Friday, June 3, 2011

4 MUST-READ JUNE NOVELS/Q&As by Melissa Senate

Two weeks from today is my very energetic 8 year old son's last day of school. As his entertainment director for the summer, I'm going to have to change my work schedule. Which means instead of freelance work from 8:30-12 and the WIP from 12-3, I'll be working/writing around his fun--in the wee hours of the morning, before the boy wakes up and the wee hours of the night, after he goes to bed. But while we're at the beach and he's checking out the periwinkles, collecting cool shells and building sand forts, I'll be happily READING.

There are so many I-must-read-this-NOW novels coming out this summer--books I've long ago pre-ordered or read in galleys or added to my very long list. And I'm proud to present four that will be published next week!
Bestselling, beloved author Claire Cook (one of my favorites) needs no introduction; she's a goddess in every way and an Indie Next Pick for June. Debut author Camille Noe Pagan, of the beautiful name and beautiful cover, made The Huffington Post's "Best Books Coming Soon" list. Amy Hatvany’s emotional powerhouse of novel slayed me in advance review copy form. And Alison Pace, whose books I love like mad, wrote a sequel to one of my favorite novels.

I asked these four talented authors if they’d share a bit about their books and themselves, and here they are!:


Tell us a bit about your novel, Claire.

Best Staged Plans is the story of Sandy Sullivan, a professional home stager who lives and works in the Boston suburbs. So getting rid of her own house and downsizing should be a breeze, right? Well, best staged plans and all, Sandy’s husband, Greg, is dragging his feet and their son, Luke, has returned home and moved into the “bat cave” in the basement.

Sandy reads them both the riot act and takes a job staging a boutique hotel recently acquired by her best friend’s boyfriend. The good news is that she can spend time in Atlanta with her recently married daughter, Shannon. The bad news is that Shannon soon receives a promotion and heads back up to Boston for training, leaving Sandy and her Southern son-in-law, Chance, as reluctant roommates. And then Sandy suspects her best friend’s boyfriend may be seeing another woman on the side. Fixing up houses may turn out to be easier than fixing up lives.

What do you think readers will relate to most about the book?

Reader response is always one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s like your book doesn’t fully exist until you start getting feedback from your readers, and I’m always surprised by what resonates. Because the heroine of Best Staged Plans is an almost empty nester, I thought the audience would be mostly midlife women. But I’m hearing from younger readers, too, who are enjoying it from the daughter’s point of view, saying OMG, that’s my mom, or thanks for giving me hope that my kids will actually grow up and I’ll make it to that stage. So I think it’s the continuum of shared experience that readers will relate to – family and friendship and our quest to fit in some fun. There’s also some solid home staging advice – there’s even an epilog with the heroine’s best staging tips. I think HGTV addicts will definitely get their fix with this novel!

What would surprise everyone to know about you?

Eight books in, I’m afraid the surprises are all in my bio by this point! Hmmm…that I grew up as the oldest daughter in a family of 8 kids? That I wrote my first novel in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice at 5 AM when I was 45? That I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, when I was 50? That my house is a mess? Maybe the last one hasn’t made it to my bio. Yet.

PRAISE: “Midlife craziness…crowd-pleaser for empty nesters…charmer…Cook knows the territory of secret longing and snappy dialog.” –Publishers Weekly

Read excerpts of all eight novels and visit Claire’s writing and reinvention pages at

Find Claire on Facebook:

Follow Claire on Twitter:


THE ART OF FORGETTING by Camille Noe Pagan

Tell us a bit about your novel, Camille.

The Art of Forgetting is about two friends, Marissa and Julia, and how their relationship is forever changed when Julia is in an accident that affects her memory and personality. Julia is transformed from a charismatic, take charge woman to someone who's softer and more accommodating and yet more reckless. As a result, Marissa, who had been content to follow Julia's lead, is forced to examine their friendship and realize she is as much at fault for their rocky past as Julia is.

What do you think readers will relate to most?

I hope that readers will relate to Marissa's insecurities (I certainly do!). She's a strong, capable woman, but she's let the people around her, including Julia, define her in many ways. This has not only hurt her self confidence, but also kept her on a path that, while perfect on paper, doesn't actually make her happy. I hope readers will cheer Marissa on as she recognizes her value, take the reins and steers her life back on a fulfilling track!

What would surprise everyone to know about you?

Readers might be surprised to know that even though I'm a homebody who strives to write novels that have a strong sense of place, I haven't lived in the same location for more than three years since I was eighteen. I lived in New York for most of my adult life, but not all at the same time; I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn; then to Chicago for two years; back to a different neighborhood in Brooklyn; only to end up buying a house in Ann Arbor, Michigan last year.

I moved to Michigan to raise my two small children near my family, but my husband and I are already daydreaming of our next destination, and are planning to spend a few solid months in Puerto Rico (near my husband's family) next winter. That's the beauty of being a writer; you can live anywhere!

PRAISE: “As it chronicles the complicated yet loving bond between two young women, The Art of Forgetting manages to be both a hilarious page-turner and an insightful exploration into the nature of friendship and self. This impressive debut is at turns funny, thought-provoking and achingly sad. It is (dare I say it?) unforgettable.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement and Maine.

Link to my blog:

Link to my professional site:



Tell us about your novel, Amy.

That’s always such a hard question for me to answer! In the simplest of terms, BEST KEPT SECRET tells the story of Cadence Sutton, a woman who (after a messy divorce) slowly spirals into alcoholism and not only has to come to terms with her personal failings, she also must fight to regain custody of her young son. At a deeper level, it’s about the pressure women face in our society – whether or not they are mothers – to do everything “perfectly,” and what happens to us (mentally, emotionally, and physically) when we can’t. Ultimately, it is an honest exploration of the space where addiction and motherhood intersect, and of how no matter the mistakes you’ve made, there is always hope. There is always a way to fight your way out of the dark.

What do you think readers will relate to most about the book?

Whether or not they’ve ever struggled with any kind of addiction, I think readers will connect with how Cadence feels that she doesn’t measure up – as a wife, a professional, a daughter, or a mother. There is such an expectation in our culture for women to be thin, sexy, accomplished in our careers, and so on and so on. If another woman is more successful, better-dressed, or has taught her three-year-old how to ask for juice in Mandarin Chinese, it’s a common reaction for many women to feel somehow “less-than” in that woman’s presence.

I wanted to portray how as a result of these feelings, too many women experience profound levels of shame and self-loathing, even as we smile brightly and tell ourselves that we can’t expect to always be perfect at everything in our lives. But deep down, perhaps subconsciously, I think we still believe that we “should” be. So we reach for behaviors that drown our shame out, at least temporarily. And then we become ashamed of the behavior, and a vicious cycle emerges. I’m not just talking about alcohol, here. Eating disorders, shopping, gambling, sex - even our careers can serve as an “escape” from the pressure. My hope is that this novel starts a conversation between women about the secrets we keep. Talking about them is they only way to erase the stigma that keeps us from asking for help.

What would surprise everyone to know about you?

Okay, I’m laughing at this question because I’m such an open book, I’m not sure there is anything that would surprise everyone! Though I suppose people are always a little shocked to hear that I actually met my second (and final) husband on Craigslist - clearly NOT in the hooker section! This was also before the site developed a less than stellar reputation – but at the time, we called it Bargain Basement! Out of the over 350 responses I received for my ad, I chose his, simply because he had the kindest blue eyes I’d ever seen. Six years later, we are over-the-top in love, and have bought and sold more items on Craigslist than any other couple I know. I’m a sucker for a good bargain!

Twitter:!/AmyHatvany; @AmyHatvany


PRAISE: "Amy Hatvany grabs you from page one and doesn't let you go. I was transfixed by Cadence and her heart-wrenching dilemma. The writing is visceral, the problems are real, and there are no clear solutions. You won't want to put it down." -- Emily Giffin, NYT bestselling author of Something Borrowed


A PUG’S TALE by Alison Pace

Tell us about your novel, Alison.

A Pug's Tale is what I like to think of as a mystery / rom com combo. The character of Hope McNeill (we first met her in Pug Hill in 2006) was a searcher, a yearner, she was looking for a lot. A Pug's Tale takes a look at what Hope is looking for *after* she finds everything she thought she wanted. In a sense, it's the what-happens-next story of Hope McNeill, her boyfriend Ben, and their pug Max, but it's also very much about an art heist. A painting has been stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Hope works and, because she might be a suspect, Hope takes it upon herself to figure out what happened. There's a scavenger hunt inside the Met, a long-distance romance, friendship, deception, and a lot of pug. There's some self-doubt, too. :)

What do you think readers will relate to most?

I think (hope!) that dog lovers will relate to the relationship that Hope has with her dog Max and the great love she feels for dogs. I think / hope that anyone who loves the Met will connect, as I did, to the fantasy that Hope gets to live out of being inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art after hours.

What would surprise everyone to know about you?

Hmmm...I imagine it's more *not* surprising that I grew up with five or six dogs in my home at any given time? :)

PRAISE: Booklist: "Pace is the alpha writer of feel-good, girl-in-the-city-with-dog novels." And they go on to call the book "a winningly affectionate tribute to art, love, New York City, and pugs."

Here's a link to read the first chapter:

Here's an amazon link:

Here's my author video:


Huge congrats to these four super nice, super talented authors on the mere-days-away publication of their novels! And because it’s a gorgeous summer Friday, I’m giving away a signed copy of my novel THE SECRET OF JOY to one random commenter on this post of reading happiness. (Check back late tonight to see if you’ve won.) Happy Reading and Happy June, everyone!

Bio: Melissa Senate is the author of 10 novels, including her latest, THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL. She lives on the coast of Maine with her son and towering read-me pile.


  1. Wow, Melissa! You gave us four for the price of one!! What a great blog post. I cannot wait to read all of these-- love the interviews.

  2. All of these books look like excellent reads. I'm looking forward to reading them all :)


  3. I'm glad to hear it's a sunny day somewhere. Here it is rain, rain, rain but with this wonderful giveaway, I can feel the sun. Thanks so much!


  4. Thanks so much for including me and The Art of Forgetting in this incredible group, Melissa!

  5. Thanks, Melissa--I am looking forward to the reading portion of summer!

  6. They sound like some great reads!! Can't wait to read!

    Angela Streit

  7. Wonderful interviews with the authors, Melissa!! Thank you for telling us about these novels ;).

  8. These sound like great books, and it's so interesting to get the author's perpective, it's like getting the inside scoop! As someone who loves to write, read, and discover new writers, I appreciate these novel previews, thanks!, carriewriterblog

  9. I've read two of these amazing books - BKS and TAOF - and have A Pug's Tale on the way! can't wait to dive into Claire's book, too. What a great line-up!

  10. Thanks so much for including BEST STAGED PLANS and for your kind words, Melissa! I wish Amy, Camille and Alison much joy and success with their releases, and I can't wait to shout out YOUR next book!! xxx

  11. Great list, Melissa! Love the interviews!

  12. Thank you for adding to my TBR pile!

  13. I have two of these on the way too!! I love that you and I share a summer job, social/activity director and chauffeur for a son.....mine is 13, and quite busy!! I posted about his social life today on my blog.