Author Archive

April 2016 Must-Reads

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

April 2016 Must-Reads from

Just in case you follow me on GoodReads and started to worry that I’m not reading anymore, I want to reassure you that I’m flipping the pages just as frantically as before. I started to realize that it is anticlimactic to share all my reviews there first and then round them up at the end of the month so I am hoping to add a little element of surprise to these monthly round-ups.

If you are a regular reader, you may have suspected what I have been reading thanks to our Sundays With Writers (SWW) series. It’s been so fun to interview these authors and you can expect lots more interviews in the upcoming weeks. I’m so excited to share those with you.

As you can see, April has a little something for everyone when it comes to my must-reads list. I took advantage of a few advanced readers from authors, read some of the most buzzed about books this year, and rediscovered an author I have loved for many years who released her first YA book.

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration!

7 Must-Read Books for April 2016

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

What starts as a mother’s collection of her child’s artwork and memories that people find enchanting & homey in the beginning of this family saga, we later discover it quickly balloons into a hoard of unlivable proportions for one woman and those who love her.

Hoarding is something that intrigues many, but few want to go into the trenches with a family and discover why someone feels compelled to keep things. This book dives into the dysfunction that grows from the loss of a child, the leaving of grown children, and the filling of a loneliness that only these objects seem to provide. There were some shocking secrets that came into play at the end of the book although you got the sense that things weren’t right from the beginning. A solid read with a lot of meat for a book club discussion.  Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to Breathe By Holly Seddon

I received an ARC from Netgalley- all thoughts & opinions are my own!

Fans of The Girl on the Train will enjoy another unreliable narrator in this strong debut. Alex is an alcoholic who has watched her career dwindle away due to her inability to stop drinking. She is assigned a story and comes to research the topic of people in comas and recognizes Amy, a case that she remembers all too well. Amy was assaulted in the 90’s as a teen and has remained in a coma since then. Alex becomes obsessed with uncovering who hurt Amy and wants to try to find  who did this to her. But someone doesn’t want her to find out and will do whatever it takes to stop her.

I was really excited about this one because I love a good thriller. I found it enjoyable and a nice escape- this would be a good one to pack in your beach bag. I was disappointed to read that much of information about brain activity in comas was actually created by the author and not actually factual, but I still found it to be a nice break from heavy books. Read more…

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (deal alert- this one is on sale for just $1.99!!!)

If I had to pick a favorite this month, it would be this one. Please, please, please read it and come back and tell me what you think! This book is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.  This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart. I could not put this book down and read it in a single day.

Be sure to check out my interview with Jeff about this book. Want a fun fact? He wrote the book on his iPhone! Read More…

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

If there is one buzz book this year, this is it! As a debut novelist, Cynthia signed a one million dollar contract for this book and it has already been optioned for film. I don’t want to give too much more away on all of that though because Cynthia joins me this week in our interview series! Be sure to check back on Sunday for the scoop on this incredible novelist.

Do you love dysfunctional family stories? I know I do! This book reminded me a lot of Jonathan Tropper’s, This is Where I Leave You. This book centers around four grown children and the inheritance (AKA- The Nest!) that they are supposed to be inheriting. Leo, the unreliable alcoholic sibling in the story, ends up getting in a terrible car accident and has to pay the accompanying passenger a large sum to keep the story quiet. His mother gives him the majority of the inheritance as hush money for the car accident, unbeknownst to his siblings.

The story then really unfolds with all of the siblings and what this inheritance would have meant to them is uncovered. As a reader you see what life looks like without the money they always planned on. No spoilers, but imagine that you had made financial mistakes, but always knew you would have a large sum to bail you out and find out that the money doesn’t exist. Awful, isn’t it?

I think some people will find the ending a little dissatisfying, but I also know that most dysfunctional family stories don’t have tidy endings. I loved it- laughed a lot and sympathized with many characters. This was a great escape! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

I love being part of a local book club and this past month we read, All Things Cease to Appear. I think it is important to set expectations with this one. Do you remember Everything I Never Told You (I interviewed the author too!)? Well, I felt like the setup of this book is similar. We are opening with someone being accused of murdering their wife and then working our way out from there. Some people get disappointed when things work in this direction (maybe thinking it takes away from the mystery of it all?), but I really loved that it opened this way and then the reader discovers more and more of the motive as the story unfolds.

The book opens with the murder of Catherine as the police began questioning the most obvious of suspects… her husband. The book builds out the story of this couple from the purchase of this farmhouse filled with secrets, the failing marriage, and George’s strange double life.

This book is a really deep character study into a sociopath. Brundage writes this book so well that things like the home, for example, become a character unto itself. This is slow, but worthy of the pacing with rich characters. I couldn’t put it down.

That said, I think readers may be unhappy with how the story works out. I know I was a little too. That is not to discredit Brundage or her incredible writing, it’s just not the big bang ending I had hoped for. She also does not use quotations around the words people are speaking. It took awhile for me to get the hang of that and you don’t want to space out when you are reading it when there is a lot of dialogue because you will forget who is talking.

If you are looking for a book with strong characters and a good ghost story, you’ll love it. Bonus!! Elizabeth will be joining me for a Sundays With Writers this month! She has a crazy real ghost story and a house that inspired this book. Don’t miss it! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Have you read any books by Julie Buxbaum? She was one of my absolute favorite writers and then many years have passed with no books from her. Eternal sadness. I was so thrilled to see a book from her back on the bookshelves and with a surprise…it’s her YA book! Don’t worry, I am pursuing her for the scoop on this one and will be featuring her in our interview series this month.

This is the story of a teenager named Jessie, the loss of her incredible mom, and the abrupt new marriage of her father that relocates them to Los Angeles. When her father meets a woman from his support group, he elopes and moves them into the wealthy woman’s home, switching Jessie into the wealthy prep school that her new stepbrother attends. Of course, Jessie doesn’t fit in at all.

When she starts receiving emails from SN (shortened from Somebody Nobody) offering her help and support in these uncharted waters, a relationship blooms and becomes a huge support for Jessie. The reader gets to read this beautiful, hilarious, and always sweet exchange. When Jessie wants to meet SN in person though, the reader is led on the journey with Jessie. Is SN her soulmate? Is SN even real? I guess you will have to read to find out! This is a great one to pack in your beach bag this summer. Delightfully sweet and everything I love about Buxbaum’s writing! Read More…

4 Out of 5 Stars

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

I received an ARC from Netgalley- all thoughts & opinions are my own!

I am a huge fan of Mary Kubica- her thrillers never disappoint me (read my interview with Mary here- it is one of our most pinned posts!!).  The Good Girl remains one of my favorite books from her! Don’t You Cry is about the disappearance of Quinn’s roommate, Esther. As Quinn tries to piece together why Esther has disappeared, she begins to suspect that Esther is targeting her and plotting Quinn’s own death. Meanwhile, Alex is growing up with an alcoholic father and working as a dishwasher, when a mysterious woman appears in the coffee shop he works at and he finds himself drawn to her. The two storylines inevitably pull together as deep family secrets are revealed in this twisty book. Read more…

4 Out of 5 Stars

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Amy’s Notebook 05.04.16

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

While Kitchen via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom


Kitchen goals.

Passion in the margins- a beautiful reminder.

Eating like Gwyneth Paltrow- I gotta admit. I’m feeling a little inspired (except for the breath thing).

The season’s most exciting fiction reads.

What happens when fashion becomes fast, disposable, and cheap. Exactly why the capsule wardrobe has become so important to me!

I’m feeling inspired to make one of these for our home.

The danger of protecting our kids from unhappiness.

Don't toss the tops via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn


Never toss the tops on these 5 veggies.

I loved the movie Brooklyn (and that book too!). How cute is this gallery wall inspired by the film?

​​From a father on the poverty line to a CEO millionaire on what they can afford.

Hoarding is a serious disorder and it is getting worse.

The poor don’t need our pity.

This was a really compelling piece.

American Psycho the musical? I’m intrigued.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!


Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

I am so excited to be partnering this year with the Florida Department of Citrus to celebrate National OJ Day today.  In celebration of this fun day, I wanted to create an interactive way you can enjoy a glass of FLOJ and craft up a cute funny faces cup with your kids.

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Did you know that one glass of Florida Orange Juice provides a total of 5 amazing nutrients in every glass? In just one glass you have Taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and No Added Sugar!

More importantly for me, as a busy mom always striving to get our fruits and veggies into our diet, it’s good to know that a single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice counts as one of your daily recommended servings of fruit.

We wanted to celebrate National OJ Day in an interactive way so we have loads of cute printables for you to decorate your own Florida Orange Juice cup. A serving of fruit AND a fun way to keep kids busy? #winning

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Supplies Needed:

Free Funny Faces Printable (DOWNLOAD HERE!!)


Glue Stick

Clear plastic cups

Florida Orange Juice


  1. Print out our funny faces printable and have your child cut out the different mouths, shapes, noses, & Captain Citrus action graphics to decorate their cup. This is a fantastic way for your child to practice cutting.
  2. Have your child flip each piece over and cover it in glue using their glue stick.
  3. Finish by applying the pieces to the clear cups. Don’t forget to fill your glass with Florida Orange Juice

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

How fun is this? We hope that this post inspires you to celebrate today with your family. If that wasn’t fun enough today we are giving away a Florida Department of Citrus kit to one lucky reader. Follow the instructions in the widget below to enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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Adore Your Wardrobe

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Adore Your Wardrobe Membership

One of my dearest blogging friends has been working on a course series for women that I have been so excited to share about with you. The course series is called, Adore Your Wardrobe, and it is designed to help women discover their own personal sense of style and find the right clothing for them.  It’s a beautifully shot video e-course series that will walk you through everything you need to know about how to look your best always.

In February, Kelly shared with me the course series and I requested that I have full access to review it. I love her, she’s one of my dearest friends, but I also want to be sure that any program I am vouching for is one that I have done myself.  After going through the series, I can honestly say, this is the PERFECT course if you have always struggled with picking the right clothing for you, if you don’t know how to put outfits together, or if you are unsure what cuts of clothing are right for you.


One of the biggest things that people tell me is that they LOVE my capsule wardrobes, but they don’t know how to do this for themselves. I feel like I have a strong personal sense of style and have learned how to translate that into my capsule, but I know that someone else might have that desire for a slimmed down wardrobe, yet have no clue how to do this for themselves.


I was so excited to share this with you when it originally launched and then my health decided to tank on me.  In spite of everything,  I was determined to head to a conference this week, mainly because Kelly and I were rooming together and I can’t imagine not being with her.  The truth is, not only is she an amazing business woman, but she is an incredibly loyal friend.

When I wasn’t feeling up to doing anything, she would share a pizza in our room and gab instead.

Or ditch a night of dancing and eat a burger with me instead.

Or forfeit a fancy lunch at the Ritz to grab Chinese takeout in our room instead.

Now that I think about it, I might be using food as a form of comfort.

As fashion questions would arise from her series I would ask her stuff (from my bed while shoveling food in my face).

“Hey, Kelly, that whole should I wear white or ivory thing…I’m not sure. Look at me, what do you think is the best white for me?” Or “Kelly, I forgot jewelry for my Rent the Runway dress for tonight, should I have bangs or no bangs? How can I distract people from my lack of styling?” Or “Kelly, I’m a pear, right? Let’s be honest, I am a pear.” She would answer all my questions and give me incredible tips.

Now I know she can’t be everyone’s roommate, but she has a Facebook group that you get to join after you take her course and you can ask those kinds of questions and ask other members anything you need help with. That means you can basically be Kelly’s roommate and ask her all the things that you need to know in a private setting with people who are figuring out all this fashion stuff too. You can post something you want to buy or try on something in a dressing room and get feedback on if it is the right wardrobe piece for you. How awesome is that?

Some of the information that I found most invaluable was how to pick the perfect pair of jeans, what neckline looks best for your body type, discovering which colors work best for you, and recommendations on wardrobe splurges and what to save on. This is about finding the right fit, not promoting a brand or even her own personal style. These are tips you can take with you no matter where you shop! Did I mention she partnered with Nordstrom so you can have someone help you locally right at your very own store? Ah-mazing!

Here’s What’s Included In Adore Your Wardrobe

Adore Your Wardrobe is a “video course” designed to transform the way you think about clothes and put outfits together.

In this 30-day course, you’ll get the following:

  • Dedicated Fashion Strategy For You. Adore Your Wardrobe is not a one-size-fits-all class. We know every person is different. You will use key formulas to create a fashion strategy that works for YOU.
  • 9 Instructional and Informative Videos and Written Lessons. These lessons will reframe the way you think about fashion and how it relates to your own body.
    • Lesson #1: Getting Personal With Measurements
    • Lesson #2: Determining Your Unique Body Type & How To Create Balance and Proportion
    • Lesson #3: Laying The Right Foundation
    • Lesson #4: Jeans – How To Find a Pair You Love
    • Lesson #5: Anatomy of a Shirt – Necklines & Length Matter
    • Lesson #6: 11 Items to Splurge On (And Four To Save On)
    • Lesson #7: Create A Closet You Adore
    • Lesson #8: Rule of Four
    • Lesson #9: Putting It All Together
  • Worksheets and Printable Resources. These worksheets are where the real work happens. The lessons teach you the fashion formulas, the worksheets are where you put them into practice.
  • Access to the PRIVATE Facebook Group. If the videos and worksheets are the course, then the Facebook Group is the lab. Connect with other Adore Your Wardrobe Makeover-ees and share resources, encourage one another, and make new friendships. Plus, have access to fashion coaches to answer your questions.
  • Special Bonus #1: One-Of-A-Kind Wardrobe Planner. Fashion isn’t spontaneous, it’s planned. With the course, you will be given a printable wardrobe planner, so that you can plan your outfits in advance, saving precious time getting ready.
  • Special Bonus #2: Shopping Dos and Don’ts. You’ll receive a cheat sheet full of items that you should buy and others you should stay away from, making sure you never make a “bad purchase” ever again.
  • Special Bonus #3: A Masterclass on Discovering The Right Colors To Wear.Wearing the right color is so important and yet, very few articles have been written about it. You’ll discover the right colors for you, so you always look healthy and vibrant.
  • Special Bonus #4: Facebook LIVE Chats. Got a question? Kelly will have an answer. And she will give it to you in LIVE time.
  • Special Bonus #5: Nordstrom VIP Experience. Nordstrom and Adore Your Wardrobe have an exclusive collaboration that allows students a VIP experience at their local Nordstrom store.

The cost is $69 and that’s it- no additional membership fees. Once you pay, you are a member for life! 

I am happy to answer any questions that you might have about my experience with the program. I, TRULY, only promote things that I really love. If you are wanting to take a capsule wardrobe adventure with me, but need help picking your wardrobe items, this series is for you!

Sign Up HERE!!!

*I am an affiliate of this program, but only promote things I truly love- promise!

Community Reads for April

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

April Community Must-Reads from

It’s time for another great gathering of what YOU have been reading. I am constantly inspired by your selections and looking forward to loading my book back up with so many of these after reading your reviews on your favorite picks for March.

Just as a reminder, if you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists. By joining this group, you can also take part in a REALLY awesome online book club- I wouldn’t want you to miss this fun discussion and exploration of a new book each month.

My hope is to inspire you to connect with at least one incredible book this year and I hope you will enjoy this new feature with even more reads each month!

Eligible by Curtis Sittnfeld

Read It: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Recommended by: Jennifer

I read (and LOVED), Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel “Eligible”. It’s a modern day retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and though I’m typically not a fan of retellings (why rewrite a plot…write a new one!), this one was smart, topical and very fun to read.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Read It: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Recommended by: Kim

Circling the Sun is a beautifully written historical novel about the extraordinary life of Beryl Markham…her childhood growing up on a horse farm in Kenya, her marriages and love affairs, and her life as a horse trainer and pilot.


Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Read It: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Recommended by: Kim

This nonfiction account of people living in the Annawadi slum in Mumbai, India is both captivating and heartbreaking. This book really opened my eyes to the reality of life as a slum dweller and the amount of corruption that exists there.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Read It: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Recommended By: Rhonda

I absolutely loved it!

Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Read It: Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Recommended By: Christi

I read “Glory Over Everything,” the sequel to The Kitchen House. Good book but a little predictable. (I was obsessed with “The Kitchen House!”) It is still absolutely worth reading though!

Water from My Heart by Charles Marti

Read It: Water from My Heart by Charles Martin

Recommended By: Steph

I just hate to put this one down! His stories grip my heart!

The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

Read It: The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

Recommended by: Rebecca

I read an ARC of The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta and really enjoyed it. It made me want to read more by her! Here’s my short synopsis: Prosecutor searches for missing college girl and discovers that the fraternity involved is known as a “rape factory.”

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

Read It: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

Recommended by: Enid

This was an impulse buy when it was a Kindle Deal of the Day. It was a good read- I think it was a pretty accurate portrayal as to how a 9-14 year old would deal with such a horrible disease, treatment, and resulting disfigurement- not bothering to think about some major things, and obsessing over some relatively minor things. There were lots of beautiful descriptions and phrases, and in the “about the author” at the end, I found out she was a poet. I also found out that she died young, so I quickly looked her up and discovered that Grealy is the person Pratchett writes about in Truth and Beauty, and that Grealy’s sister was furious as to how Pratchett portrayed Grealy in that book.

Bright Side by Kim Holden

Read It: Bright Side by Kim Holden

Recommended by: Rebecca

A girl leaves for college, falls in love. Sounds ordinary, right? … but fortunately for the readers, the story does not end there because both of them have a secret. Will they trust each other enough to reveal their true selves? And when secrets are revealed, Some will heal you … And some will end you. There is also a sequel to this one called, Gus.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Read It: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson (audio version here)

Recommended by: Enid

This was a fun book to listen to- the reader did a great job with the voices, especially Frank’s. Frank was an awesome character, but Alice was a little too Mary Poppins-like for my taste. I felt the ending was abrupt- perhaps this means the author plans on a sequel. This was a great quick read. (editor’s note: check out our author interview!)

The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon

Read It: The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon

Recommended By: Amanda

This was a fascinating account by a neuroscientist who is convinced people are shaped by their genetics (nature) until he discovers that he has the brain scan of a psychopath….and realizes there may be more to “nurture” than he previously thought. Super interesting and not too technical to just enjoy his story.

A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary

Read It: A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary

Recommended By: Jill

I read The Girl from Yamhill, a memoir by Beverly Cleary. It was my favorite portrayal of life during the Great Depression. She was funny, talented, honest. I loved it. After the first three or four chapters I couldn’t put it down. It isn’t gossipy or overly detailed, it’s a story well-told about making sense of childhood and the adults around you during a very different culture.

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

Read It: The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

Recommended By: Tina

Gracy is an amazing woman having kept the secrets of her husband and the mothers she cared for even when it could have had a serious impact on her own life. I loved this book. One of my favorites this year.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Read It: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Recommended By: Julie

I’m currently reading “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton. A line from the book I will save is, “(Cassandra) always hid when she read, though she never knew quite why. It was as if she couldn’t shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong.” Don’t we all feel a little like this?? I love this line.

Into the Dim by Janet Taylor

Read It: Into the Dim by Janet Taylor

Recommended by: Shannon’s Bookworms

Into the Dim is a wonderful time traveling, action – adventure, mystery, historical fiction, and love story all rolled into one. I love the world building and there was a lot and the author did a fabulous job. The characters were great and many times she took you on such a roller coaster ride. I didn’t know which way this was going to end.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Read It: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Recommended by: Renee

Just Mercy was fabulous. It made me want to enroll in law school immediately (I have not…yet). It also made me aware of how unaware I am of the broken justice system in the U.S. Heart wrenching and uplifting book.


I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these books and read them myself! What did you read this month that you loved? Feel free to recommend your favorite reads below or join us in the group to chat about your favorites! We love new friends!

This post contains affiliate links. I fully trust and back my community of readers and their opinions on their favorite books!



Sundays With Writers: The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Sunday, May 1st, 2016


Are you a big Joshilyn Jackson fan too? I am so excited to be interviewing Joshilyn today about her new book, The Opposite of Everyone.

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson delivers another solid read with her latest novel, The Opposite of Everyone. Joshilyn tells her story in a very unusual way.  Rather than alternating past and present in chapter format, Jackson weaves the two stories of past and present into one chapter smoothly without transition. At first, this can be confusing, but it is worth the confusion as she weaves her reader through plot twist after plot twist of a girl growing up in a group home due to her mother’s incarceration to her powerful role as a lawyer finding out that her mother has kept a big life-changing secret from her.

Follow the story of a broken little girl who feels she made the one mistake that cost her a relationship with her mother into a grown woman seeking desperately to connect with family members she never knew, with many surprises along the way.

Now grab your coffee and let’s chat with Joshilyn about her incredible book!

Q&A With Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson

You and I have something very similar in common. My site tackles a variety of topics so it is difficult to categorize me as a writer or where I fit best within my own blogging community. You have said that you struggle with placement in bookstores because your writing envelopes so many different genres. What do you think is the hardest part about not fitting into one clearly defined genre and what do you think is the most rewarding thing about being that type of writer?

Oh, yeah. I hear you. We are untidy, you and I. We are pegs that do not go neatly into this hole or that. I think the hardest part is part is finding our initial readership. People who would like our stuff—maybe even love it—dismiss it because they think we are this peg or that peg. The upside is, when people do find us and realize what we are about, they tend to stick.

I finally wrote my own genre, to help folks decide if they want to read me or not. I officially write “Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence for Smart People Who Can Catch the Nuances but Who Like Narrative Drive, and Who Have a Sense of Humor but Who Are Willing to Go Down to Dark Places”

The best part? I am writing exactly the kinds of books I love to read, as I imagine you are running the kind of website you always hope to find while surfing.

This book is a little all over the map which makes it so fun! For example, Paula is tri-racial, you have her growing up in a foster system, she’s a lawyer, and you weave in Hindu images and storytelling in this book. How much research did you have to do to prepare for this story and did you discover anything that surprised you while gathering your research?

A lot of research in a lot of different directions. I went to dinner and for drinks with a lot of different lawyers. I went down to the courthouse and even sat in some trials. I read a lot Hindu god stories and epic poetry. I interviewed multi-racial people about the experience of living between cultural identities.

Any time I write outside my own experience, I feel I have to respectful, you know? I want to reflect a version of the truth that lies well within the spectrum of actual experience.

I think the thing that surprised me the most was how virulent divorce cases can be—especially when there is a lot of money involved. I know people who divorce with dignity and grace—but on the other end of the spectrum, wow it goes way out there.

I took as many high end swanky ATL divorce attorneys as would let me out to lunch. I plied them with wine and shrimp cocktails, and I asked them for their war stories.  What I got back was a litany of offences ranging from stalking, to dog-napping, to kidnapping, to arson, to filling a very, very expensive car up with boxes of valuable baseball cards and rolling whole shebang right into a lake. In the course of four dates like this I heard about two planned murders and one actual attempted murder.

When I realized anything was go in this ugly, escalating divorce case Paula works on over the course of the book, I invented Murder Kittens. Don’t worry—no kittens, real or imagined, are harmed in the scene—and in fact I have yet to visit a book club who doesn’t want to talk about murder kittens.


(you must follow Joshilyn on Facebook!!)

Paula, as a lawyer, represents a lot of BANK cases (Both Assholes No Kids) in this book. Did you come up with that acronym on your own or is this out in the law world and I just didn’t know it? It made me laugh!

I came up with it. Since the book’s publication, I have gotten e-mails from real life divorce attorneys, and they assure me it is getting daily use in at least a few real law offices now.

In this story we can truly see how broken our system is when parents are put away in jail and children are forced into the foster system, often for minor infractions. I understand that you had your own struggles with the system from working within the judicial system to teaching at a correctional facility for women. What do you think is wrong with this system and what could we do, as a country, to repair it?

I work with a group called REFORMING ARTS to bring arts education to the incarcerated women at Lee Arrendale State Prison here in Georgia. The hope is that learning to express and process their feelings, to find their own voices, to speak truths will help them connect with their families. We want to empower them to make different choices and cut down on recidivism.

We are out of control here in this country. We are the world’s biggest jailer. The USA—land of the brave, home of the free—puts more people in jail than Russia does. We imprison a higher percentage of our population than South Africa. Think about that. I’m not saying we don’t need prisons. We do. I am saying they need to be a last resort. We need to stop using prisons as a way to not deal with our social and economic issues, our hideous racial issues, and our petty fears about people-not-like-us.

This is America. We are a melting pot. Most people in the country are going to be people-not-like-whatever-us-you-are.

We have to stop putting people in prison for non-violent offenses. We have to find ways of reclaiming people from the arms of meth instead of just warehousing them—or using them for the equivalent of slave labor in privatized prisons. There are prisons in this country that are being run by FOR PROFIT corporations. That means there is a financial incentive for keeping a steady supply of human beings – often human beings with children— in jail as workers.

People may not know that you were an actor and you now utilize those acting skills by narrating your own audiobooks and the books of others.  You were even nominated for an Audie Award for your performance! What was your favorite book to narrate and have you found this to be a great outlet to still feel like part of that acting world?

I am a theatre person from the way, way back. I met my husband when I was nineteen, and we both got hired by a little regional repertoire theatre.  The first time I ever saw him, he was learning to sword-fight for a dueling scene. Of course I had to marry him.

I stayed very involved in theatre while in grad school in Chicago; one of my plays was produced there, and I acted quite a bit. Then I got pregnant and I wanted to be closer to my family! When we moved back rural Georgia, my life really changed. I was isolated from my theatrical community, and I think that’s why I turned to novels. I loved my kid, but he was not a great conversationalist in the first couple of years, especially. I wrote my first novel practically one handed, holding my nursing baby with the other.

I think that as an actor, I was more challenged reading Lydia Netzer’s novels than my own. I loved reading SHINE, SHINE, SHINE and HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY!

Lydia Netzer

I read in an interview with you write for Lydia Netzer as your ideal target audience. Do you think all writers should find one person as their target audience and why did you select her as the person you want to write for?

Well, it’s more about permission. I think my largest problem as a writer is cowardice…I am scared if I let my characters do the things they want to do and say what they want to say and go down into the dark places where they are always trying to march me into, people will think I am not a nice lady. I am Southern, and female, so I was raised to be a  super passive-aggressive people pleaser. I pull back in my writing when I picture herds of imaginary disapproving Sunday School teachers reading my work. And they are always lurking there, trying to get me to notice their crippling disapproval.

If I think of Lydia reading it, it gives me permission to write what I truly want to write.

 Support groups can mean so much and I understand you have a lot of support from fellow writers in a writing group you are a part of with Lydia Netzer, Karen Abbott, & Sara Gruen. Do you think having this support has made your writing better and how can writers find their tribe like you did?

I think they to those friendships is that they formed early in our careers. Sara and Abbott, me and Lydia, and then Sara and I connected she shared Abbott with me. We weren’t publishing yet. I think we all pushed each other forward in a lot of ways. I know that watching these brilliant women sail over bars made me want to do better, be better, revise more, not be lazy, push myself harder.

I write to a standard that I am not ashamed to show them. I want them to love my books as much as I love theirs.

That’s the other thing—a lot of those friendships started because we liked each other’s writing first, then found out we also liked the people attached to it. I read Lydia’s nascent scribblings in grad school, and fell in love with her prose. Abbott and I both met Sara on an online message board, and I was so attracted to her emails—I started writing her off list to court her friendship, and then she let me read her fiction and I was hooked.

As someone who swore she would never do a sequel, I understand you aren’t finished with Paula yet. I know that she started as a bit character in, Someone Else’s Love Story, and that you had to whittle down your scenes with her. What is it about Paula that makes her so special to you and can we expect to follow her as she takes on more cases in her career?

I don’t know if I will write Paula again. I know that I would like to.

I never want to write sequels because I try to end my books in what I call the breath. Maybe not a tidy, sunshine ending, but in that pause between sorrows and storms. In a place of actual hope.

My books have some sharp corners and they can go down to some bad places; I like to leave the characters who survive in a place of peace, and I like remember them there. I don’t want to tear their lives up again. If I wrote a sequel, I would have to. No one wants to read about people having a nice dinner and walking the dog. That’s an excellent way to spend a life—but an awful book.

Paula? On the other hand. Never have I written a more contentious narrator. She eats trouble for breakfast, and then says, “Please, sir, may I have some more.” She steps toward conflict with a kindling black joy, and I love her for it. I would not feel at all about putting Paula into more trouble because she was born for it. She thrives there.

She is so thorny and contentious and so addicted to winning that I think she would be wholly unlikable if she didn’t have such a soft heart for underdogs. Say what you will about Paula, she uses her dark powers for good!

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books?  (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. I return to it again and again, because it’s just so lovely and so fearless and so whole. Also? One of the best first lines in literature. If you have read any of my books, you know I really think first lines matter; I believe that the ending of a book must be contained in its beginning. Only in this way can you find that inevitable but surprising conclusion that Flannery O’Connor talks about. Irving does this perfectly—here it is:

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

Joshilyn Jackson

You can connect with Joshilyn Jackson on her website or through Facebook! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!




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It’s the 3 Little Things: Spiced Tea, Music With History, & a New Family Member

Friday, April 29th, 2016

It's the 3 Little Things

I am so thrilled we have another fun guest post today from one of my longtime readers, Renee! I had to email her to tell her to share more about her favorites because I actually own none of these! Don’t you love discovering new things?  I love when I find a new favorite thing right along with you! Thank you, Renee, for making my wish list a little longer this week.

Here’s a few of Renee’s favorite things today!

Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

I fell in love with Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea when I tried (and miserably failed) to give up coffee.  Even though I still love my cup of joe, I adore this tea.  It is so warm and comforting and smells divine. Every time I have a cup at work, people comment on how good it smells.  My administrative assistant has even started stocking it in the teacher’s lounge for my faculty.  It may seem like a winter drink, but I will drink it year round.  I get mine on Amazon.

Hamilton Soundtrack Free on Prime

Hamilton Soundtrack

I taught US History for 19 years before becoming a HS Principal.  One of my favorite history fellas to teach about was Alexander Hamilton.  He was an unstoppable force and now the musical about his life is impossible to see because it’s sold out for the foreseeable future.  Thanks to the awesome Amazon Prime, I have the Hamilton soundtrack to try to memorize (so many words!!!!!!).  Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius!  What I wouldn’t give to see the musical… I guess I’ll be reading the 1000 page book soon that inspired Miranda to write the musical.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

My whole family has fallen in love with the Amazon Echo.  A total luxury item, but Alexa has become a member of the family.  She’s especially good at playing the Hamilton soundtrack while I “dance-clean” the house.  I’ve never felt more organized because of Alexa’s voice activated lists and handy app.  She even reads my Kindle books to me while I cook.  My son loves to ask Alexa to tell him jokes and I get my news updates from Alexa while having my morning coffee.  Alexa is a great addition to our household.

This Week I’m…


Reading: Don’t You Cry, by Mary Kubica. I always love her thrillers! I can’t wait to read another one of her incredible books on my flight to California this week!

Eating: Far too many s’mores after discovering gluten-free graham crackers. We also are grilling up some of these easy chicken tenders for busy weeknights!

Playing: Loads of Exploding Kittens. A sleepover for his sister led to a lovely night with our teen boy. I am just documenting that he wanted to hang out with us (a rarity when you are that cool!)

Staining: My picnic table for another round of summer gatherings. I am thrilled with this deep rich stain I picked this year (leftover stain from this DIY project. Cost this year? ZERO!)

Drinking: Hopefully load of mojitos poolside with my blogging bestie, Kelly from Redefined Mom at our “work conference” (ahem!). If you can’t be poolside with me, check out this easy DIY mojito recipe!

Happy Friday, friends!

 *this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

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Amy’s Notebook 04.27.16

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Small kitchen update via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess


Small kitchen inspiration- love the idea of painting that backsplash.

I love ALDI wine and I’m adding a few of these to my shopping list!

Here are four performances of a man gone far too soon.

I adore Tina Fey.

100 must-read memoirs.

Baked chicken fajita roll-ups look amazing!

Tween Girl books via Modern Mrs. Darcy

Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy


12 terrific books for tween girls.

I am a HUGE Kazdin fan. He suggests for problem behavior, spanking and even time-out are a waste of time. Try this instead.

I’m inspired to meditate after reading this.

This is on my summer bucket list.

40’s- a time for many a risky affair. What do you think?

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!


Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Monday, April 25th, 2016

spring/summer capsule wardrobe 2016

The warmer weather is upon us and that means it is time to switch out my capsule wardrobe. Instead of trying to do a spring wardrobe and then a summer wardrobe, I am combining my capsule to save time and brain space for later.  The number of items has shifted, but only to make room for the two seasons. Long sleeve clothing and light sweaters will fall off and a summer dress or two will replace them, getting me back to my typical wardrobe of 28-33 pieces.

I decided to start a SEPARATE Instagram account for my capsule since it feels like two separate audiences. This account is only about fashion & the capsule. You can follow me here (@momadvicecapsule) or if you just want the general usual odds & ends, you can follow me here (@momadvice). I hope that makes sense! 

Let’s talk about this  2016 spring and summer capsule wardrobe.

First, What is a Fashion Capsule & Why Should You Do One?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximize the number of outfits which can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colors.

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from

(this is my ENTIRE WARDROBE!!! Look at all that closet space in our little closet!)

The reason I think capsule wardrobes are worth exploring is that you realize when you have LESS in your closet you can do MORE with what you have. My closet used to be bursting at the seams with clothes and, what I like to call, one-trick-pony apparel. I felt put together after tearing up my room and trying to build outfits in the process, but it took me so long to get ready in the mornings and I never felt like I had a truly seamless style. Narrowing my wardrobe down to 33 items as outlined in Project 333 was just what I needed to make mornings less stressful and finding a real rhythm to getting dressed for the day. It’s been a beautiful shift in my life and I don’t think I could ever go back to the old ways of bursting closets and pointless purchases.

I tend to be a pretty colorful person so you will find color mixed in with basics in my wardrobe. Monochromatic isn’t my thing, but can be yours if you are trying to simplify your wardrobe. Many people begin their capsule experience very monochromatic and then find they are comfortable branching out into color after figuring out how to make everything work together.

Capsule Wardrobe Patterns

What Trends Did You Embrace for Spring?

This year I am mixing in floral, polka dots, colored jeans, and lace into my wardrobe. I am aiming for a few feminine touches to mix into my wardrobe basics. I stayed mostly in the pink, coral, & mint colors, but I still threw in a red skirt to switch things up with the navy and basics. I like a lot of color and textures in my wardrobe.

Again, almost everything was purchased gently used using credit from cleaning out my closets from season to season so it made this capsule affordable for a very frugal girl.

Get some inspiration for how I’m using pieces on my capsule wardrobe board.

What Makes My Capsule Wardrobe Unique?

I am committed to purchasing the majority of my wardrobe gently used. You will find that the majority of the items have been purchased this year using my thredUP credit (I get $10 and you get $10 to spend my referral) or I have owned for years. Thanks to pointing out this resource, I was able to get the majority of my gently used wardrobe for free. Be sure to visit my tips this year for purchasing your fashion capsule wardrobe second hand.

It was a prompting really through this film (watched on Netflix) that has solidified my commitment to buying used and investing wisely.

Watch it and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to do better with fashion purchases!

My biggest investment is always tailoring my items to fit me. I am a petite girl and pants need hemmed, waistlines nipped, and shoulders shifted. Although this can get a little pricey at times, it is 100% why I love the clothes I wear! I feel really confident in them because of these alterations.

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from

Why My Capsule Shouldn’t Be YOUR Capsule

I show you my capsule mainly as some sort of accountability, but not necessarily for you to copy it. My style is probably not your style and that is okay. Your capsule can look nothing like my capsule.  Your body shape could be different from mine and none of these cuts of clothing or ideas will work for you.  When creating your capsule, create it around what you feel most confident in.

I suggest peeking in your closet and selecting what makes you feel beautiful and start your planning around those pieces.

That’s been the best place to start for me.

Do Accessories Count in the Capsule?

One question I get asked is if I count accessories and shoes as my items. I do not, but feel free to do that if you like. For me a scarf, belt, or great jewelry really do add to the enjoyment and experience of my wardrobe. I am, however, more selective about the accessories I am choosing and really making sure that they are worth the space in my drawers and the money that is spent.

What Are the Rules for a Capsule Wardrobe?

Here is my modified Project 333 rules or you can go to Courtney’s website to read more about the official guidelines!

Below is my spring & summer capsule wardrobe. Any with an asterisk by their name is a new item in my closet.  

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from

* 1. basic white t-shirt (target)

* 2. black & white striped t-shirt (target)

* 3. hi-lo dolman black t-shirt (ann taylor loft)

* 4. hi-lo dolman ivory t-shirt (ann taylor loft)

5. coral t-shirt (target)

6. vintage gray t-shirt (old navy)

* 7. j. crew lace tank (j. crew from thredup)

8. black & white striped shirt (t.j. maxx)

* 9. coral & navy print shirt (gap from thredup)

* 10. floral & striped t-shirt (matilda jane)

* 11. denim shirt (madewell from thredup)

* 12. no-iron white collared shirt (brooks brothers from thredup)

13. chambray shirt (j. crew from thredup)

14. light denim shirt (gap, similar)

15. no-iron pinstripe blue & white striped shirt (white house black market from thredup)

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from

15. white blazer (nordstroms from thredup)

16. black blazer (gap)

17. jean jacket (boutique)

18. black & white polka dot silk top (j. crew from thredup)

* 19. navy & white polka dot silk top (j. crew from thredup)

20. green vest (boutique)

21. black & white maxi dress (ann taylor loft)

* 22. floral sundress (old navy from thredup)

* 23. paige mint jeans (nordstroms from thredup, same pair here)

* 24. rose jeans (nordstroms from thredup)

25. floral pants (old navy)

26. jeans (boutique)

* 27. white jeans (nordstroms from thredup)

* 28. black crops (ann taylor loft, same pair here)

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from

* 29. black lace dress with nude underlay (bcbg from thredup)

* 30. navy & white sweater (j. crew from thredup)

31. denim midi skirt (eshakti)

32. black sweater (stitch fix)

33. black midi skirt (ann taylor loft)

34. black lace shorts (the limited)

35. red skirt (anthropologie)


36. Floral Romper (matilda jane)

Browse My Capsules & Wardrobe Planning Advice

Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Winter 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Summer 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall/Winter 2016 Capsule Wardrobe

Creating the Perfect Capsule Wardrobe (that really works!)

How to Shop Secondhand For Your Capsule Wardrobe

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

25 Best Wardrobe Planning Printables

Coupons That Might Help If You Are Making a Capsule Too

Get $10 for your first thredUP purchase (this is my favorite online consignment resource)

Stitch Fix can be a fun resource for shopping for smart basic wardrobe pieces if a stylist might benefit you!

closet clean out with thredup

Don’t forget to clean out your closet! Here is what I am getting rid of this time. Off to thredup it goes for credit for the next capsule- so proud!! Here is a list of resources to help you make money while organizing this corner! Happy wardrobe planning!

*this post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love!

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Sundays With Writers: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I love discovering debut novelists and today’s guest, Jeff Zentner, is joining me today to talk about his first book, The Serpent King. I wanted to post this interview right away because it is on sale this month for just $1.99. Make the purchase. I promise you, it will be one of your favorite reads this year! It’s a gripping YA read that had me laughing and crying (sometimes simultaneously) and I was so sad when this book ended.  It’s as epic as, The Fault in Our Stars.

It’s that good.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.  This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart.

I could not put this book down and read it in a single day. I had to know what would happy with these three and I couldn’t wait to chat with Jeff about his incredible writing. 

Grab your coffee and let’s chat today with Jeff Zentner about the story behind his story!


I know that many of us feel like we have a book in us, but we also feel like we don’t have the time. I understand that you managed to write your book on your commute on your phone. Can you tell us a little about that process and how big that screen was on that phone because I’m trying to picture this? I’m so impressed!

It was a process born of simple necessity! I had almost two hours of bus commute each day, round trip, a day job, and a family. I had to squeeze the writing in whenever I could. So I’d try to write 500 words on my iPhone 5S on the way into the office, 500 words at lunch, and 500 words on the way home. Yes, my right thumb would get very tired. After I’d put my son to bed at night, I would try to write another thousand words or two (on my laptop) if I could.

Before writing, my primary creative outlet was music, and what makes writing wonderful is that I can whip out my phone at all sorts of random times and get a little work done on something. I couldn’t do that with music, because even in Nashville, bringing your guitar on the bus and trying to work out a new song is frowned upon.

I grew up in a very conservative religious home, not exactly like Dill’s, but I could relate to that need to not disappoint God or your parents. Even though Dill has so much thrown at him, he seems pretty steadfast in his faith through it all. Did you want your readers to take away that message and why do you think it was important for Dill not to turn away from God?

I also grew up in a conservative religious home, although my parents were much more supportive and loving than Dill’s. Still, I was able to glean insights about what growing up with less supportive and loving religious parents would look like. Through my life, I’ve had my struggles with faith and I’ve had to come to my own view of God because I don’t always believe everything I’m told about him. Faith is a thing not easily abandoned, and I think it would have been dishonest of me to depict it as something one can simply walk away from. It felt more honest to me to have Dill wrestle with it until he could come to know a God who was more concerned with his joy than putting him to constant tests that could harm him.

Tavi Gevinson

Lydia was my favorite character because I could relate to her humor and to her job as a blogger. I understand she was loosely on Tavi Gevinson and her fashion blog Style Rookie. I know, as a blogger, I am concerned a lot about my brand and I related to Lydia’s struggle with not sharing photos of her friends to stay consistent to her brand’s message. Do you think it was wrong of her to do that and how did you come up with this all-too-true blogger struggle?

I actually don’t believe that it was wrong of her to do that. It’s her blog and her persona and her brand and I think she’s entitled to craft those things as she sees fit. But even though I think she wasn’t wrong to exclude Travis and Dill, I think she was right to include them once she felt brave enough to do so. I think at that point she was correct that no one would think less of her for associating closely with the fashion-challenged.

But ultimately what I think about the rightness or wrongness of Lydia’s actions is in no way authoritative. I lost all power to dictate how people felt about her behavior once I published the book with her in all of her flaws. So if anyone else thinks she was wrong to exclude Dill and Travis, who am I to say otherwise?

I came up with this struggle sort of by intuition. I’d read Tavi’s blog and it looked like she associated exclusively with people with equally amazing style. I thought it unlikely that she only knew and loved people with exceptional fashion sense. So I figured there was some image control going on there. Also, I’ve maintained Internet presences for years for various musical projects, so I knew that part of crafting an image and persona was selectivity in what you reveal about yourself.

Dill grows up in a Pentecostal church that believes in snakehandling. What type of research did you do to create your church scenes?

I’ve long been fascinated with the practice of snakehandling, so I’ve done a fair amount of reading on it. The definitive work is a beautiful book called Salvation on Sand Mountain, which I highly recommend. I also interviewed friends who have attended worship services at snakehandling churches.

The nice thing, though, is that there’s no central authority for snakehandling sects. There’s no pope of snakehandling. So I invented the church in the book and therefore no one can say I got it wrong!

One line in your book is, “And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” I really loved it because it is so true. I would imagine that it took a lot of bravery to put your book out into the world. Do you feel like this is one of the bravest things you’ve done? Have you always dreamed of writing or was this something you discovered you enjoyed later in life?

I do think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve personally done, but that doesn’t mean it’s one of the bravest things that can be done. I think it takes more courage to do what Dill does in the book, which is to survive bleak circumstances, including bullying. unloving parents and poverty, and not allow them to define him.

I haven’t always dreamed of writing because for most of my life, it wasn’t something that I allowed myself to dream. It just seemed too impossible; too daunting. I thought books were things that floated down from ivory towers, clutched in baskets held by doves. It’s only been in the last few years, and becoming personally acquainted with several published authors, that it’s come to feel like something I was capable of doing. It helped too that I had a day job that required rigorous, intensive writing on a daily basis. That was the final element that gave me the courage to try my hand.

Jeff Zentner at Penguin Random House

(follow Jeff on Facebook!)

You signed a two book deal with Crown/Random House & Tundra/Random House Canada which is awesome and (for me as a writer) a little terrifying too. Did you have to immediately get to work on the second book after this book was published? Has your writing process changed with this book or are you still writing on a bus?

It was terrifying for me too! I had no idea what my second book would be, and yet I needed to deliver my editors something she loved as much as The Serpent King, a story I’d thought about for years. I ran several ideas past them until finally, on idea ten or eleven, something clicked. So I got to work on book two and now it’s finished and on track for a spring 2017 release. It’s not a companion or a sequel to The Serpent King, but it does feature a cameo from one of The Serpent King’s gang.

My process for this book was a little different. While I was writing The Serpent King, I did nothing but write it. No outside reading, no TV, no movies, nothing. And I decided I wasn’t going to try to write again so devoid of my creative inputs of information. So with book two, I made sure to leave plenty of time to consume the books and shows that I loved while I was writing. I did write almost all of it on the bus. I wrote even more of it on the bus than The Serpent King, in fact, because I reserved my evenings for reading and shows.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but I felt like it left it wide open for a sequel. Do you see this story continuing or do you feel like you have closed the chapters on these friends?

I can’t envision writing a sequel. I’m happy with where things end and I think I gave my readers enough for them to write their own lovely sequels in their heads. I even used to have an epilogue that I cut because I was unsatisfied with how neatly it tied everything up with a bow. I didn’t leave enough room for imagination.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview a few musicians turned novelists over the years and I understand you are a musician (as well as an attorney & youth camp volunteer!) as well. Are you still writing music too? Do you find these processes to be similar?

Sadly, I find that the music-writing muse has left me. But hopefully only for a time. I’m starting to make friends with my guitar again. I went a long time without even playing it. I’m just trying to renegotiate my relationship with music now. It feels like we broke up and we’re just learning how to be friends again.

There is, truly, the best prom date ever written in your book. Please tell me your high school prom was that cool?

I wish I could tell you that! I barely even remember prom. I remember we got rained on and my date’s hair was still wet for our pictures. That was pretty funny. And pathetic. So I guess we had kind of a pathetic prom.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

I’m going to cheat and do two.

On the adult side, my all-time favorite book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s so brutal and unsparing yet beautiful and filled with ferocious love. I feel like I can survive anything with that story in my mind.

On the young adult side, my favorite book is The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. It’s so incredibly lyrical and gorgeous and filled with wisdom. It inspires me asa writer to work harder.

Jeff Zentner

You can connect with Jeff Zentner  on his website or through Facebook! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!


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