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A quick word from Bobbi Dumas, your host.
Hi everyone! Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month. You can find out more about this fun, month long event here. And check out all the great authors taking part this year on the calendar, here.
The theme this year is The Romance Of Reading, The Magic Of Books and we have an awesome assortment of writers – both romance and mainstream fiction authors – sharing about books, reading, romance & magic. I hope you’ll visit everyday.
(Also, be sure to check in to The Romance Of Reading FB page, where one of the RARM authors will be hosting the page each day in August. Today Karen Hawkins will also be on the page.)
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Kristin Harmel – Creating Inspiring, Magical Books
People often ask me why I decided to become a writer, and the plain truth is that it felt predestined from day one. I never wanted to be anything else (well, except for a brief period around age 9 during which I truly believed I would one day be a pop star with the pseudonym Mystica, but it turns out that actual singing ability is a prerequisite for a singing career.).
So what appealed to me so much about writing? It was, from the very start, the idea that writers have the power to create something from nothing, and isn’t that the very definition of magic? On top of that, knowing that I could develop the power to infuse my characters with life, my words with feelings, and my stories with morals that might stick with readers felt amazing. And it is. Knowing that something I write can find its way into your home—and maybe even into your heart—makes me feel like I’m in control of some pretty potent magic.
When I begin the outline for a novel, I sit down in front of a blank computer screen and begin to pull the story from my imagination, just like a magician might pull a white rabbit from a hat. That’s a pretty incredible feeling (especially since I have full use of the backspace key, so none of that initial magic has to be permanent!). But I think the true magic happens when one of my finished books makes it into a reader’s hand. After all, a story without a reader is just a collection of words that mean nothing. As readers, we imprint our own experiences, our own feelings, our own hopes and dreams, on the words we read, and that means that a book is different for every single person who opens it.
As a writer, it has been magical for me to hear from readers all over the world who each have their own reactions to my books. One memorable example is an email I received from a reader in Russia, who had just finished reading my 2007 novel, THE BLONDE THEORY. She wrote that the book had finally given her the courage to leave her abusive boyfriend once and for all. I was blown away; the book wasn’t about abuse or violence, and that was not the message I initially intended (it was more about learning to be yourself), but it delivered the right message to the right person at the right time—because she needed it. I love that books can become an inspiration or even a lifeline to us in our times of greatest need, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work the kind of magic that can sometimes even save a life.
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I do a writing retreat every year with the following five writers. They are some of the kindest people on the planet—and some of the most talented wordsmiths. Most write primarily for young adults, but I am absolutely positive that their books appeal to adults, too. Here they are, along with one book from each I recommend:
Alyson Noël – alysonnoel.com – @Amazon
Her novel SAVING ZOE just premiered as a film in theaters nationwide (also available On Demand). Alyson and the two stars of the film even did a special showing at the UN! How cool is that?
Allison Van Diepen – www.allisonvandiepen.com – @Amazon
Allison’s LIGHT OF DAY is a pulse-pounding, fast-paced ride through the terrifying world of teen sex trafficking. You’ll finish it in one sitting.
Emily Wing Smith – www.emilywingsmith.com – @Amazon
Emily’s ALL BETTER NOW is an incredible, deeply personal memoir touching on a life-threatening medical struggle and how Emily found her way out of the darkness through writing.
Linda Gerber – lindagerber.com – @Amazon
I soooooo wish you all could read Linda’s latest (which I’ve been lucky enough to read a few chapters of while it awaits publication), but in the meantime, her three DEATH BY BIKINI mysteries are awesome, perfect beach reads!
I also recommend my sister, Karen Cleveland, who relies on her amazing experience working for the CIA (!!) to craft realistic stories about CIA and FBI agents! NEED TO KNOW and KEEP YOU CLOSE are out now.
www.karen-cleveland.com – @Amazon
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2019 RARM Questions:
Tell us about a time in your life that felt magical to you.
When I was touring in Europe for my novel The Sweetness of Forgetting in 2013, I was in Paris for two nights visiting my old friend (and former Paris roommate) Lauren. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend at the time, Jason, had contacted her and arranged a surprise. After dinner on the first night I was there, she led me past the apartment we’d shared in 2002, which also happened to be the setting where one of the characters in The Sweetness of Forgetting lived. There, with the Eiffel Tower sparkling behind us, Jason—who had flown all the way to France from Florida to surprise me!—emerged from the shadows, dropped down on one knee, and proposed, using a line from The Sweetness of Forgetting.
When I said yes, paper stars rained down on us from above; while he was waiting, he had chatted with some girls in the building, who had taken it upon themselves to wait on their balcony to watch the proposal. It was the most magical moment of my life. Now, we’ve been married for five years (we married at Disney World in 2014, with fireworks afterwards at the French pavilion of Epcot – also incredibly magical!), and we have a three-year-old son.
Tell us about a book that was magical for you.
One of the first chapter books I read as a kid was NO FLYING IN THE HOUSE, by Betty Brock. I’m forty now, and I still remember it vividly! It’s about a girl named Annabel whose parents have disappeared; she soon discovers that she’s a fairy, and she’s faced with a life-altering choice. I think it stayed with me not just because of the beautiful writing and storytelling, but because it was a wonderful reminder that there’s magic in all of us. It fueled my imagination as a writer for years!
NO FLYING IN THE HOUSE @Amazon
Tell us about a “magical moment” in your writing or your career?
I began my career as a chick lit writer with HOW TO SLEEP WITH A MOVIE STAR, which I wrote in 2003-2004, and which came out in 2006. I was in my mid-twenties then, the genre was at its height, and it was a great fit for me. But as I grew up a bit, I realized I wanted to be writing a different kind of book.
I had the idea for what would become THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING in 2009, just after my fourth chick lit novel, ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS, had come out (along with two young adult novels), but my agent at the time told me I couldn’t do it.
“It’s not a Kristin Harmel book,” she said when I pitched her the idea. She didn’t want to shop it to editors, because it was completely off-brand for me—and she was right about that. Instead of writing a contemporary story about young women looking for love, I had written a story about a woman who had lost the love of her life in 1942 Paris, during World War II.
Admittedly, the Holocaust wasn’t exactly a fit for a chick lit writer, but I knew it was where I wanted my career to go—but my agent disagreed. Ultimately, that agent and I parted ways, and I signed with the wonderful, magical Holly Root. THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING came out in 2012, and it changed my life. It was more successful than my previous six novels combined; it allowed me to finally write novels full-time; and it set a new course for my career.
Now, my “brand” is firmly upmarket women’s fiction, and my fourth World War II-era story – THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE (following THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING, WHEN WE MEET AGAIN and THE ROOM ON RUE AMELIE) is out this month in the States! It came out in July in Canada and debuted at #1 on their two biggest bestseller lists!
I guess this kind of book is a Kristin Harmel book after all. ;o)
For writers who use magical aspects in their books, what attracts you to those elements? For those of you who don’t, are there specific themes or elements you’re attracted to and find yourself going back to? Why do these resonate with you?
I tend to write novels more grounded in reality, with one big exception: My 2014 novel, THE LIFE INTENDED, is about a woman who—just after becoming engaged—begins to dream vividly of the life she could have had with her first husband, who died twelve years earlier in a car accident.
The dreams lead her down a path she never expected, and she begins to realize that perhaps they’re more than just figments of her imagination; perhaps her first husband is telling her something after all. PEOPLE magazine compared it to the movie Ghost, which was awesome; it’s very much what I was going for in terms of the idea that true love and fate transcend even death. I loved writing about a woman who wondered if she was going crazy but who couldn’t ignore the things her heart was telling her. Incorporating magical elements into that—and tying them together in a (hopefully heartwarming) surprise twist at the end—was really fun for me, and I’d love to write another book in that vein.
The moral of the story is that in our lives, we have the right and responsibility to choose happiness, and I think there’s something very magical about shifting one’s perspective and deciding to live life that way.
Creativity is a kind of magical experience. What inspires you, keeps you going, helps you when you lose focus, etc.?
I’m big on outlining my novels before I begin writing, which doesn’t sound very magical, I suppose! But stay with me: I think that having the framework of an outline when I write allows me to infuse the finished book with some magic, because I’m worrying less about where the book will go and more about how to get the reader to the end in the most enjoyable way possible.
I think that any time you can make a reader feel something—whether it’s joy, sadness, dread, or hope—you’ve worked a little bit of magic, because you’ve transported the reader into the heart and mind of characters you’ve created. I’m so grateful every time a reader tells me that he or she has experienced a roller coaster of emotions while reading one of my books!
DRAWING – is hosting The Romance of Reading page, and her giveaways will take place there.
However, comments will also be entered to win a bundle of books from the Week 2 participating authors. You may enter by commenting on this original blog post and/or on the Read-A-Romance Month Facebook page post, here.
Each first unique comment at each space offers an extra chance to win, so check in with each author. Must comment by 8/21/19 11:59pm Eastern to enter.
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Kristin Harmel is an international bestselling novelist whose books have been translated into numerous languages and are sold all over the world. A former reporter for People magazine, Kristin has also freelanced for many other publications, including American Baby, Men’s Health, Glamour, Woman’s Day, Travel + Leisure, and more.
Her latest novels — The Room on Rue Amélie, The Sweetness of Forgetting, The Life Intended, How to Save a Life, and When We Meet Again — are out now from Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. Her latest is The Winemaker’s Wife, a #1 international bestseller and World War II tale of love, family, and betrayal set in the rolling vineyards of Champagne, France.
Kristin grew up in Peabody, Mass.; Worthington, Ohio; and St. Petersburg, Fla., and she graduated with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida. After spending time living in Paris, she now lives in Orlando, Fla., with her husband and young son.
Discover all of Kristin’s books:
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