The Death of Mrs. Westaway: A New Psychological Thriller by Ruth Ware

Tarot cards, a threatening stranger and a mysterious will propel Hal, a young vulnerable orphan to spend her remaining cash for a railway ticket to the funeral of a woman who solicitors believe is her grandmother. Hal, who makes her precarious living reading Tarot cards, a skill she learned from her mother who was killed in a hit-and-run a few years earlier, thinks she knows better. But still, when she receives a letter indicating she is an heir to the moneyed estate, she decides to see if the same skills she uses to tell fortunes can help obtain part of her “inheritance.”

Atmospheric and compelling, The Death of Mrs. Westaway (Gallery/Scout Press $26.99; 2018), is the fourth novel of English author Ruth Ware, author of the best- selling The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game.

Ware, who is on a book tour throughout the  United States, took time out to answer the following questions.Author Photo - Ruth Ware c Gemma Day

What inspired you to write The Death of Mrs. Westaway?

I can’t put my finger on one single inspiration, but probably the key thing that defines the book for me is Hal. Having written three books about women who stumble into events more or less through no fault of their own, I wanted to write a very different kind of main character this time round – one who brings the events of the novel down upon themselves. Hal sets out to commit a crime – and in doing so sets of a nightmarish set of dominoes. That was a very conscious choice on my part!

Were you familiar with Tarot cards before you wrote this book or did you have to learn about them? And why did you decide to make them part of the story? In that vein, have you always had an interest in fortune telling?

I’m super skeptical and don’t really believe in any kind of supernatural forces so I had never had my cards read, though of course I was familiar with some of the images on tarot cards and found them very beautiful and inspiring as visual images. I had to research the meanings from scratch as I knew nothing about fortune telling, or the different kinds of tarot spreads. I really enjoyed the research though and found myself quite swept up in the different meanings. I suppose I made them part of the story because I wanted Hal to be someone who was practiced in reading people and telling them what they wanted to hear. So I tried to give her a job that fitted with that and was in some way a preparation. Making her a cynical tarot reader – one who doesn’t believe in the power of the cards but uses her skills to deceive – seemed fitting.

Your books create such a sense of foreboding–do you ever get caught up in that and experience those feelings?

Of course! Writing is like reading – you get just as caught up in the atmosphere you’re creating. But I find it’s quite hard to scare myself when I’m writing, because I know when the jump scares are going to come. I get immersed in the atmosphere, but the sense of terror I get sometimes reading other writers’ work just isn’t there, because I’m in control.

Do you plot your novels and your characters or do they evolve?

A mix of the two – I usually have a skeleton structure in my head, and I think about the characters for a long time before I start writing, so they are usually quite evolved by the time I put pen to paper. But I write very little down – they exist mainly in my head so they tend to be quite fluid and evolve as things develop on the page.

What writers have influenced you?

For this book, particularly Daphne du Maurier. I love her work.

What’s next for you? 

Another book of course! I’m writing it now, but it’s too early to tell you what it’s about…

Ifyougo:

What: Ruth Ware

When: Monday, June 4th at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 26 S La Grange Rd., La Grange, IL

FYI: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop La Grange (708) 582-6353.

 

 

 

Michael Koryta in Chicago to Talk About His New Book

Michael Koryta, the New York Times-bestselling author of 12 suspense novels of including Those Who Wish Me Dead and Rise the Dark talks with writer Jane Simon Ammeson about his just released “How It Happened” (Little Brown 2018; $27).Michael Koryta

“How It Happened” starts off with the so chilling confession and then suddenly we’re wondering okay, was it true? Is your book based on one specific case or did statistics from Project Innocence help shape the story for you or what shaped the story in your mind?

The confession in the book was inspired by a false confession that was given during the investigation of the disappearance and murder of Jill Behrman, who was a 19-year-old Indiana University freshman when she vanished on a bike ride on a beautiful spring morning in a small college town. Her bike was found near my childhood home, and I was 17 when that happened, and then I was 19 when I began to write some police beat articles about the case for the local newspaper. There was a search going on at that time based on a confession. Those memories are profound and tragic to me.

“How It Happened” is complex just like all your novels, do you plot everything in advance or does it more just flow? 

I don’t know how to outline, but I do know how to rewrite! I do many, many drafts.

And do you ever find yourself caught up in the feel of it all so that you’re where your characters are and experiencing what they’re experiencing rather than sitting at a desk writing about it? And do your characters take on a life of their own or are you in control of them?

If you don’t feel caught up in it, then it won’t be any good. If the desk doesn’t vanish, and if you don’t disappear into the story to join your characters, then how will the reader be able to have that experience? I don’t want to have any control over my characters so much as I want them to explain the story to me, and for them to surprise me. That’s the joy of it.

You’re books are so atmospheric, your characters haunted in many ways and there’s often a combination of the natural—caves, mountains, rivers, now Maine and the ghostly or the unknown. I’m familiar with Bloomington as that’s where I went to Indiana University and I love French Lick/West Baden, those marvelously restored early 20th century resorts in Southern Indiana. All this makes me  curious about how you look at these places and what makes them so haunting as if they’re characters themselves? And how/why did you choose Maine for this book?

I respond to places that have a combination of visual and emotional impact. Sometimes, that might be in an eerie or creepy way — the surreal experience of walking into another time in the West Baden Springs Hotel, or riding a boat on an underground river. In other cases, it is found in the collision of beauty and danger. This would be the Maine coast to me. I love a place that can be astonishingly beautiful in one moment, and turn threatening in the next. It allows me to bring the setting to life like a character.

Did you ever find  a book written by your female relative who was a published author back in the 1800s? What was her name?

I still haven’t been able to track one down, sadly. Jane Parker was her name. She wrote novels in the late 1800s, and was apparently well-regarded in her era, which is even more special because she was a woman writing in an age when not many women had the chance, let alone earned that critical respect. I am afraid none of her books have survived, but I will remain on the hunt!   

Will we ever get another novel set in French Lick and West Baden like “So Cold the River?

I think you will! I finally got the film rights back on SO COLD THE RIVER after it went stagnant with the studio that optioned it originally, and I am exploring ways to get that done with an independent filmmaker, and as I work on that, I keep thinking of new ideas in that area, and with those characters. I am very drawn to that area, and to the stories that abound there. I am feeling the call down there again, louder and louder.

Ifyougo:

What: Michael Koryta book signing

When: Tuesday, May 22 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.

FYI: To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, How It Happened, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665 or order online at andersonsbookshop.com/event/michael-koryta-0

 

 

Leslie Odom Jr.’s Inspiring New Book: Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning

Leslie Odom, Jr. originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical phenomenon Hamilton. Since then, he has performed for sold-out audiences, sung for the Obamas at the White House, and won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. But before he landed the role of a lifetime in one of the biggest musicals of all time, Odom put in years of hard work as a singer and an actor.

With personal stories from his life, Odom asks the questions that will help you unlock your true potential and achieve your goals even when they seem impossible. What work did you put in today that will help you improve tomorrow? How do you surround yourself with people who will care about your dreams as much as you do? How do you know when to play it safe and when to risk it all for something bigger and better?

These stories will inspire you, motivate you, and empower you for the greatness that lies ahead, whether you’re graduating from college, starting a new job, or just looking to live each day to the fullest.

Odom was most recently seen in the blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for the role of “Aaron Burr.” He is a Grammy Award winner as a principal soloist on Hamilton’s Original Broadway Cast Recording, which won the 2015 award for Best Musical Theater Album. Odom, Jr. originated the role of “Burr” in a sold-out run at The Public Theater in 2015, earning a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical.

As a recording artist, his self-titled debut album was part-funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised $40,971. The album was released in 2014 by Borderlight Entertainment, Inc. Odom has appeared on “Smash,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Gotham,” “Person of Interest,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House of Lies,” “Vanished” and “CSI: Miami.” He also starred in the feature film Murder on the Orient Express.

Leslie Odom, Jr.’s upcoming visit is part of Anderson’s Bookshops’ calendar of special author events. Anderson’s Bookshops specialize in book sales, author events, book signings, and building a sense of community, learning and fun. The store has been helping Naperville readers for six generations. Additional locations include Downers Grove, at 5112 Main Street (630)-963-2665 and La Grange, at 26 S. La Grange Rd. (708) 582-6353. A toy shop, Anderson’s Toyshop, at 111 W. Jefferson Ave., in Naperville, opened in 2016. Key to Anderson’s success has been special author events, like the March 31 program with Leslie Odom, Jr.

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home

More than just a lovely French Renaissance chateau set in amazing landscape of forests, formal gardens and mountains, Biltmore, the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt as told by Denise Kiernan in her latest book, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, is also a main character in this account of one of this country’s most amazing homes.

Comprised of four acres of floor space, Biltmore dwarfs even the most opulent McMansion of today. The numbers tell all. The home, the largest privately owned house in the U.S., has 250 rooms including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, three kitchens, 65 fireplaces and a library.

But beyond the immense magnificence of the house, Kiernan, whose previous book, The Girls of Atomic City, was a New York Times best seller, brings the house alive with stories of its owners. Meticulously detailed, Kiernan is someone who loves to immerse herself in research. But the Vanderbilt mansion in Ashville, North Carolina is also very personal. A resident of this mountain town for the last 11 years, Kiernan’s connection to the mansion goes back even further when she first visited when in high school.

“This place is unique in that it is still standing and all the original things are still in it,” says Kiernan who describes her book as asking people to go for a walk back in time.  “Many of the great mansions are gone. That’s one more reason why Biltmore is one of the main characters. Those that lived there were just passing through.”

Besides its sumptuousness as well as being a perfect example of how the very rich lived in the Gilded Age (before all those nasty income taxes made the rich just a little less rich), George Vanderbilt also was ahead of his time in that he bought up large tracks of the failing farms surrounding the estate. Then, he hired landscaping genius Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York and the University of Chicago campus, to create America’s first managed forest.

When asked what she would like readers to take away from The Last Castle, Kiernan says she’d like to instill a curiosity of our own history and that people read the book and take away a new appreciation for historic preservation.

“Everyone brings a little bit of themselves to stories they read and I hope the story of The Last Castle is relatable enough that readers will be able to engage with it in their own unique way,” says Kiernan who marvels how interconnected many of the events from the sinking of the Titanic to the invention of the Teddy Bear touch upon the home.  “I also find that no matter how much money you have, there is no protection from harrowing tragedy and personal loss. What is impressive to me is how people handle those kinds of situations.”

Ifyougo:

What: Denise Kiernan Chicago book events.

Where & When:

Anderson’s Bookshop,

123 W Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

Wednesday, September 27 at 7pm

(630) 355-2665

The University Club of Chicago

76 E. Monroe St. Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 28 at noon

Tickets available at 847-446-8880

Woman’s Athletic Club

626 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

Thursday, September 28 at 6-8 pm

312-944-6123

 

Into the Water: A New Thriller by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawking, author of the international best-selling The Girl on the Train, which was translated into 40 languages and made into a movie, will be in Chicago next Friday, May 19 to talk about her newest book, Into the Water (Riverhead Books 2017; $A tense, psychological thriller told from the different viewpoints of all those involved in the life—and possibly the death-of Nel, an artist, who either fell, jumped or was pushed into what locals call “the drowning pool,” a placid body of water by an old mill with deadly undercurrents and weeds that easily ensnare. It was a place where in Medieval times, trials by water took place.

“After being tied up, they’d toss you into the water and if you rose to the surface you were guilty and if you sank, you were innocent,” says Hawkins, who, born in Zimbabwe, now lives in London. A journalist for 15 years, she also wrote romantic comedies.

“I found that even when I was writing romances, I kept adding darker undertones,” she says. So she gave into her urges for deeper and more mysterious stories starting with

Into the Water revolves around the memories of the characters as they come to grip with the mysteries behind Nel’s death and also her life. The idea of how we all remember things differently and how our memories become our own reality intrigues her.

“I thought about how we tell the stories of our lives and how you remember something that is absolutely fundamental to who you are, and what would happen if you had misremembered it or if you disagreed with someone who remembers it as completely different,” she says.

Hawkins, who set her story in Beckford, a fictional English village dissected by a flowing river, chose water as her theme for this novel, because it fascinates so many of us. The river is a character with its own personality, one with a long evil history of luring women in particular to their deaths. She recalls thinking, when walking alongside a pretty stream, what a pretty place for a swim. But then she rounded a bend and discovered a dead animal along the shallows of the shore.

In other words, says Hawkins, nothing is as it seems.

Ifyougo:

What: Paula Hawkins in conversation with Mary Kubica

When: Friday, May 19, 7:00 PM

Where: Community Christian Church, hosted by Anderson’s Bookshop, 1635 Emerson Lane

Naperville, IL

Cost: $39.29 for one copy of “Into the Water,” event admission and a service fee

FYI: paulahawkinsandersons.brownpapertickets.com or (630) 355-2665

My Cubs: A Love Story by Scott Simon

Change is an important part of life says Scott Simon, now a devoted husband and father who at one time was
 happy being single and childless.

But for Simon, the award winning host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, there’s one change that’s just not going to happen. Enamored (or should we say obsessed) with the Chicago Cubs is a never ending constant.

“I can’t imagine not being a Cubs fan,” says Simon who grew up in Chicago and attended games with his father.  “I’ll be a Cubs fan until the hereafter. I’m convinced the Almighty God would say to me in heaven, I gave you a big test–like the trials of Abraham and that was the Cubs.”

After 108 years in the proverbial desert, Simon has written about this passion in his recently released (The Blue Rider Press, 2017; $23).

It didn’t occur to me that I’d ever write this book,” says Simon who like many of us thought our Cubbies would always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

But their enduring losses weren’t because of a goat says Simon.

Sure, Cubs authorities kicked Billy Sianis and the baby goat he nursed back to health out of the box office seats that had cost him $7.20 during the 1945 World Series against Detroit. There was talk that the goat, named Murphy, smelled like a…well…goat. But the cops and the ushers had always accepted free drinks at the Sianis’s tavern which he’d renamed—in honor of his goat–the Billy Goat Tavern. Sianis was angry and for years told reporters he sent a telegram to Phil Wrigley reading “Who stinks now?” at the end of each season when the Cubs failed to make the Series.

But the real reason they didn’t play in the World Series for another 71 years has to do with racism.

“Historically, though it eventually got hung on the Sianis family but no one at the time thought that,” says Simon who when he was writing his book Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball learned that the Boston Red Sox had a chance to sign the Hall of Famer three months before the Brooklyn Dodgers added him to their roster in 1947. “Ernie Banks and Gene Baker didn’t come to the Cubs as their first black players until 1953. They could have signed some great players before that but they didn’t. So it wasn’t the Curse of the Billy Goat but the curse of not signing African Americans until later that made the Cubs lose.”

Simon isn’t sure if the Cubs will repeat their victory.

“I think the hardest thing to do is repeat a professional championship, everyone thinks they figured out how to beat you,” he says. “But the core of this team is signed and is very good. But, as anyone will tell you, only so much of what gets you to the World Series you realize there are so many unforeseen things that can happen like injuries is talent.”

Even if they don’t win—ever again—Simon won’t waiver in his devotion to his team.
“I would have continued to be a Cubs fan even if they never won,” he says. “And I will always be a Cubs fan not matter what.”

Ifyougo:

What: Scott Simon has several book signings in the Chicago area.

When & Where:

April 11 at 6 p.m.

The Seminary Co-op Bookstore

5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL

April 12 at 3:45 p.m.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Conference Center

130 East Randolph Street, First Floor,

Chicago, IL

April 12 at 7 p.m.

Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville

123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

April 13 at 7 p.m.

Barnes and Noble

55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, IL