process

Devi Laskar on Creating Her Debut Novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

When she was accepted to a California writers' workshop in 2004, author Devi Laskar wanted to dust off an old short story she had written about arranged marriage. However, a good friend from graduate school, who was also attending, insisted she write something new. 

“So I wrote a family story about a woman and her kids and her dog,” Laskar explained. “I was torn between my love for The House on Mango Street — and my desire to emulate it — and my years of training as a reporter.” 

Devi Laskar on Creating Her Debut Novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Lisa Grunwald Discusses Writing Time After Time

On a 1937 December morning, as sunrise light streams through the high, arched windows of Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds spots an out-of-place young woman near the station’s famous gold clock. After coming to the woman’s aid, Joe learns three things: Her name is Nora Lansing, she’s a wealthy Manhattan socialite, and she absolutely captivates him.

This serendipitous meeting begins an unlikely love affair that defies both time and tragedy. As Joe and Nora find each other again and again, they slowly unravel the mystery surrounding Nora’s strange circumstances even as the threads of their lives wind tighter together.

Lisa Grunwald Discusses Writing Time After Time

Scott Carney on Writing What Doesn’t Kill Us

Wim Hof, “the Iceman,” practices cold exposure in order to accomplish incredible feats: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, for example. He also holds the world record for a barefoot half marathon above the Arctic Circle, and standing in an ice cube-covered container for more than 112 minutes. 

Reporter Scott Carney’s investigative and participatory journalism book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, delves into Hof's methods, and explores how far humans have strayed from our evolutionary roots and the implications that has on our health. "The developed world—and, for that matter, much of the developing world—no longer suffers from diseases of deficiency," he told Spine. "Instead we get the diseases of excess.” 

Scott Carney on Writing What Doesn’t Kill Us

Spencer Hyde, Drawing on Personal Influences for Waiting for Fitz

From wedding ceremonies to hand washing, if society understands the reasons behind an action, it is considered "normal." In his new book, Waiting for Fitz, Spencer Hyde tells the story of Addie, a teenage girl struggling with OCD. She is admitted to a psychiatric ward where she finds friendship with a schizophrenic boy named Fitz. Together the two learn about love, forgiveness, courage and who they are in the space between "normal" and their own atypical reasoning.

Spencer Hyde, Drawing on Personal Influences for Waiting for Fitz

Nafiza Azad Discusses Writing The Candle and the Flame

Nafiza Azad has always been annoyed by Shakespeare’s “What’s in a name?” question. 

“It centers the Western perspective as the only one that matters,” the YA author explained. “[But] a name has all sorts of meanings and functions in different cultures around the world.” 

This fact is reflected in the city of Noor, the setting of Azad’s diverse debut novel The Candle and the Flame. Names play a prominent role in the novel, as the main character Fatima, one of the few people left in Noor after a tribe of djinns slaughters the human residents, acquires the power to divine the true names of djinn. “Names for the djinn are very important,” Azad said. 

Nafiza Azad Discusses Writing The Candle and the Flame

Dea Poirier, on Perfecting her Craft with Next Girl to Die

It may have only taken Dea Poirier six weeks to write, but when Next Girl to Die came out last month, it was the culmination of years of hard work. Perfecting her craft and following her passion for connecting with people led to this debut novel, in which Detective Claire Calderwood must battle emotions from her past while trying to hunt down a ritualistic serial killer.

Dea Poirier, on Perfecting her Craft with Next Girl to Die

Casey McQuiston on Writing Red, White & Royal Blue

An idea hit writer Casey McQuiston while driving on the I-10 off-ramp, and she couldn’t ignore it. That idea was the seed of Red, White & Royal Blue, out now from St. Martin’s Griffin. She did what any good millennial writer with a day job could be expected to do. “I got to work, sat down at my work computer, and G-chatted my best friend. I said, ‘I need you to sit down and listen to this for a second.’” Characters and names tumbled rapidly to the top of McQuiston’s mind, and it flowed so naturally. “This is the one,” she thought. After considering starting so many books and waiting for an idea to grab her, she knew she had found the concept and cast of characters for her first novel.

Casey McQuiston on Writing Red, White & Royal Blue

The Illustrator’s Practice: Amber Vittoria

When artist and illustrator Amber Vittoria confronted portrayals of women in the art she saw in museums, she was discouraged. Frustrated. Disenfranchised. Vittoria simply did not see herself in the frame, so she decided to create images of women that speak to who she is and what inspires her. To few’s surprise, Vittoria’s authenticity, in conjunction with her talent and skill, paid off. Vittoria’s playful, colorful, jubilant designs have been picked up by brands like NBC, Gucci, New York Times, and Instagram, just to name a few. As a freelance artist and New York Resident, Vittoria spends her days investing in her own creative practice and bringing whatever inspires her to her client work.

The Illustrator’s Practice: Amber Vittoria

Interview with Miles Harvey & Emily Olson-Torch On The Garcia Boy by Rafael Torch

DePaul University’s nonprofit Big Shoulders Books press disseminates, free of charge, quality works of writing by and about Chicagoans whose voices might not otherwise be shared. The press is primarily run by students in the university's MA in Writing and Publishing and undergraduate English programs. Their most recent release, The Garcia Boy, shares the story of the late award-winning essayist and educator Rafael Torch, son of an undocumented Mexican immigrant. 

Interview with Miles Harvey & Emily Olson-Torch On The Garcia Boy by Rafael Torch

Author Roselle Lim on her Debut Novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune

“A horned lark perched on the concrete balcony outside my window, framed against the colorful paifang of Montreal’s Chinatown.” So begins Filipino-Chinese author Roselle Lim’s debut novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, out in June.

The average reader may be swept away by the language and beautiful imagery of the first page of Lim’s novel, without a thought as to how much time, effort, and care went into crafting that first sentence. “The first line, to me, is extremely important. It needs to convey the voice, the tone, and the footing of the new book,” Lim said. “It took me until about the third round of revisions to get the line just right for Natalie Tan.” Lim considers the first line of a novel the entry point for a journey, one that sets the reader’s expectations for the entire novel moving forward. 

Author Roselle Lim on her Debut Novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune

Lindsey Drager on Writing The Archive of Alternate Endings

In The Archive of Alternate Endings, author Lindsey Drager has penned a historical fiction which follows the 75 to 79-year passes of Halley’s Comet and answers the questions: What things change? What stay the same?  

Expertly crafted, The Archive of Alternate Endings weaves stories of our past with fantastical peeks into the future, at a rapid pace. Blending fact with fiction is challenging. Writing it so that the reader believes it as all true is an art. “Historical fiction is speculative … in the vast majority of cases it is our own brains that fill in gaps," Drager told Spine. “If you are going to speculate history, it should be for a good reason.” She did just that, by touching upon important moments in history and reminding us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Lindsey Drager on Writing The Archive of Alternate Endings

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Elizabeth McCracken’s highly anticipated new novel Bowlaway is her first in 18 years. This is a character-driven piece which begins at the turn of the last century, and is focused on the fictional community of Salford, Massachusetts. Grand in scope, the novel covers generations — all affected, some tangentially, by the inexplicable appearance of Bertha Truitt’s unconscious body, along with a bag carrying a bowling candlepin, in a graveyard.

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

With her second work of historical fiction, Jane Healey knew that she wanted to highlight a story of lesser-known women. So when she came across the story of the Red Cross Clubmobile girls, American women who volunteered to bring a piece of home to soldiers in World War II, she was instantly drawn to them. The Red Cross Clubmobile girls became the subject of her new novel, The Beantown Girls, out last February from Lake Union.

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly’s middle-grade novel, Song for a Whale, grew organically. The main character, Iris, is a 12-year-old Deaf girl who feels isolated from her school and family. Since Kelly is a sign-language interpreter you might assume her goal was to capture the experience of a Deaf character, but you would be wrong. Much like her award-winning first novel, Chained, it began with an animal; in this case a whale.  

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 3: Patti Ratchford

Beginning to End is a series from Spine following a book from acquisition to publication. For our first "season," we're following Light from Other Stars, about a young astronaut hopeful and an invention that alters time. The novel is author Erika Swyler's second, following her much-lauded 2015 debut, The Book of Speculation. Bloomsbury Art Director Patti Ratchford designed the cover, which features art by Marc Burckhardt. Bloomsbury will publish Light from Other Stars in May.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 3: Patti Ratchford

The Illustrator's Practice: Jennifer Heuer

For the past 7 years I’ve been working out of the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint Brooklyn. It’s been such an inspiring space to work out of. Having a crew of creative and talented friends up and down the halls has helped shape how I work over the years. Before I moved in here I wasn’t quite as confident in my illustration chops, but when you’re surrounded by some of the best in the biz, you get to have fresh eyes and opinions on projects.

The Illustrator's Practice: Jennifer Heuer

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

Each author struggles with her own worst stretch of creation. For some, fanning the spark of an idea into a fully formed concept stands out as most agonizing. Others get caught in the middle stages, struggling to find a way out of narrative tangles and research rabbit holes and multiple storylines. While each phase of her book Heartland had its challenges, writer Sarah Smarsh told Spine that the hardest might have been final edits—letting go of a book she’d worked on for some 16 years.

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

The Writer's Practice: K.M. Jackson, As Good as the First Time

K.M. Jackson has ideas, for books and books, for series upon series. "I have more ideas than I have time," said the author, whose romance As Good as the First Time launches this month. "The ideas come way too fast." Her new bulletin board is covered with ideas. "They come from the weirdest spots." Her Pinterest board is full of ideas. "The spark could come from anywhere."

The Writer's Practice: K.M. Jackson, As Good as the First Time

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

With Vox, her debut novel, Christina Dalcher “wanted to create a story about a woman who studied language and yet didn’t speak up as the world changed around her and in the end lost her voice.” In the novel, women are limited to 100 words per day and the country must submit to a value system cruelly enforced by the government. The story of how such a world developed and how it is taken down is bold and riveting. The story of how the novel developed is no less intriguing.

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on Writing Swan Song

Author Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s start in screenwriting and directing fostered an early interest in adaptation.

“I was always interested in the art of adapting works of literature for the screen,” Greenberg-Jephcott said. She related a life-changing incident from 2006. 

“I was in a villa in Provence having received a fellowship for a Tolstoy adaptation I’d written, and was inspired by authors present to try my hand at prose fiction,” Greenberg-Jephcott recalled. “I had a childhood passion for Capote and was intrigued by the women he called his Swans, who kept cropping up in the Clarke and Plimpton biographies, as well as in Truman’s work. I knew what I had in mind for their collective and individual narratives was too expansive a tale for a feature film—even a series risked not fully capturing their unique voices.  I began what would become a ten year process of research and gestation.”

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on Writing Swan Song

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

Novelist Mary Kubica's fifth thriller, When The Lights Go Out, launches this week. The best-selling author told Spine that each of her books starts with the flicker of an idea, which she fans from several angles to see if anything alights. "A book often begins with a small, subconscious spark of inspiration that's then molded in a very conscious way to see if the spark has legs," she said. "For When The Lights Go Out, that first spark was the twist itself, which was exciting because it's never happened for me this way. Usually I have no idea how my books will end, but only a beginning!"

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

The Writer's Practice: Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom

How does the co-founder of a theatre company create a novel that captures the tumult of coming-of-age in modern London? For Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom developed like a collage.  

It began with Loizou’s journals written when he was 24 years-old. Like Oscar, Disbanded Kingdom’s main character, Loizou describes himself at that time as “bumbling and directionless.” The journals captured the emotional journey of discovering how he fit in the world after university, but turning that into a novel was a challenge.  

The Writer's Practice: Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom

Q & A with Sea Witch Author, Sarah Henning

“I never could quite escape the fact that I wanted to write books,” said former journalist-turned-novelist Sarah Henning. “I think it’s impossible for us to run away from who we really want to be…  Dreams don’t die even when we’re adults and have a mortgage and kids. Some people stuff those dreams down and let them rot in their guts and some of us go for it, even if it seems selfish or silly, though dreams never are. Anyone who tells you that you’re either of those things for going after what you want most likely has a big dream-shaped ulcer in their gut.”

Q & A with Sea Witch Author, Sarah Henning

Janet McNally Explores Fairy Tales, Ballet, & Addiction in The Looking Glass

Novelist Janet McNally’s latest book was inspired by her love for fairy tales and ballet. 

In The Looking Glass, Sylvie Blake’s older sister Julia disappears, leaving Sylvie struggling to live up to Julia’s legacy at the National Ballet Theatre Academy. With the help of their old storybook, Sylvie sets out to find her sister and ultimately learns that “the damsel in distress is often the only one who can save herself.” 

Janet McNally Explores Fairy Tales, Ballet, & Addiction in The Looking Glass