Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bohjalian’

Sundays With Writers: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Some interviews are extra, extra special. This is one of them. Everything I have ever read by Chris Bohjalian  has moved me and I was thrilled when I got an advance reader of his new book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, from NetGalley. When I closed the final pages, I sent Chris a message and asked if he might consider doing an interview here. His email back was one of the most sincere, genuine, and kindest responses to an interview request ever.  Not only is he genuinely in love with his characters and getting to share his stories, but it is quite evident that he is just as passionate about the people who read his words.  Getting to share about this book, in his release week,  is an honor and I feel privileged to say that I got to have this conversation with him.  I count myself lucky to get to share this interview with you and I hope that you will race right out and buy this book.

 

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

 

I truly cannot imagine the amount of research and time it would take to take on a book like this.  In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian proves himself as a seasoned writer, taking on the story of a troubled teenage girl whose town experiences a nuclear meltdown. What makes it doubly heartwrenching is due to her father’s alcoholic past, he is the chief administrator of the plant and her mother, Mira, also works there as a communications specialist.  He is the one that the town blames for the disaster and the death of 19 people. Now orphaned and unwanted, Emily feels like she is not safe in her town and this leads her down a path of destruction that will pull at your heartstrings as a parent and put her in many situations that are brutal in nature.

Not only does Bohjalian capture the voice of this teenage girl so perfectly, but the depth of research on the repercussions of this disaster on a town, and an unlikely blending of Emily Dickinson poems woven throughout (the fictional Emily’s favorite poet) tie this novel up beautifully. Although heartbreakingly tragic, it is one that I could not put down in the final pages.

My only regret was that the epilogue was not expanded more and we could see more of what happened after Emily received treatment.

This book does contain language, violence, & sexual situations.

Grab your morning coffee and let’s chat with Chris about this amazing book!

Chris Bohjalian

With seventeen bodies of work under your belt, I would think that it would be hard to come up with a fresh new plot, yet you did that with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, and it is phenomenal. How did you come up with the idea to tackle a story based around a nuclear meltdown? Is this something that has always fascinated you?

First of all, thank you so much. I appreciate that immensely.

The truth is, some of my novels demand considerably more research than others. For “Midwives,” for example, I must have interviewed easily sixty or sixty-fives midwives, ob-gyns, lawyers, EMTs, and moms and dads who had their babies at home.

But Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands? Not nearly as much. Emily Shepard’s voice came to me a few days after Christmas 2012, and it came to me fully formed.

Part of the reason why I found the voice so easily, I think, is that I’ve written about teens in trouble often over the years as a newspaper columnist. I’m a big fan of an organization in Burlington, Vermont called Spectrum Youth & Family Services, and the terrific work they do. I’ve met a lot of their kids. I’ve heard the stories and seen their faces. I’ve met the young adults who are going to be just fine, and the ones who – due to mental illness or substance abuse or bad choices or a cataclysmic home life – are heading for disaster.

I also know some of the Spectrum staff. I went to college with Annie Ramniceanu, for instance, who served for years as their associate executive director. She’s also an immensely gifted therapist and counselor. One day when I was having lunch with her, she started telling me how some of the kids – the teens who are falling through the system – would build igloos against the Vermont cold out of trash bags filled with wet leaves, and I knew instantly the novel I wanted to write.

As my 20-year-old daughter, Grace Experience, would tell me when she finished reading the first draft of this novel, “Dad, please take this as a compliment, because I mean it that way: Your sweet spot as a novelist is seriously messed up young women.” I know she’s right.

Emily Dickinson and her poems play a big part in the fictional Emily’s life and Emily really wants her life & words to be like Emily Dickinson. Was Emily a favorite poet of yours or did you develop this entirely around this story?

I’ve always loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the mysteries that surround her life. Moreover, as a novelist I’ve often wondered about the choices she made about whether (or not) to publish her extraordinary body of work. And, yes, I went to Amherst College, where her spirit hovers over the community. Sometimes it seems to me as if half the buildings I lived in on campus were named after someone she knew.

Emily is perfectly voiced as a teenager. Some of the lingo, I am embarrassed to say, I almost had to look up. How do you, as a male author, get a perfectly pitched teenage female voice for our narrator?

I think in some ways the voice came together because of all of those teens I interviewed over the years. I still have the columns and I can still recall vividly some of their stories – and so much of their separate ordeals.

I also need to give a big shout-out to my daughter, Grace. Often when I was writing, I would be at a loss to find the right synonym for a word or to capture the precise expression that a really smart teen girl would use, and so I would text her. I would ask, “What’s a hip synonym for ‘tattoo?’” Or “I need another expression for ‘hook-up.’ Any ideas?” And she would text me back something that would work. Trust me, you would not have found the word “bitchcakes” in the novel without her. She was wonderful.

Finally, whenever I write across gender – which I do all the time – I focus first on the things that link us as people. Then, after that, I can begin to examine the particularities of gender.

There were many, many difficult moments that I had reading about Emily’s life when she is homeless, particularly, when she takes Cameron under her wing. Were there any scenes in particular that were difficult for you to write or anything you had to step away from?

Yes. As a dad of a daughter, I found it difficult to write about Emily Shepard’s cutting and the way she is sexually exploited by Poacher.

But I loved writing about her relationship with Cameron, and the way she looks out for him. She might make a lot of bad parenting decisions, but when it comes to that boy – to paraphrase Emily Dickinson – her life really does stand a loaded gun.

Did writing this novel make you think about nuclear disasters differently? Do you have more or less fear about these situations becoming a reality?

I learned a bit about how nuclear plants work – thanks to Arnie and Maggie Gundersen at Fairewinds Energy Education. But I must confess, I still find nuclear power absolutely baffling.

But the Fairewinds website is incredibly interesting.

And, yes, nuclear power does make me nervous. The exclusion zone in my novel in Vermont is small compared to the actual exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

Room,” by Emma Donoghue. What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity.

If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.

You can connect with Chris Bohjalian  on Facebook or on his 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!

*This post contains affiliate links!

It’s The 3 Little Things: Summer Lips, Red, Red Wine, & Comfy Sandals

Friday, June 13th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

I love it when Friday rolls around, don’t you?  I’m excited to showcase the 3 things that are making me happy this week with a bonus happy or two for your day!

I have been getting asked lately if I am going to run out of things for this feature. I really hope not because I have heard from many that this is their favorite day of the week on here. I have a running list that I jot things down on to include each week, but it definitely starts to become more challenging as the weeks go by. I promise to try to do a good job though and not recommend things I am not completely nuts about because…hello? How would that benefit you at all? I am now looking for little things at the stores to share with you. I call this “business research.” Often conducted at CVS and through online shopping. I hope I can write it off for my taxes.

 

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

Great Summer Lips

I love a fresh summer lip and this year my new favorite is an oldie, but goodie called Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey.  If you haven’t tried this lip color it is universally flattering and beautiful and I promise does not look anything like what is in its tube. You can pick it up at your favorite Clinique counter in the department store or they have it at Sephora. I absolutely love this shade for summer and I think you will too. It goes on like a gloss and moisturizes the lip. It’s the one you will want to buy extra tubes of so you can grab it and keep in your purse so you can touch them up while you are out and about.

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

I like when people show me what lip color looks like on so here is a terrible selfie I took of the lip color for you so you can see why I love it so much. Isn’t it perfect for summer? Between that and my favorite BB Cream with the built in sunscreen, I feel set! This retails for $15 a tube so it is a splurge, but I promise you that you will love it and get your use out of it this summer. If you have a universally flattering shade you love, please share it with me and I will see about making it a part of my happy list and featuring it here too. I am always on the lookout for a fresh shade!

Santa Bacelli Chianti from ALDI

My Favorite Red Wine + Orange is the New Black

Red wine is my favorite and in the evenings we have been watching the second season of Orange is the New Black while we enjoy a glass of red wine. My new favorite red might surprise you, but I promise if you are a red wine drinker that you will absolutely love the Santa Bachelli Chianti from ALDI. The bottle retails for $4.99 so you might overlook it as a good wine option, but this bottle is on par with bottles I have bought in the $12-15 range. It’s one of their award winners and I try to buy a few bottles to keep in our wine rack for entertaining. It’s rich, dry (but not too dry), with a rich black cherry and plum flavor. It’s best paired with the new season of Orange is the New Black.

We are only a couple of episodes into Orange is the New Black, but it’s already my guilty summer pleasure. If the show is too racy for you, I totally get that. I highly recommend picking up the book which is more G-rated and just as fascinating as the show.

If you are as into the show as me though, you might enjoy taking this quiz to find out which character you are. As if you didn’t find me boring enough, the quiz says I am Piper. Lucky for me, it seems she is getting tough this season so watch out.  I was really hoping for Crazy Eyes though.

Payless Dexflex Sandals

Comfy Summer Sandals

I bought two pairs of these Dexflex Comfort Vicki Low Wedges for summer and I can’t rave enough about them. The true test of a good sandal is if you can go on a trip, walk through the airport, and put in a 12-hour workday standing the entire time and not have back pain, go to the airport again,  hop off the plane, and then dance the entire night until 2AM to celebrate the world’s greatest person at a party. These sandals did that for me on my last trip and people kept stopping me in the airport to ask me where I got them. They happen to be on clearance right now (lucky you!) so the pink are for sale for $12 and the black are on sale for $17. That is a lot less than I had paid for them. I got these when I bought my favorite nude pumps- it was a great shoe day, I tell you.

There are no buckles, the elastic hugs your foot, but they don’t squeeze them too tight (important if you have a wide foot like me). The heel is low and the shoe is well supported in the heel. I I bought a pair in pink and in taupe at the beginning of summer and have been wearing them nonstop.

 

Fleetwood Mac Rumours T-Shirt

Luxe Wagon

Here is the pair that I am wearing non-stop in taupe. I don’t know if your store might have them, but I absolutely love them. These look great with my Fleetwood Mac t-shirt that I scored from our Luxe Wagon in town. Seriously, fashion on wheels? Be still my beating heart. You gotta check it out! I got the cutest things from there and the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album happens to be my absolute favorite record so I had to have this t-shirt.  I would call that a bonus happy to pair with these shoes.

Last Day of School

Dress: site sponsor, Flourish Boutique

 

My other bonus happy this week is that we are FINALLY done with school. I may have been toasting myself with that Chianti because I survived my first year with two kiddos at two schools AND my first year of middle school.

I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest years I have ever experienced as a parent. The transition to middle school was a tough one for my son and for me. I am so proud that we made it through and that he did so well with his grades. I wouldn’t torture him by posting a picture, but know that I am so proud of him. He worked very hard this year and we had excellent teachers and volunteer tutors from IUSB that donated their time after the school hours to help him succeed. It took a village this year, but we did it and I am so, so proud.

My Emily also had a fantastic year.  She got an Outstanding Student award and I can’t say I helped her too much with that because I was so preoccupied with middle school homework. She’s a hard worker and makes my job so easy. Her happiness is contagious and when I volunteer at school, she always says, “That’s MY mom,” and hugs me. At eight, my days are numbered so I am savoring it while they last.

What could make you happier than being a proud mama?

Chris-Bohjalian

Now that the kids are done with school, I am excited to tackle my summer reads at the pool. I happened to post about my latest NetGalley releases (remember that post about advanced readers?) and LOOK WHO WAS ALL LIKE, ” Happy reading, Amy,” on my personal Facebook status. Are you kidding me? Chris Bohjalian, well-played. Your book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands has moved to the top of my book stack. I haven’t even read it, but I am going to recommend it for his comment. He is one of the greatest writers of our time so I already know it will be amazing.  Between that and our Scribd freebie membership this week, I won’t have to go to the library for awhile. Oh, who are we kidding, I already went yesterday.

 

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

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!