Spotlight on Nia Forrester and her new release, FOUR

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Some of you already know that Nia Forrester is one of my favorite authors. I 1-click all of her books and I’m never disappointed. As soon as I found out she was releasing FOUR, I made sure to pre-order it. Get to know Nia and FOUR.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 09.39.12When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer? 

I don’t know that writing begins as a realization. I just know that I always have. From the time I could string together coherent sentences and write them down, that’s what I did. I remember writing something like poetry when I was about four. Something about raindrops and the sounds they made. I only remember because I had an aunt who was so impressed, she acted as though I’d split the atom and kept reciting the poem to everyone and saying how amazing it was. I guess that makes her my first reviewer. 

Which authors have been your literary inspiration? 

Some writers I admire are Donna Tartt for her keen insights into human nature; Anne Rice for her rich detail, Agatha Christie for her tightly woven plots, Stephen King for his ability to use simple almost mundane prose to convey situations that are anything but mundane and also his ability to create equally fascinating characters as plots. And more recently, I’ve enjoyed Lisa Jewell and Peter Swanson’s mystery suspense novels.  My classic favorites are Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston. My by-far favorite independent author is Jacinta Howard, because she doesn’t just share characters and their stories but portrays a world that’s rarely seen in contemporary fiction – young, Black, talented, and socially-conscious hipsters (who sometimes fall in love with each other).

What’s a typical writing day like for you? Could you describe it for us?

I wake up thinking about writing, and where the characters and story were when I last left them. I start counting in my head all my other obligations for the day, and the hours I can spend writing. I think about the characters as I shower (which is where some really great ideas come, interestingly) and when I get out, I may scribble down the thoughts that came to me. I work a day job, so I don’t write (much) while there. But when I get home, I go immediately to my computer and turn it on. I set the intention to write, even if I don’t get many words down. But on average, I think I get about 2,000—3,000 per evening on paper. And maybe about 1,000 of those words survive the evening.

Writing CaveWhere is your favourite place to write?

My home office. Sometimes in my bed, if I use my iPad or Surface. Things don’t work out well when I write from my bed.

Which themes recur in your writing? 

My most frequently recurring theme, I think, is that imperfections and even glaring flaws in who a person is, or was, shouldn’t deny them a chance at happiness. Another would be that, contrary to popular wisdom, you can become your best self through and with another person; and there is no rule that says you have to self-perfect before finding love, and growing in love. I also like to insert a lot about how our families can make us, and how we can make our own families.

What inspired the stories in FOUR? How did FOUR come into being?

Quite honestly, FOUR is my gift to readers. The characters in that book are the ones that they ask about the most, who they constantly refer to over and over again, and who, I think resonated with the largest group of people. So, though I have other stories an ideas that I am eager to get to, I wanted to give my readers deep thanks, for reading about these people and their lives, for loving them, and for letting me know they loved them.

Of the four couples in focus in FOUR, is there one that you would call your favourite? Why?

I think Tracy and Brendan. Because Tracy is so outwardly difficult to love, even while she loves fiercely, and permanently. And because Brendan is her soulmate, her complementary other half who could not be more different from her, and could not be more perfect for her.

Many writers have said they’ve found it difficult to focus on writing in the current political and social climate. Has our current state of affairs affected your writing? 

It is difficult to think about relationships and love in a time when we’re having so much difficulty relating to each other. I can focus on writing only if I incorporate some elements of our time into what I write. I can’t write as pure escapism, and I suspect that the readers who dislike my work may dislike it in part because it doesn’t offer that pure escape. When I write, the people in my books may lie, cheat on partners, make ill-considered decisions, have sketchy pasts, or are just plain stupid. They also interact with the world as we do. They confront racism, colorism, classism, homophobia, abuse … So, I can focus, but the work definitely takes on a darker, more edgy tone in times like this.

Is there a story you would love to tell but haven’t dared to write yet? Tell us about it. Do you think you’ll ever write it?

I want to write a period piece. About what it was like to be Black in America in the early 1900s, when there we were almost one generation past Emancipation, and beginning to embrace the idea of having full agency, or ”freedom.” I want to write a story centered on the journey, hopes and dreams of a young woman in that time, her work, her loves, her ambitions. I may write it, but it’s so perfect in my head that it’s tough to make the leap to putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

What’s next for you? Upcoming 2019 releases? Events?

I may do two events in 2019. Wine with Writers, which I do with Lily Java, Rae Lamar and Jacinta Howard, and one other, as yet to be determined.  As far as upcoming releases, I have three or four that I know I want to do, and plan to continue writing my ’Shorts’ as inspiration strikes me.

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Four couples, four transitions, four seasons of marriage …

Grace

Most couples wouldn’t have weathered one mistake of the kind Shawn made when he and Riley first got married, let alone emerge with a commitment that’s stronger, a beautiful family and a love that’s even deeper. Is there any way their relationship can survive mistake number two?

Balance

Whatever Brendan wants, Brendan gets. It’s an arrangement Tracy doesn’t mind, because he provides everything she needs: love, financial security and the comfort of never having to work outside the home. But now, the most important thing she wants, he doesn’t have the time—or maybe even the will—to give. With a relationship built on giving all of herself, is it fair to now ask for a piece back?

Growth

Robyn’s career is in a growth-spurt just as Chris’ seems to be at its natural end. No longer empire-building, he’s struggling with his new reality, and the need for a sense of purpose separate from his work. His wife seems way too busy to notice. That is, until someone else does. 

Renewal

Once a mistress, now just a suburban wife and working mother, Keisha doesn’t recognize herself most days. The problem is, Jayson doesn’t either. If he’s reading her right, she wants out. And unless she’s mistaken, he might not mind too much if she decided to go.

The ‘Commitment’ series finale.

On Sale October 21

Pre-OrderEnter to Win

About Nia Forrester

Nia Forrester lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA where, by day, she is an attorney working on public policy and by night, she crafts woman-centered fiction that examines the complexities of life, love and the human condition.

She welcomes feedback and email from her readers at authorniaforrester@gmail.com or tweets @NiaForrester.

 

AUTHOR SITEFACEBOOKTWITTERGOODREADS | AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

Review: Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 12.37.09Some books simply speak to you. That was the case for me with Halsey Street by Naima Coster.

Penelope’s story of leaving Pittsburgh and returning home to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her father, whose health has deteriorated almost as much as their family home on Halsey Street.

The Brooklyn Penelope returns to is undergoing gentrification. All the old businesses, including the record shop her father owned, have disappeared, as have many of the neighbours she knew, replaced now by hipsters and upwardly mobile white urban professionals with the cash to pay higher rents and property prices. Penelope tries to find her way–in her personal life, with her father and the past–as her old neighborhood transforms around her–for good and bad.

Coster does a fantastic job of pulling the reader into this story of family, loss and change. She captures perfectly Penelope’s frustration at her situation and her father’s, at the attraction she feels for her landlord’s husband, and her uncertainty of what the rest of life has in store for her. The characterisation and story arc are detailed without being overwrought. Quite simply, this is prose that sparkles.

Highly recommended!

My rating:

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Congratulations, Kazuo Ishiguro

My favourite day

Today is one of my favourite days of the year: when the Nobel Laureate in Literature is announced by the Swedish Academy. Last year, I was extremely disappointed with their choice of Bob Dylan. For me, he was not really worthy of being bestowed with the honour of being a Nobel laureate and his indifference regarding acknowledging the honour and coming to Stockholm to accept it seemed to verify that even he didn’t think he should have received it.

“… a writer of great integrity.”

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Kazuo Ishiguro (Source: Paris Review)

This year is a different story. Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of The Buried Giant, The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go (just to name a few) is the 2017 Nobel Laureate in Literature.

Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, described Ishiguro as a writer of great integrity and said of his writing style that it was a mix of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, with a touch of Marcel Proust stirred in. I think that sums it up perfectly. His writing is elegant, sometimes deceptively uncomplicated, and full of resonance.

I first stumbled upon Kazuo Ishiguro’s work during my last year of grad school. I needed something to distract me while I was finishing my MFA thesis. I borrowed a copy of The Remains of the Day from the library and fell in love with Ishiguro’s beautiful sense of language and storytelling. I promised myself I would read more of his work, but that didn’t happen again until many years later, when I picked up a copy of Never Let Me Go while on my way to the US. I read the entire novel while in transit, then began re-reading it once I’d arrived in Philadelphia just for the sheer pleasure of re-immersing myself in the world he’d created.

Today, to celebrate the announcement, I treated myself to a Kindle copy of Nocturnes, Ishiguro’s short story collection published in 2009. I’m looking forward to being captivated by his way with words and rich character depiction.

If you haven’t read any of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work, check out this list of his titles and see if anything strikes your fancy:

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 20.35.34A Pale View of Hills

An Artist of the Floating World

The Remains of the Day

The Unconsoled

When We Were Orphans

Never Let Me Go

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

The Buried Giant

Review: The Shooting by James Boice

theshootingcoverfinalThe Shooting by James Boice is one of those books that overwhelms your every sense. With its focus firmly set on America’s pervasive gun culture, The Shooting takes on what leads up to and the consequences of what happens when a young man is shot by a paranoid man with a guns.

Tightly written and almost uncomfortable to read at times, The Shooting forces readers to view the bruality and rawness of what makes Lee Fischer go from being a normal little boy longing for his father to come home to the wealthy, paranoid man with a gun in a penthouse who shoots the building superintendent’s sleepwalking son.

Don’t be put off by the rawness of the language, that is the beauty of The Shooting. Boice confronts the reader with bare bones honesty of his writing and his choice of subject. 

It’s not a feel-good novel. It’s a novel that confronts the reality of America today–a country where you are more likely to be shot simply for being the wrong color than for committing a crime, a country where the Second Amendment’s original intent has been bastardized. James Boice has an amazing writer’s voice, but it will not speak to everyone. Prepare to be challenged as you read. This is not a book for people who want escapism, but it’s a book which *should* be required reading for people sitting on both sides of the fence regarding gun control.

A must-read!

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Review: Olivay by Deborah Reed

OlivayI stumbled upon Deoborah Reed’s Olivay thanks to fellow writer and Matera brainstormer, S.G. Redling. A few days ago, she mentioned it in a Facebook post, and it caught my eye. I loved the premise: a woman, widowed one year, brings home a stranger and spends the night with him–the next day bombs explode in Los Angeles, not far from where she lives–and the stranger she brought home may have saved her life…and he may have been involved.

Olivay is a literary thriller that–even with its very tight timeline–slowly unfurls, not rushing to reveal all its secrets. Even with the backdrop of the novel being set against a terrorist attack during the LA Marathon that is exacerbated by the Santa Ana winds and wildfire, Olivay tells more than just the story of a terrorist attack. It is the story of a woman struggling to emerge from her grief. It is the story of two people finding one another. It is the story of discovering that your marriage is not what you thought it was. It is the story of a murder and of reinventing oneself.

What I love about this novel is that both of the characters–Olivay and Henry–are so

Author Deborah Reed

Author Deborah Reed

marvelously flawed. Both are unreliable yet vulnerable. Sometimes both are so solicitous of one another and yet capable of cruelty. Olivay recounts at one point that both her husband and her mother accused her of being full of meanness. There are times when her behavior towards Henry seems to confirm this and yet, there are other times when she is so tender towards him–even when she begins to feel suspicious of his skittishness.

This is one of those pageturner novels–seriously, I had a hard time setting aside my Kindle because I didn’t want to stop reading. And it’ll have you guessing as you try to figure out Henry’s–and at times, Olivay’s–intentions. The descriptions–of the bombings and its aftermath are so rich and so powerful… Of course it will remind you at times of that surreal, disconnected and yet hypersensitive state many of us were in following the September 11th attacks and the Boston Marathon. Reed’s use of how the media reports misinformation and retractions is especially important to the plot and helps to increase the novel’s frenetic tension.

Olivay is a fantastic, thought-provoking novel to lose yourself in this summer. Make sure you get a friend to read it at the same time–you will want to discuss it as soon as you finish reading it!

Loved it!

My rating?

5_Star

Another book found via Twitter: review of True Vines by Diana Strinati Baur

ImageA few months ago I saw a post on Twitter from Gemelli Press and the title of the book it mentioned–True Vinesintrigued me. Being the consummate book nerd that I am, I became completely engulfed with finding out about this book. I tried to do so on my iPhone while sitting on the subway but the WiFi connection kept disappearing (what a luxury problem!), so I decided to wait until I was in the office to continue my search.

True Vines is a beautifully written novel by Diana Strinati Baur that tells the story of Meryl, an expat American dealing with the sudden death of her Italian winemaker husband. Instead of remaining in Italy and taking care of the vineyard, Meryl returns to her hometown in Pennsylvania, where she hopes to start fresh and repair the strained relationship she has with her sister, Janie. But already from the onset, Meryl begins to doubt whether coming home was a good idea. She is unable to push aside the memories of her life in Italy and, in her hometown, she keeps bumping into the very people who led to her exodus from Pennsylvania in the first place. But even with difficulties of readjusting to life in America after having lived a much freer life in Italy, Meryl finds that sometimes life has a way of surprising her with new acquaintances and recollections of the life she had prior to meeting Francesco, the Italian who changed her life.

Each chapter in True Vines reads like a short story. And perhaps it’s the references to winemaking that make me wish I had a glass of red wine–a barbera perhaps?–and a plate of antipasti to savour while I read.

So if you’re looking for literary women’s fiction that will touch your heart and transport you to a vineyard in autumnal fog or a sleepy town in Pennsylvania nestled on the banks of the Delaware River, then you should pick up a copy of True Vines. It’s beautifully written and paints evocative images with light, deft strokes. 

My rating? A definite 5-star novel. Absolutely loved it!

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Happy reading (and writing)!