin! And terribly, I remember pitching an idea of an unethical coach before the whole Larry Nassar / USA gymnastics scandal broke. It was eerie– and terrible– to see an imagined scenario come true.”

Though she’s never had to deal with the intense scandals her characters have endured, Shepard says she tries to relate to how they feel.

“We’ve all been betrayed,” she says. “We’ve all felt watched and judged. We’ve all felt lost and small and scared. We’ve all felt the complications of motherhood and marriage and, perhaps, being with a partner we don’t entirely trust– or, at the very least, someone who turns out differently than what we imagined.”

Ifyougo:

What: Sara Shepard in conversation with New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Mary Kubica.

When: Thursday, December 5 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Reputation, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665 or order online.

FYI: 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Murder

Obama and Biden are back! This time they’re in Chicago solving the mystery of who stole Obama’s Blackberry and killed the thief.

              Barack Obama and Joe Biden return to solving crimes in Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Mystery, the second in the series written by Andrew Shaffer and starring the former president and vice president.

              “It’s a totally separate mystery from the first book,” says Shaffer while sitting at a table where a long line had formed waiting for him to autograph copies of his novel at a two-day book fair in Lexington, Kentucky. “The first was set in Wilmington, Delaware and this one is set in Chicago on Obama’s turf and takes place in the spring around St. Patrick’s Day which is certainly a holiday they take seriously there.”

              Indeed, Shaffer, who at one time lived in Chicago, says he revisited old haunts and new places for background as the two BFFs hunt for Obama’s Blackberry and the murderer of the their who originally stole it.

              Though the premise of the two joining together as detectives is somewhat zany, Shaffer describes his book as dealing with serious topics as well.

“But I try to do it in a lighthearted way,” he says. Also, fun are the covers for both books including the first in the series, Hope Never Dies. Harkening back to the vivid colors of 1960s, the first shows Biden driving a convertible while Obama stands in the front seat pointing out the way as they chase their quarry. In the latest, Obama leans down from a swaying rope ladder tethered to a helicopter, his arm outstretched to help Biden up.

One person who thinks the mysteries are fun is the former vice president. When Biden was campaigning in Kentucky (Shaffer and his wife, a romance writer, live in Louisville), he was contacted by the campaign who set up a meeting.

              “I didn’t know whether he liked the book or not or what he was going to say,” says Shaffer adding that the Biden hadn’t read either book but signed his copies. “It was really kind of different to have a character in your book sign your book. I found out later that people have been bringing my books to his campaign stops and asking him to sign them, so he was probably thinking who’s the guy who wrote this?”

              It’s tricky writing about people we know publicly but not in person says Shaffer.

              “I think in ways I know them too well because I know their history and what I think they would do and say, because I’ve written about them and I’ve seen and read about them for eight years,” he says. “When I heard Biden speak in Kentucky, I was like my Biden wouldn’t say that.”

              Shaffer’s book might have garnered a few votes for the vice president.

              “I met one person who said I can’t wait to vote for them again because now they’re detectives,” he says.

Ifyougo:

What: Andrew Shaffer book signing

When: Tuesday, July 9 at 6 p.m.

Where: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free but RSVP is suggested

FYI: 773.752.4381; semcoop.com

What: Andrew Shaffer book signing

When: Wednesday, July 10 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Hope Rides Again, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase, stop in or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville.

FYI: 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times

Scott Pelley sitting on a rock by a river holding a camera

              While other boys his age were reading Hardy Boy mysteries and articles about baseball, Scott Pelley was riding his bike down to the public library in Lubbock, Texas and checking out books on faraway places.

              “I kept a stack by my bed and when I finished those, I’d return them and get more,” says Pelley, author of the recently released memoir Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times Hanover Square Press 2019; $17.70)

              Pelley, a definite glass half full kind of guy, is thankful he’s been able to make his living for the last four decades covering stories around the globe.

              I ask if more than 40 years of travel has worn him out. But no, Pelley, an award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent, is always ready for the next assignment.

              “I’m 61 and by God, I still enjoy getting on a plane,” says Pelley though he does admit he gets a little tired of going to the same place over and over. “But I never tire of going someplace new, whether it’s nice or not.”

              So where hasn’t Pelley been that he’d like to see.

              “Anyplace that doesn’t have a pin stuck in it on my world map,” he says. “I’ve been to both the Artic and Antarctica numerous times, but I’ve never made it to poles though I’ve been just a few miles away, so I’d like to get there. And I’ve never been to Portugal and I’ve heard it’s very pretty.”

              Portugal? From a man who is a multimillion mile flyer and has covered stories in the remote jungles of Mexico, reported on the genocides in Darfur, was onsite when the planes hit the World Trade Center and watched first responders’ stream into the building, many to never come out, hoping to find survivors, He also was on the ground during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990 and the 1991 invasion of Iraq (indeed, he’s seems to have visited Iraq as many times as most people go to the grocery store) and joined, with his team, the U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. Getting to Portugal, it would seem, would be a piece of cake.

              But then Pelley may be too busy. He’s won 37 Emmys—of course, he says it’s due to the many wonderful and capable people who back him up and make him look good—and despite his passion for action, likes to ponder as well.

              “I called my first chapter ‘Gallantry,’” he says about his book. “I was in Paris several years ago shortly after  ISIS’s terrorist attack and I watched people holding a memorial on the cobblestone streets with candles in their hands and it struck me that I had seen that same look before, at the World Trade Center and in Oklahoma City after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. It’s a look I’d seen it again and again throughout my entire career, people wondering what the meaning of life is. I got to thinking, don’t ask the meaning of life. Life is asking: ‘What’s the meaning of you?’ And that’s what I went looking for in my book, people who have discovered how to get meaning, people who are heroes.”

              Maybe, in a way, Pelley is a hero as well. He reveals in his book how he lost his long time job as CBS Evening News anchor after complaining too vociferously about the way men and, especially women were treated at the network. He took his complaints all the way up to CBS Corporate Chairman Les Moonves, who spent over an hour listening to Pelley’s concerns. Obviously, hoping to forestall any more action on Pelley’s part, his contract wasn’t renewed despite his show’s high ratings. Ironically, Moonves would be fired in turn, because of sexual harassment allegations.

              Losing his job is okay now, says Pelley because he’s grateful for the direction CBS is taking, how they cleaned house and are acting with integrity.

              Yes, definitely half-full.

              “I think a sense of optimism is important for a reporter,” he says. “That and empathy. If you have that empathy for that person you have emotional stake in their lives.”

Ifyougo:

What: Join in a conversation, Q&A, and book signing with Scott Pelley

When: Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m.

Where: Community Christian Church, 1635 Emerson Lane, Naperville, IL

Cost:  Ticket for one person costs $37.74 w/service fee and includes one copy of the Pelley’s new book; the ticket package admits two and costs $42.99 w/service fee and includes on copy of the book. Tickets can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com/event/4243153 and entitles the holder to

meet and get a photograph with the author and a personalized signature.

FYI: The event is hosted by Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

            “Domestic violence is not a large part of our conversation,” says Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the recently released

            “Domestic violence is not a large part of our conversation,” says Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the recently released No Visible Bruises, her exploration of this country’s domestic violence epidemic and what it means regarding other types of violence as well as what to do about it.  “I want to bring these conversations to the forefront.”

            Snyder, a journalist who won the J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress Award for this project, uses the individual stories of women to show how complicated and overwhelming the subject is—and how pervasive. And while we might think of domestic violence as being an issue, if not of the past, as one more under control than when O.J. Simpson was tried for murdering his wife and women’s safety more assured by the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But that isn’t true.

            “Domestic homicides are rising about 25%–it used to be about three women a day three women were killed now it’s four, “says Snyder, who went to college in Naperville and lived all over Chicago including Oak Park, has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in London for three year and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for six.  She also put herself through her first year of college by booking Dimensions, a Highland, Indiana band, for their gigs.

            “People don’t always want to read a book like this,” says Snyder. “I wanted to write a book that people couldn’t pull away from.”

            And, indeed, she did. As awful as the situations she describes—women trying to leave abusers but unable or not able to get out in time, the toll it takes on their families.  Wanting her book to read like a novel, Snyder includes true facts that would be hard to believe in a novel—one husband keeps a pet rattlesnake and drops it in the shower when his wife is in there or slips it under the covers when she’s sleeping.

            “It is an exploration of what it means to live under stress under every moment or every day,” says Snyder, an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington D.C.

            It’s also an exploration of agencies and police as they try to step in and stop the progression—sometimes with success and sometimes with heartbreak. Snyder lived all this, visiting shelters, talking to police and talking to women.

 “I think domestic terrorism is a closer reality to what is going on than domestic abuse,” she says.

            In her two decades of reporting, both in the U.S. and oversees, Snyder has seen many instances of domestic terrorism, sometimes central to her stories sometimes on the edges. When she started researching and writing No Visible Bruises, which took her nine years to finish–she even wrote her novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing which is set in Oak Park, Illinois during the process–she never lost interest in telling the story.

            “I wanted to have the conversation about this that we have around poverty, economics, other issues and to really understand it,” she says.

            She also wanted to show how violence can lead to more violence, noting that choking a partner is a predictor of an homicide attempt amd there’s a link to mass murders as we saw in the First Baptist  Church in Sutherland Spring where Devin Patrick Kelley, a convicted domestic terrorism while serving in the Air Force killed his wife and 25 other worshippers. Domestic terrorism also is the direct cause of over 50% of women who find themselves in homeless shelters.

            Is there reason to hope? I ask her.

            She believes there is, but that it’s important to know that domestic abuse is still happening, and we need to be empathetic and that it’s good women are getting angry.

Ifyougo:

What: Rachel Snyder has two events in Chicago.

When & Where: Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL; 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

When & Where: Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL; 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

, her exploration of this country’s domestic violence epidemic and what it means regarding other types of violence as well as what to do about it.  “I want to bring these conversations to the forefront.”

            Snyder, a journalist who won the J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress Award for this project, uses the individual stories of women to show how complicated and overwhelming the subject is—and how pervasive. And while we might think of domestic violence as being an issue, if not of the past, as one more under control than when O.J. Simpson was tried for murdering his wife and women’s safety more assured by the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But that isn’t true.

            “Domestic homicides are rising about 25%–it used to be about three women a day three women were killed now it’s four, “says Snyder, who went to college in Naperville and lived all over Chicago including Oak Park, has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in London for three year and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for six.  She also put herself through her first year of college by booking Dimensions, a Highland, Indiana band, for their gigs.

            “People don’t always want to read a book like this,” says Snyder. “I wanted to write a book that people couldn’t pull away from.”

            And, indeed, she did. As awful as the situations she describes—women trying to leave abusers but unable or not able to get out in time, the toll it takes on their families.  Wanting her book to read like a novel, Snyder includes true facts that would be hard to believe in a novel—one husband keeps a pet rattlesnake and drops it in the shower when his wife is in there or slips it under the covers when she’s sleeping.

            “It is an exploration of what it means to live under stress under every moment or every day,” says Snyder, an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington D.C.

            It’s also an exploration of agencies and police as they try to step in and stop the progression—sometimes with success and sometimes with heartbreak. Snyder lived all this, visiting shelters, talking to police and talking to women.

 “I think domestic terrorism is a closer reality to what is going on than domestic abuse,” she says.

            In her two decades of reporting, both in the U.S. and oversees, Snyder has seen many instances of domestic terrorism, sometimes central to her stories sometimes on the edges. When she started researching and writing No Visible Bruises, which took her nine years to finish–she even wrote her novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing which is set in Oak Park, Illinois during the process–she never lost interest in telling the story.

            “I wanted to have the conversation about this that we have around poverty, economics, other issues and to really understand it,” she says.

            She also wanted to show how violence can lead to more violence, noting that choking a partner is a predictor of an homicide attempt amd there’s a link to mass murders as we saw in the First Baptist  Church in Sutherland Spring where Devin Patrick Kelley, a convicted domestic terrorism while serving in the Air Force killed his wife and 25 other worshippers. Domestic terrorism also is the direct cause of over 50% of women who find themselves in homeless shelters.

            Is there reason to hope? I ask her.

            She believes there is, but that it’s important to know that domestic abuse is still happening, and we need to be empathetic and that it’s good women are getting angry.

Ifyougo:

What: Rachel Snyder has two events in Chicago.

When & Where: Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL; 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

When & Where: Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL; 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls

              Take two cultural icons—William Shakespeare, the English poet, playwright and actor who is considered one of the best writers in the English language and the movie Mean Girls which was released 15 years ago and stars Tina Fey, one of my favorite comedians and you have tales of passion, toxic envy, back-stabbing (both literal and figurative) and intense power struggles (for kingdoms or, in the case of Mean Girls, to belong to the most popular high school clique.

            Now, Ian Doescher, a best selling author has combined the two in the recently introduced Pop Shakespeare series from Quirk Books, starting with two books, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls and William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future. Both cost $12.99 each.

            Doescher, who earned a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Ethics from Union Theological Seminary, has taken the Bard’s comedic play Much Ado About Nothing (nothing signifying a great deal of fuss over something of little importance) and Mean Girls which tells the story of Cady Heron, a home-schooled child of anthropologists raised in Africa who enrolls in an American high school.

            Written in iambic pentameter, the style of poetry favored by Shakespeare, the books are in a play format. If you’re like me and forgot exactly what iambic pentameter is, Doescher explains that it’s a line of poetry with a very specific syllabic patter.

            “The iamb has two syllables and pentameter mean they are five iambs in a line,” he says. “That means that iambic pentameter is a line of ten syllables.”

            Think da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, da-Dum, he says. Or to make it easier, sing the line from Simon and Garfunkel’s song that goes “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.”

            At first reading the books can be daunting but it only takes a short time to get in the rhyme of the poetry and recognize scenarios and phrases from both Shakespeare and Mean Girls and enjoy the humor.

            A natural to write these books which also includes William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Doescher describes himself as having been the high school nerd who memorized Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquys and then felt compelled to repeat them for friends, family and even to perform them while standing on his desk in English class. We have to agree with him about the nerd thing, particularly after he says that he’s been practicing speaking in iambic pentameter since high school.

Ifyougo

What: Ian Doescher talk and book signing.

When: Friday, April 26 from 6 to 7 pm

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

Cost: Free and open to the public.

FYI: To join the signing line, please purchase one of the author’s latest books, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls and William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665 or order online at andersonsbookshop.com

An American Agent: A Maisie Dobbs Novel

Jacqueline Winspear, author of The American Agent, the 15th book in her Maisie Dobbs’ series, transports us to early September 1940, as Adolf Hitler unleashed his Blitzkrieg or lighting attack on London and other United Kingdom cities, an intensive attack already used successfully in Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and France to enable an invasion to take place.  Day after day, night after night for months on end, hundreds of German bombers would fly across the Channel to wreak havoc.  Maisie and her friend, Priscilla are volunteer ambulance drivers, and on one run they are accompanied by an American war correspondent, Catherine Saxon.

Following her late-night broadcast to the US, where she describes her experience of seeing the death and destruction that the bombings have wrought on the city, Saxon is found dead in her rooms. Maisie Dobbs is brought in to conduct an undercover investigation – her presence requested by a man from the US Department of Justice, Mark Scott, who had previously saved her life in Munich, in 1938.  The story is peppered with excerpts from real broadcasts and reporting at the time.

           On a multi-city tour, Winspear will be in Chicago for a book signing on April 4. Speaking to Jane Ammeson, she talks about An American Agent and how her own past was an impetus for her series.

For readers who have never met Maisie, can you give us a brief summary?

Readers first met Maisie Dobbs in the first novel in the series – entitled Maisie Dobbs.  From a working class background, Maisie is a young woman of intellect and a keen intuitive ability, which is recognized by a friend of her employer. Dr. Maurice Blanche – a psychologist and Doctor of Forensic Medicine who consults with the police –oversees her education and entry to university, which is sponsored by her employer – but WW1 intervenes, and Maisie volunteers for nursing service, and is later wounded at a Casualty Clearing Station in France – an experience that defines her.  Later, having recovered, she becomes Blanche’s assistant, and in the first novel in the series we see her striking out on her own upon his retirement – she is a “psychologist and investigator.” Maisie is very much a woman of her day – so many young women had to be incredibly self-sufficient as the men they might have married had been lost to war. I have written extensively on this subject as it’s always interested me.

I am impressed by your vast knowledge and ability to bring us into this time period. I know your grandfather was severely injured in the Battle of the Somme and your family talked about the war. How did those experiences translate into you writing books and immersing yourself in this time period?

Family stories always have an immediacy that reading books and immersing oneself in research sometimes lacks. My grandfather was very much of his generation of men who saw the most terrible death in the trenches of WW1 France and Belgium – he never talked about it, with the exception of a couple of stories shared with my father. But I could see the wounds – his poor shrapnel-filled legs (he was still removing shrapnel splinters when he died at age77), and I could hear the wheezing of his gas-damaged lungs. And I knew he had suffered shell-shock.  Added to this were my mother’s stories of the Second World War – her experiences of being evacuated, of having to return to London, then of being bombed out time and again. And yes, of seeing death on the streets following a bombing.  The experience of listening to family stories – even from a very young age – inspired my curiosity, which later became an adult inquiry, so you could say I’ve been researching my subject since childhood.

This is your 15th book in the series.  How do you go about developing your stories? Are they mapped out or do you take an incident and place Maisie in there and let it all happen?

I think creating a story is like lighting fire. First of all, you lay down the paper and kindling, then you need a match for the flame, and you follow that with your fuel.  Often the kindling for a story is laid down years before I begin to write – because I have been waiting for the spark to light the fire and then the fuel to build the flame.  For example, I had known the true story that inspired “Elegy for Eddie” since I was a teen – of a young girl not 16 years old, a cleaner in the local brewery stables who had given birth to a baby boy while at work, and while stopping him from crying had starved his brain of oxygen. That young boy – thereafter considered “slow” – was born and grew up around horses and had a gift.  As he grew up, he could settle the most uppity horse, simply by laying a hand upon the animal – that’s how he earned a living at a time when horses were vital for commerce and transportation.  As a boy, my father knew this young man, and he told me of his later “suspicious” demise.  After I began writing the series, I knew “Eddie” would form the basis of a story – the kindling, if you will.  Then I learned more about the pre-war machinations of various powerful men close to Churchill, and the secrecy surrounding their work, whether it was in creating soft propaganda or developing fighter aircraft.  That’s when I asked the question – what if an innocent, a young man of limited intellectual ability but deep empathy stumbled across crucial classified information? Then what might happen? The flame caught and I had a fire.  But when I begin writing any story, I only know the main landing points along the way, I do not know all the details – they come as the story is written. I like to have the basic map, but I also like to “dance with the moment” and be able to respond to new ideas or information as they emerge.

Are there times you’re back in the England between the wars versus 2019?

To some extent I have to be in the years I’m writing about – I cannot be distracted by today while I’m writing.  When I’m at work, I am completely with my characters – I walk their streets, I can see what they are wearing, what they buy, what they eat, and I can hear their use of language, which is different from today.

For more information visit jacquelinewinspear.com

Ifyougo:

What: Jacqueline Winspear book signing

When: April 4 at 7 pm

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

Muse of Nightmares: Second in the Epic Fantasy Series Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer, the epic fantasy series written by Laini Taylor, began as a dream. Now Taylor, a National Book Award finalist, has just released Muse of Nightmares  (Little, Brown 2018; $19.99), the second book in the series.Laini Taylor_Author Photo_AliSmith credit

“The story has been in my mind for 20 years or more,” says Taylor, whose author photo shows her with a shock of long seriously pink hair.  “I think I dreamed Sairi, the character that came to me, who lived high above the city and I thought of her as the Muse of Nightmares. I started writing about her for my first book but then that became Lazio’s book.  But this is about Sairi, the way trauma changes us and if it is possible for a person to overcome this. Sarai doesn’t know what she’s capable of and she feels helpless, but is she?”

The journey of Sairi and Lazio is one of intrigue and mysteries (what was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? where did the gods come from, and why? and  how do they defeat a new foe?) and it’s interesting to note that as we follow Taylor’s story-telling, we often are only a few steps behind her as the story plot evolves. That’s because as much as she wants to shape her story, it often, as she builds her characters and scenes in her mind, takes on a will of its own.

Taylor says she always hopes to get to the ending she has in mind.

“But it doesn’t always work that way,” she says.

Immersed and—dare we say—co-dependent–with her characters, Taylor is sad when they make a bad choice though she can understand why they did so.

“It just give me so much empathy for them,” Taylor says.  “I ask what causes people to do that. When my characters don’t survive, I really wish I could save them, but I can’t.”

But though she doesn’t often know how her books will end or save a character, she did know that she wanted to eschew the typical epic ending of a massive battle between good and evil and instead resolve it by asking and answering a powerful question “must heroes always slay monsters or is it possible to save them?”

Ifyougo:

What:

When: Thursday, October 11 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 West Jefferson Avenue Naperville, IL

Cost: Free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Muse of Nightmares, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665.

FYI: (630) 355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

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