National Novel Writing Month

When I’m out talking about my book Searching for Nora, the question I get the most is: how long did it take you to write this? People asking me are usually holding the printed version, a hefty, 400-pager. When I tell them it was a twelve-year effort, they shake their heads sympathetically. Wow. Twelve years, locked in my office, toiling away. The truth is, I spent some of that time on book-related projects other than writing – like finding a new agent and sending the book out to small publishers. I also spent time skiing and kayaking, traveling to China… 


In the Land of Lutefisk

While researching my novel Searching for Nora, I was often asked “are you Norwegian?” The book is set in Norway and Minnesota, and so I traveled to both places to interview scholars, historians and Norwegian American descendants. The Norwegians, in particular, were curious about my heritage and sometimes spoke Norwegian to test my understanding. But I could only offer a faint smile, because I wasn’t Norwegian American any more than I was Italian American. I didn’t grow up attending lutefisk dinners in a knitted sweater and singing Norwegian table graces. Along the way, however, I came to wish I had…. 


Channeling Ibsen

The very first word of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the play my book is built upon, is “hide.” Nora Helmer, the heroine, is talking about hiding the Christmas tree from the children. But that one word opens a door to how she prevaricates, shades the truth and masquerades as a silly, incompetent wife. Indeed, as the play unspools, it’s clear that all the main characters are hiding things from each other. This gap between appearance and what is actually true grows with each act, and finally splits the Helmer’s marriage apart. The entire disaster starts with that single command,… 


Historical Fiction and Disappearing Birds

When I was working on my novel Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House, I spent many hours driving around the beautiful open prairie of western Minnesota and the Dakotas. I grew quite enchanted by the land, with its huge bowl of sky and tall grass dancing in the wind. I was particularly fond of the birds I spotted – goldfinch, grasshopper sparrows, bobolink – that burst from the scrub along the road as I whooshed by. I loved the yellow-headed blackbirds best. Being from the east coast, I’d never seen one before. Sometimes I drove along the empty roads just… 


Ten Traits of a Great Book Club Book

  Have you ever sat in book club and wondered why there’s little to say? Not every book is a great book club read. Here are the traits that I believe make books potent book club material: 1.  A strong lead character: Your hero/heroine needs to be after something; they need to be driven and dynamic, either solving problems, upsetting the social order, or leading the way. 2.  Give the lead character flaws: This is why Tolstoy wrote about unhappy families. People who are already leading exemplary lives are not very interesting (unless they give them up). Characters need to… 



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