Amy’s Notebook 06.15.16

June 15th, 2016

Blueberry Coconut popsicles via Wallflower Kitchen

Source: Wallflower Kitchen

 

Coconut Blueberry Smash Pops- these look so yummy & easy!

Wowed by this bathroom makeover!

Chicken Pesto Kabobs -Just 4 ingredients- YUM!

Summer Listen List: Must listen audiobooks for everyone in the family this year.

7 larger-than-life wall art DIY ideas- on a little budget.

LOL! If 70’s moms had blogs. Seems about right.

Summer Rules via Thirty Handmade Days

Source: Thirty Handmade Days

 

Printable summer rules- yes!

Kitchen organization inspiration.

How to make a festive holder for your tacos!

Love these grocery store cake hacks!

Summer’s calling, and so is that chilled glass of rosé.

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!

 

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids

June 14th, 2016

Make a memory for your kids (and you!) with this fun summer activity!

Make an easy summer time capsule- a great activity for the whole family!

This year has flown by for our family and it’s hard to believe summer is so quickly upon us. Each year I’m more desperate to hang on to our summer and our memories together. My kids are hitting the teen stages and I treasure each moment with them so much more as they get older than I had ever imagined.

I want to share with you a fun summer time capsule ornament that your children can hang on the holiday tree or can be the launching point of a fun family mealtime together this summer. Have you ever had your kids create a time capsule? I am telling you, it is so much fun and gives you a glimpse, as a parent, into what is important in their lives.

How to Make A Summer Time Capsule

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

Supplies Needed

Directions

1. Tell your child at the beginning of the summer to begin gathering small items that represent their fun-filled summer! To get them brainstorming, consider gathering a representation of their favorite crafts, board games, building activities (puzzles or building blocks), beach finds (pretty sand or shells), or items found on nature walks. Tell them you want this capsule to really showcase what they were passionate about that summer so they can create a really important collection for their capsule.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

2. Have your child jot down 5 things that they love about summer. Guide them with a gentle writing prompt to explain why they have included these items in their capsule to represent them.

For example, “I love seeing my mom cry when I take all of her money in Monopoly.” Of course, that would be YOUR child, not MY child (*ahem*).

Don’t forget to have them include the date somewhere on this sheet so you can keep track of the years!

3. Fill an ornament with their trinkets and the facts about their summer. Snap shut at the seams. If you are concerned about longtime storage, you can secure with a little hot glue along the seams.

4. Use permanent marker to write your child’s name and the date somewhere on the ornament.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

In our family, we are all about board games, building blocks, finding seashells at the beach, and my daughter has developed a strong love for finger knitting this year. I love this representation of who she is at nine!

Don’t let the time capsule fun end at summer. We incorporated this same time capsule idea in our NYE celebrating as a family, but selected a few things that represented our favorite moments of the year. Over a celebration dinner, we each twisted open our capsules to share our favorite moments together. I remember that night well because I learned so much about my kids and some of the things they included surprised me. I guarantee you will learn a lot during the big time capsule reveal and make some beautiful memories.

For a summer capsule, this same idea would be fun for a family s’more night or as a fun ending to a sundae party together. Celebrate the end of summer in a new way and remember to get your kids thinking now because beautiful collections that represent them take time!

I hope you enjoy this fun craft together and please be sure to let us know if this becomes a part of your own family traditions as it has become such an integral part of ours!

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids from MomAdvice.com.

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

 

Pin It

Molly Prentiss’s 3 Favorite Books

June 13th, 2016

Molly Prentiss

Author: Molly Prentiss  (Check out her debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980. Read more about Molly in our interview HERE!)

Molly Prentiss’s 3 Favorite Books

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion

This was the very first book I read that made me think: I want to be a writer. It taught me so much about what it means to have a voice as a writer, and that a voice could be so distinct. I have my mother’s copy of the book that she read when she was young and living in New York, and it has all of her notes in pencil in the margin. The cover is falling off and the pages are yellow. It is probably my most treasured possession.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

I read this book during grad school and it utterly changed my life and my writing. I couldn’t believe someone could pull it off: writing a novel in verse, about a small red monster, and making it not only pleasurable to read but so incredibly beautiful and moving. Carson’s use of language is pure genius, and it gave me the idea that everything that’s written should have poetry in it somewhere, that language should be rhythmic and considered, but there should be heart in the language; it should not be pretty for prettiness sake.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I read this book when I was in the thick of writing my novel, and studied it so diligently it was like taking a self-imposed fiction class. Egan’s use of form blew me away. It was another aha moment for me as a writer: that one could play and experiment on the page, and that the reader would trust it, and play along.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

June 12th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I love finding a fresh voice in fiction and Molly Prentiss certainly brings a beautifully fresh perspective to the mix with her debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980. This is the story of a writer who was willing to give up many words to carve a better book and spent seven years crafting the voices she wanted for this story. Tuesday Nights in 1980 is unlike any other book I have read and gave me a lot of food for thought, making it an excellent book club selection if you are looking for something to discuss. I am so excited to share about Molly’s inspiring publishing story in our Sundays With Writers series today. How fun to talk about Tuesdays on Sundays…

 

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Welcome to the art scene in SoHo in the 1980’s. Prentiss, much like an artist herself, vividly paints the art scene during this time and the story of two unlikely men whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways. The book follows James Bennett, an art critic whose writing is made more beautiful because he has Synthesia, and the rise and fall of that gift when it disappears. Raul Engales is an Argentinian painter running away from his past and the Dirty War who finds that he can use an art studio on a college campus just by pretending he is a student there. When tragedy strikes, Raul & James became friends as Raul’s paintings bring back the gift of synesthesia that James had when seeing his work. They both make tragic missteps along the way though and that is where the depth to the story is truly added.

It would be impossible to not learn something new and fans of art and the Manhattan scenes in the ‘80’s will definitely find plenty to love in this ambitious debut novel. Her descriptions are like paintings themselves, vivid and full of life! 

I included this book in our May Must-Reads

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Molly to talk about her unique debut novel!

Molly Prentiss

You chose to open your story with a focus on Argentine politics. I’m ashamed that I really knew very little about this time in history. What inspired you to make this a part of your book? Were there any real stories of people during this time that helped shape the story of Franca?

You shouldn’t be ashamed at all – so many Americans do not know anything about this brutal moment in Argentine history. It was mostly kept out of the media while it was happening and afterward, since the US was actually supporting the Argentine military government and training their soldiers, so we did not want to be caught in the blame for the mass kidnappings and killings. Obama actually JUST brought the issue to national attention this year, and apologized for the US involvement. It is astonishing to me that something so terrible could be happening on the continent below us and we would not know it was happening, which is part of the reason I chose to speak to it in my book.

Pasillo de la memoria UTN FRA (2015) 11

 

(Photographs of victims of the 1976-83 dictatorship-wikipedia)

 

I learned about the “Dirty War”, as they call it, in a class I took in graduate school called The Violent Task of Remembering. It was taught by an extremely inspirational and intelligent woman named Claudia Bernardi, who is from Argentina and has done countless projects informed by disappeared populations around the world. I had already started writing my book when I took her class, and as I continued to learn about the atrocities that were happening in Argentina during the same period I was writing about in New York, I realized I had to bring that story into the book. It ended up sort of bookending the story, as well as existing beneath the surface as a sort of dark weight through the book.

 One of the most intriguing elements of your book is that James, an art critic, has synesthesia. Did you know anyone personally that had this or interview anyone with it to shape his story? Did you find it challenging to write out the ways he would experience things like art and people in such a unique way or did this come naturally to you?

I have only met one person with synesthesia, also during graduate school. After class one day she came up to me and told me I was the color peach. I was confused at first, but when she began to tell me about her condition, I was completely intrigued. I absolutely had to write about it. And when I did it was so much fun. It was one of the things in the book that was not difficult at all for me, mostly because I adore writing metaphors, similes, and creating unexpected connections through language. I basically just used my own associations with certain colors or people or works of art and gave them to James. It gave me permission to sort of go wild with my words.

Art spills all over your book through the gallery experiences, Raul’s own paintings, and the art critiques that James writes. I understand that your life is filled with artists (siblings, father, and your fiancée just to name a few!) and you even do illustration. Did you find it easy to immerse yourself in writing about art because of this? Did you consider adding any art elements in your book for the reader?

Yes, I guess you could say that I am attracted to artists! I love being around them and witnessing in their processes and sharing their spaces. So I guess it was natural to want to populate my book with them and be around them for the seven years it took to write it.  I did at one point consider including an artwork at the beginning of each chapter, but then I decided against it. It felt a bit forced. I ended up attempting to create the visuals using words, hoping that the reader might come to his or her own vision of the art works as he/she read.

Seven years is a long time to devote to a book. What were your biggest hurdles with this book and what would you say to another writer that is discouraged that the process is taking longer than they expected?

There were so many hurdles. For me, the very difficult part about writing this book was giving the narrative a shape and a clear direction. There were so many drafts where the plot was all over the map. I had to create devices for myself to reign in my writing, which is why it all takes place in one year, and every section takes place on a Tuesday. But none of these things were set in stone for the first five or so years I was working on it, so a lot of pages and ideas and whole characters and plot points were scrapped. The key to overcoming those hurdles for me was to learn how to not consider the writing itself so precious. You have to be willing to throw things away and start over, in the service of making a better story in the end. You have to learn that rejection—whether it comes from yourself, your agent, or your readers—is part of the game. And you have to remember that the work is the fun part. You realize that especially once your book is a real thing, out there in the world. It’s amazing, but its not the reason you did all that work. You did the work because you loved the work.

Scout Press

I have had the unique opportunity to interview the first three authors published under Scout Press now that I am interviewing you today (editor’s note: check out my interview Ruth Ware & Bill Clegg). Do you think that signing under them helped in the promotion and success of your book?

Most definitely. The great thing about Scout is that they are a very new and very small imprint, so they can be dexterous and choosy. They only publish what they really want to publish, and when they do they put the whole weight of their team behind it. They did so much to make this book what it is today, and to get it out into the world in an exciting way. I am very grateful I signed on with them.

Molly Prentiss

I understand you are already working on your next book. Can you tell us a little bit about it and are you finding the process easier or harder after such great success with your first book.

Yes, I am at work on a second novel. In its current state, it takes place in a commune in northern California in the late 1970s. But now that I know how much a book can morph in its making I am hesitant to even say exactly what it’s about. It is both easier and harder to write a second book. Easier because you know what the process looks like, and you can avoid falling into certain holes that you fell into the first time. Harder because there are expectations: you don’t want to write the same book you wrote the first time, and yet you worry that that’s what the publishers and the public might expect.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

You can connect with Molly Prentiss on her website! 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!

Pin It

How to Make Bubble Snakes

June 9th, 2016

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

These Indiana girls couldn’t be happier that summer is around the corner and today we wanted to show you how to make bubble snakes with our homemade diy bubble recipe. If you haven’t tried our bubble recipe, you are in for the best bubbles ever this year. This fun activity is brought to you in partnership with Tum-E Yummies today.

Have you made your own bubbles or a bubble snake before? If you haven’t, you are going to be amazed at the difference in this solution versus what you buy at the store and the staying power of your bubble snake. Not only are making bubbles and bubble snakes fun, but they are also a lesson in science.

According to Steve Spangler Science, “Bubbles form because of the surface tension of water. Hydrogen atoms in one water molecule are attracted to oxygen atoms in other water molecules. They like each other so much, they cling together. When you blow air through your Bubble Snake maker, you are creating hundreds of tiny bubbles. As the air wiggles through the fabric, bubbles are continuously being made. The bubbles attach to each other when they come out of the fabric. It’s all thanks to the same hydrogen bonds that make bubbles possible!”

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really understand the science behind bubble making. I love a bit of science with our crafts. Let’s get mixing!

How to Make Bubble Snakes

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Dishwashing liquid soap

Glycerin (we found this behind the pharmacist’s counter at our local superstore. Can also sometimes be found in the first aid supplies section)

Pitcher (we love the kind with a plunger to mix the bubbles)

Liquid Food Coloring

1 plastic bottle

Box Cutter

An old sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubberband) Bubble tray or a disposable plate or bowl

DIY Bubbles Recipe from MomAdvice.com

1. Mix up your homemade bubble solution in your pitcher (recipe below). We halved our recipe to fit in this two quart pitcher, but you can definitely mix up a full gallon too. Set aside.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

2. Today, we are using a Tum-E Yummies container for the base of the craft, so let your kids drink their favorite flavor to get the container ready to be used! If your kids haven’t tried these, they are fruit flavored waters that come in five flavors (Very Berry Blue, Greentastic Apple, Fruitabulous Punch, Orange-arific, and Sour-sational Raspberry). Each of these have 100% daily value vitamin C, B6, B12 and only 50 calories and 13g of sugar. You can be assured, you will need all those vitamins for the bubble blowing that will be happening once we are done creating this craft!

3. Take a box cutter and carefully remove the bottom of the container. Once this is removed, secure a sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubber band) over the newly opened end.

4. Take your liquid food coloring and create a stripe of each color (red, yellow, green, and blue) across the bottom of the sock or washcloth. The more you add to the bottom, the more vibrant the colors.

5. Dip the rainbow end into the bubble solution. Be sure to get a good soak of bubbles on it to create your snake.

6. Blow on the other end of the container to blow out that colorful bubble snake. Be sure to stress to your kids to not suck in their breath (who wants to swallow bubbles? yuck!).

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

 

How fun is that? I guarantee amazing bubble snakes with our diy recipe! While you are at it, be sure to purchase some big wands for this fun project. You really won’t believe how big these bubbles are or how long they hold their shape before popping.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

A huge thank you to Tum-E Yummies for partnering with me to create this fun summer activity idea. You can find these flavored waters in many convenience stores, grocery stores, and drugstores. My kids really did love this fun twist on water and I know they will make a fun addition to our pool bags this summer after a long day of swimming!

DIY Bubble Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Keep these items on hand to make bubbles all summer long. You won't believe the size or the staying power of this amazing solution.
Ingredients
  • 1 gallon water
  • ⅔ cup dishwashing soap
  • 2-3 tbsp. glycerin
Instructions
  1. Mix all these ingredients in a container. DONE!

For more fun family ideas, follow Tum-E Yummies on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Pin It

Amy’s Notebook 06.08.16

June 8th, 2016

Spiralized-Carrots-and-Cucumber summer roll bowls via Skinnytaste

Source: Skip To My Lou

 

Ditch the rice paper with spiralized summer roll bowls.

A home that tells a story. #goals

A hack to pack more berries into muffins – um, yes!

Tips for a more productive workspace.

18 summers.

An education in chocolate.

fathers-day-coupon-book via Skip to My Lou

Source: Skip To My Lou

 

Fabulous printable Father’s Day’s coupons.

Loving this library kit. Gift one to your local librarians!

Swooning over these fresh ways to display photos at home.

Love these organizational ideas!

15 iPhone tricks Apple has been hiding from you.

Could you go a year without buying anything?

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!

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes For Father’s Day

June 7th, 2016

Create quick & easy grilling seasoning mixes with these recipes and printable labels for a perfect gift for a grill-loving dad!

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes for Father's Day with printable labels

Father’s Day is just around the corner and our Dads love grilling so I thought making grilling seasoning mixes would be a fun gift for your favorite dads!  I’m sharing two easy DIY grilling spice mixes that you can make and package up with fun printable labels for the perfect gift to share with a special Dad in your life.

DIY grilling seasoning mixes

The beauty in this project is that it is easy to create one or many gifts with just one assembly line of ingredients. To really make your dollars stretch on this project, buy your spices in bulk or purchase the generic brands of spices to keep the gift frugal, but still thoughtful.

The thing that I know I love about my Dad is that he is just the kind of guy that appreciates small and thoughtful gestures. These spice mixes are just the ticket for a gift that your Dad really can use.

diy_grilling_seasoning_mixes

If you are pinched for time, but still want the taste of freshly ground pepper in your recipes, utilize your food processor and pulse your peppercorns until they are ground or just run your food processor with them in there for a couple of minutes.  If you don’t have a food processor, a coffee grinder can also work to save you some time.

All-Purpose Spice Mix

All Purpose Spice Mix

The first spice mix we are going to make is an easy all-purpose grill seasoning. This can be rubbed onto any meat before grilling. The red pepper flake and ground pepper add a lot of kick to this spice rub so if you prefer a mix with less spice, feel free to scale back those two spices. Remember to utilize your food processor to help blend your pepper and save you time!

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes For Father's Day
Recipe type: Condiment
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 cup
 
An easy all-purpose grill seasoning that can be rubbed onto any meat before grilling.
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together well and store in an airtight container.
  2. You can double or triple this recipe for your jar.

 Dad’s Secret Burger Seasoning

Dad’s Secret Burger Seasoning

The second spice mix will make dad’s burgers extra special. If your Dad really likes to show-off on the grill, this burger seasoning spice mix is just what he needs to take his burgers to another level.

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster
Although the red might look spicy, it is actually paprika that adds a lot of warmth and flavor to your ground beef and just a hint of kick from the cayenne pepper. You may never want your burgers another way!

Dad’s Secret Burger Seasoning
Recipe type: Condiment
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: ½ cup
 
A spice mix for burgers that adds warmth and flavor to your ground beef with just a hint of kick from cayenne pepper.
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 c.) paprika
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 7½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together well and store in an airtight container.

DIY_Grilling_Seasoning_Mixes-11 DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster

We have created these beautiful printable grill seasoning jar labels for your Dad that makes them truly gift-worthy. I hope you love this fun food craft as much as I love sharing it with you!

Grab your FREE printable BBQ labels here (just click that link to open and then download).

What’s in your secret spice mix? Any dry rubs that you love to mix up for grill season?

 

Pin It

Take The Beans and Rice Challenge

June 6th, 2016

the-beans-and-rice-challenge

All proceeds earned were donated back to feed those in need!

As a mom, I really and truly want my children to have an awareness of our world. It’s easy to get caught in our suburban bubble, oblivious of those in need. Not only do I want there to be awareness in them, but I want to see a genuine passion for giving to others. We know that we have a really blessed life and it is because of those blessings that we have the opportunities to pay it forward to others.

Let’s be honest though. I say that my kids need awareness, but I know that I can be as oblivious as them to those in need and their daily struggles.

Here is one example that I am not proud of (and believe me, there are many!).  I always have had a terrible attitude about grocery shopping and menu planning for our family. It often feels like so much work to feed my people- the planning, the shopping, the bagging, the putting away of the food, the preparation of it, the clean-up… that drudgery can really get to me and I am a miserable person to be around on grocery days.

Yet, I can feed my people.

Sometimes I don’t even have enough room in my fridge and I have to create a teetering game of Tetris in my giant refrigerator.

I complain about this and I was complaining about it often.

My attitude shifted though when we went to make a holiday delivery to a family in need and I peeked in the kitchen at the open shelving with just a few cans and boxes of food sitting on the shelves.

In the fridge?

Not even a gallon of milk.

When I asked the mother if we could help get her groceries she said, “Oh, no! We have more than enough food. We have so much right now,” as she gazed at her “full” shelves.

I humbly went back to my car and realized that her SO MUCH looked like SO LITTLE to me. Even on the days nearing our grocery day there still was an overabundance compared to this woman’s.

How do we create awareness though when we feel so far removed from the world’s struggles? How do we as parents make these into teachable moments for our children?

Beans & Rice Challenge

The Beans and Rice Challenge

I am so excited to share with you that I have partnered with Feeding The Nations as they embark on a unique challenge that gives your family the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes, while helping feed those in need. This is just the kind of challenge and life lesson that I hope to pass on to my kids.  

On June 13-17, just for 5 short days, commit to eating a dish of just beans and rice for at least one meal and donate the savings to those in need.  How cool is that? A small sacrifice that can do so much for others!

I don’t know how much an average meal costs in your house, but I would say that it is safe to say that a typical dinner for our family costs $10-12 at home. If we substituted one of these meals for five days, we could give at least $50 to Feeding The Nations to feed those in need.

Does $50 really make that big of an impact when there are so many in need in this world? You bet it does! For just $2, Feeding The Nations is able to supply 40 people with food! That means, a simple meal switch, given my example of spending, could yield food for 1,000 people. Our family’s small sacrifice could help so many AND offers a teachable moment for my children. Kids feeding kids- it’s such a beautiful thing.

EatForaWeek_WhiteDress-768x590

I’d love for you to take this challenge with our family!  Are you in? Please let me know! We would love for you to join our virtual dinner table to help the hungry.

Here are a few helpful resources I’ve gathered for you to prepare for this challenge on June 13-17:

The Beans and Rice Challenge

10 Reasons Why Your Family Should Make This Commitment

Beans & Rice FAQ Page (great info!!)

Feeding The Nations Pinterest  Board-  This can help you find recipes for your five-day challenge.

Get your own Beans & Rice Shirt- Donate $25 or more to receive a shirt. Choose the “B&R T-shirt” option and be sure to note your size (S, M, L, XL, XXL).

Donate to Feeding The Nations – Remember, $2 provides 40 meals!

slow_cooker_black_beans-4

MomAdvice Recipe Inspiration:

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

Perfectly Baked Brown Rice

How to Make Perfect Brown Rice in Your Slow Cooker

Be sure to stay up-to-date with Feeding The Nations and learn about upcoming giveaways on their Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also sign-up for their email list to receive updates, recipes and encouragements along the way. And, be sure to donate when the challenge is over at FeedingTheNations.org/donate/. I can’t wait to hear about your challenge!

Pin It

Ruth Ware’s 3 Favorite Books

June 6th, 2016

Ruth Ware

Author: Ruth Ware (Check out her novels: In a Dark, Dark Wood & The Woman in Cabin 10. Read more about Ruth in our interview HERE!)

Ruth Ware’s  3 Favorite Books

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I have to pick an Agatha Christie I think as she was a huge inspiration for The Woman in Cabin 10, so maybe And Then There Were None, which is one of her best, certainly one of her darkest.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith has to be one of the best crime novels ever- it’s just beautifully constructed and written, with characters so real you can practically  pluck them off the page, and the premise is one of those ideas that just inspires pure jealousy of the “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” type.

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

And to finish up, something completely different, Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford is one of my desert island books. It’s just so indescribably funny, and moving, and matter-of-fact- and it captures a moment in history with effortless lightness of touch, and painful precision.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

June 5th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Thrillers are my jam in the summer and today I am sharing a very special interview with my new favorite thriller writer, Ruth Ware. In a Dark, Dark Wood was the book that I selected this month for my local book club and we all loved this one for a fun escape this month. I was thrilled to get to share her interview a little early with my fellow book club members as we gathered in my dark, dark wood for a fun night out.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Leonora, a reclusive writer, receives a surprise invitation from an old friend inviting to her to a weekend away as one last hurrah before she gets married. Set in a glass house in the woods, the four acquaintances share revelations and begin to realize their party is not alone. Forty-eight hours later, Leonora (Nora) awakes in a hospital bed knowing that someone is dead. Nora desperately tries to piece together what happened, forcing her to revisit times in her past that she would rather leave buried.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to thrillers and this one delivers beautifully.  The pacing is perfect and reads like a great whodunit mystery. Enjoy the ride and then get ready to see this one brought to life on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon’s production team.

You can read more of the fantastic books I have read this month over in our must-reads post.

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a fun chat with Ruth Ware this morning!

Ruth Ware

I understand that the idea for In a Dark, Dark Wood came to you when a friend said, “I’ve never read a thriller set on a hen night.” Did your wheels immediately start turning when you heard this? What did your friend think of the story?

Also, as an American, I had no idea this is what these were called! Thanks for educating this naïve reader!

Yes, it was like a little light bulb went on in my head! I immediately started thinking of characters and settings and I knew this story was begging to be written. And yes, my friend has read the book and loves it.

One of the fun things about writing the book has been finding out all the different bachelorette traditions around the world and how they vary. Rights have been sold everywhere from Sweden to Indonesia and as you can imagine, the local hen party traditions are very different – sometimes it’s small stuff, like I had no idea that Americans don’t use L-plates as part of their bachelorette celebrations, whereas in the UK, they are an essential part of the bride-to-be’s outfit (L-plates are the signs that learner drivers put on their car to show they are not experienced road-users. I have NO idea what they have to do with weddings!).  Sometimes there are very wild and weird traditions – in Sweden brides are often “kidnapped” for their hen party, sometimes in a worryingly realistic fashion! However differences aside, I think it’s a surprisingly universal celebration – most countries have some kind of pre-marriage send off.

You created a hen night in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, in a glass house, with no phone reception. Hello, nightmares! Why did you decide to put these poor people in a glass house and did any books or movies help inspire your scary premise for the story?

Actually, initially the glass house was very different, when I wrote the first few chapters the setting was a tumbledown cottage, much closer to the croft that Flo’s aunt demolishes to make way for her modernist house. But then, a few chapters in, I started to realise that one of the themes of the book is about having your public persona stripped away and people seeing the real you, and the idea of not having anywhere to hide from scrutiny. So I thought how much more interesting to make the house an extension of that?

I was definitely inspired by watching too many scary movies as a kid – there’s something so vulnerable about a house with a lot of windows where the inhabitants are being watched without knowing it!

How challenging was it for you to switch between your two plotlines? Did you write each plotline in its entirety or were you just able to alternate between the two when carving out your story?

I wrote it almost exactly as you read it – swapping back and forth as I wrote it. Many people are surprised at that, I think, but it’s the only way I know how to write – I find it too hard to keep up with what the reader knows if I write out of sequence. I need to keep pace with their experience as I write, or I get the tension and the moments of revelation wrong.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

source: reese witherspoon’s ig feed

Your book is a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller, and was optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon’s production team. What has this experience been like and what has surprised you the most about the success of this novel?

Oh – I mean, just insane. I honestly have no words for how much this has gob-smacked me, and I’m not a person who’s usually lost for words. I would have been delighted if a few hundred people in the UK bought my book – the fact that it’s sold in America, let alone places like Thailand and Estonia… I find it very hard to remember when I’m walking the kids to school or loading the dishwasher!

The thing that feels most surreal is probably the film stuff. I used to work in publishing so it’s a world I feel pretty comfortable in. Whereas I know absolutely nothing about the movie business – that really does feel like something that happens to other people, not my little book!

You were one of the first of three books to be published under Scout Press which I can only imagine was such a huge honor. Do you think that signing under them helped in the promotion and success of your book?

Scout have been indescribably amazing to work with. I actually didn’t know the whole deal about the new imprint when I signed up with Simon & Schuster, and I remember when I found out I had this butterflies-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach moment where I suddenly realised they were putting so much trust in my book, making it one of their launch list.

Publishing a book is a sort of weird experience because although writers often compare their books to babies, the truth is, you create this thing, but you’re not really responsible for sending it out into the world – that’s down to the publisher. They decide the look, the way it’s marketed, often even the title. And I’ve worked in this business long enough to know how painful it can be when a writer has radically different ideas about what their book is, compared to their publisher.

But from the moment I saw that incredible cover that Scout produced, I just knew I was in safe hands and I couldn’t have been more right. They’ve been amazing to work with.

Ruth Ware

follow Ruth Ware on FB!!

There is so much bravery in putting your work out there since writing, I find, is very personal. Did you struggle with this at all and what would you say to another writer who is struggling with unleashing their work out into the world?

I did struggle with this – I wrote a lot of books growing up and in my early twenties, and they all went under the bed because I was basically too chicken to show them to anyone. But in the end, I just got to a place where I realised that however bad I might feel if I failed, I’d feel worse if I didn’t even try in the first place.

I don’t know what I would say to another writer because I didn’t have the magic confidence pill back then, and I still don’t. Ultimately I think I wrote a book that I couldn’t bear to shelve.

But maybe… maybe my advice would be baby steps. Share your book with a trusted friend – someone who knows you well enough to be honest as well as supportive, the kind of person who you’d take clothes shopping and trust to say “you know what, that dress isn’t flattering on you.” Or if that’s too scary, find a writing group online.

And above all, try not to take it personally. Writing is personal, it has to be, but rejection rarely is.

I understand you are actually terrified of reading scary books. What is the scariest book you have ever read? Do you feel more in control of things, writing your own scary book, or did you end up terrifying yourself?

Yes, I’m a terrible coward! I’m getting sent a lot of books to blurb now, and I’m realising that there’s a whole swathe of crime that’s just waaaay out of my comfort zone in terms of horrible things happening to people.

It’s mainly prolonged violence and torture I find I can’t read – I skipped over all the Theon chapters in Game of Thrones, for example.

For plain scariness… maybe Black House by Peter Straub and Stephen King, which I read while on holiday in a very remote Dorset village, and it scared the daylights out of me. We were staying in a converted church, a fairly spooky location in itself, which probably didn’t help.

Two of my favourite scary books are The Haunting of Hill House and The Woman in Black which are my kind of scary – nail-biting but nobody gets locked in a basement and tortured.

But yes, it’s very different writing my own books – so much of scariness is suspense, not knowing when the curtain will get ripped back, so it’s very difficult to scare yourself to the same extent, I think. The element of surprise isn’t there.

We never give away spoilers, but how hard was it to craft the ending of your book? Did you try different endings out or did it all come together easily?

This is really hard to write without spoiling, but I had the ending in mind right from the beginning, but it slightly changed in the way it played out. And certain characters who were going to die, didn’t, and vice versa.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

What can we expect from you next? Any involvement in the film writing? Are you working on your next book or taking time to savor the success of this first one?

No-one’s asked me to write the film, but that’s probably a good thing since I know precisely zip about screenwriting! However I am not good at sitting on my hands, and I find the only cure for pre-publication nerves is writing another book, so I am hard at work on book three at the moment. (My second thriller, The Woman in Cabin 10 is already written and comes out this summer.)

in-a-dark-dark-wood

You can connect with Ruth Ware on her website and on 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!