June 11, 2009

3Q with Tess Callahan (and a contest)

We will once again steal Mir’sContest Rules but the SHORT version is, leave a single comment by midnight EST on Friday, and three of you will win a first edition copy of Tess Callahan’s dark and lovely debut novel, April and Oliver.


I just finished this a couple of weeks ago, and I really, really, really liked it. It’s the story of two childhood friends whose lives are re-entangled after the death of April’s brother, Buddy. Intense April chooses self-destructive relationships while Oliver, a happily engaged law student, seems to have it all together. I found it to be…sexually fraught with a tricky undertow to it, so it was constantly pulling me to places that I didn’t see it going. It’s beautifully written and ultimately hopeful, and I put it on my reread shelf because it’s so nicely layered, and yet I had to know what would happen so I read through the first time very quickly.

Library Journal says, “Callahan spins a dark, gritty tale of love, yearning and choices while presenting engaging characters and substantial action that packs more than a few punches. Wise beyond words."

JJ: Your main character, April, seems to be nothing like you. After all, you are a mother and teacher with a stable life, and she is a bartender who gravitates toward dangerous men. What DO you have in common or, if nothing, how did you manage to inhabit shoes so different from your own?

TC: True, April is impulsive and I am cautious. She fills up a room with her presence and I have a tendency to disappear. She provokes conflict and I avoid it. Nevertheless, we have things in common. Our fathers both tended bar, although the fictional Bede, April’s father, did it for a living, whereas my dad did it as a second job on Saturday mornings at an old-timers’ neighborhood pub. Unlike April’s father, mine was gentle, kindhearted, and together with my mother, gave my siblings and me a stable upbringing. Like April, I spent time with my dad at the bar, just hanging out with my Shirley Temple. I spent more time in bars under the age of ten than I have since.

Also, I share April’s appetite for reading. Many of the books strewn around her apartment are ones I myself have taken an interest in.

Lastly, I understand that kind of bottomed-out self esteem that says: Any guy who is too nice to me must have something wrong with him. Fortunately, I got over that. There’s hope for April, too.

Oliver is closer to my personality. He so wants to do the right thing, but sometimes is out of touch with his inner compass. I loved art and writing as a kid, but never considered them as career choices. On the surface, they just seemed too impractical. Deep down, I think the prospect of harnessing my own creative power was too terrifying. Who knew where it might lead me? Instead, I got a master’s degree in education and taught English abroad. It wasn’t a bad decision, since it allowed me to travel. But even then, I couldn’t keep myself from writing and sketching in my journals. Thank God for that, because disowning your own power doesn’t mean it goes away, it just means it exists without a driver, like a runaway car. Oliver repressed his intuitive, nonlinear self, which made catastrophe not only inevitable, but necessary for him.


JJ: A lot of writers read this blog. How did you sell your book?

TC: I have collected enough rejection letters to make a bonfire. To boot, I never handled them well. They are always so disappointing. But the truth is that over the years I sent many things out before they were ready, and it took me time to hone my skills. I don’t really regret that, because failure can be an enormous teacher. I gave up on the idea of publishing, and discovered that I am a good teacher and could draw a great deal of satisfaction from that.

Nevertheless, I kept writing because it is what I do. I worked on April & Oliver on and off for years, periodically stuffing it in a drawer for long stretches. It was my good friend, novelist Sasha Troyan, who encouraged me to haul the manuscript out one more time. Having been away from it for so long, I reread the manuscript with a blend of satisfaction and horror. Because so much time had passed, and because I myself had changed, (the stretching effect of parenthood), I could clearly see what rang true and what did not. It was as if I was reading someone else’s manuscript, and knew precisely what to fix. When I was satisfied, I sent it to agent Anne Edelstein, who sold it in two days. In short, I sold my book thanks to the badgering of my writing group, as well as a good deal of luck, and a lot of stubborn persistence.

JJ: What is the relationship between writing and motherhood like for you?

TC: On the surface, it appears that the huge demands of parenting compete with writing. Certainly, I would have more time to write if I were not a mother. I thrive on having chunks of time in which to immerse myself in a manuscript, but as all parents know, dealing with interruption is part of the job description.

Nevertheless, I feel that parenthood has made me a better writer. My children keep me grounded in the here and now. If I ever start veering toward fluff or dishonesty in my stories, I only need to hear my daughter talk about her school day, or watch my son feed his turtle, to know what is real and true. Parenthood pushes and pulls you through a wide range of human experience, which can only deepen your well as a writer.

JJ: That's interesting to me... Motherhood changed my writing. I think my work was somewhat colder, less connected, less empathetic and certainly less hopeful before I had kids. But you are correct, I had a lot more time to WRITE then...Thanks for a great book, and for stopping by FTK. I look forward to reading whatever you do next.

Posted by joshilyn at June 11, 2009 8:48 AM

Sign me up.

Posted by: Roxanne at June 11, 2009 9:14 AM

Good morning, all.

"...disowning your own power doesn’t mean it goes away, it just means it exists without a driver, like a runaway car."

This should be embroidered on samplers and handed-out to every baby girl born in this world.

Posted by: Jan in Norman, OK at June 11, 2009 9:30 AM

Sounds like a great read -- sign me up. (And I'm with Jan on the quote!)

Posted by: Kelly at June 11, 2009 9:47 AM

The book sounds provocative and intriguing...and I am experiencing SERIOUS cover envy. Wow. Such a simple cover design and yet it catches the eye and feeds the imagination. Thumbs up!

Posted by: JMyersbook at June 11, 2009 9:48 AM

Always looking for a new selection for our neighborhood book club, and we love first-timers.

Posted by: Susanvl at June 11, 2009 9:49 AM

This sounds fascinating! and good catch on that quote, Jan!

Posted by: BethR at June 11, 2009 10:05 AM

"She fills up a room with her presence and I have a tendency to disappear." Wow, that grabbed me. I often feel like I disappear, but I have never articulated it like that. This book sounds fascinating. So, PICK ME, PICK ME, OH Random Number Generator Sir!

Posted by: Gail at June 11, 2009 10:29 AM

Oh, the book sounds VERY intriguing. Sign me up for a whirl in the Random Number Generator!

I'm with Jan on the quote, too -- that really jumped out at me. Truer words were never spoken.

Posted by: Aimee at June 11, 2009 10:35 AM

Sounds like a great read!

Posted by: Glory Words at June 11, 2009 10:55 AM

Ooh, that cover is awesome!

Posted by: Katie B at June 11, 2009 10:57 AM

Add me to the list of quote admirers. Funny, I was just thinking this morning that if I had less time to write I'd be better disciplined to make use of the time I did manage to carve out - and I was (for once) envying those of you who are mothers.

I also wonder (because it's more interesting than listening to the morning news) if you guys aren't correct about having a deeper grounding/connection/view of/on life because of parenting. (Not that I want to change my life, or think it's incomplete or empty because I am childless). But it does seem there are layers and levels of love and understanding of the human condition that I just don't ... grasp or see - and I worry my writing might reflect that lack of depth.

All that long rambling navel-gazing comment to say, I want in on this drawing!

Posted by: Mit at June 11, 2009 10:57 AM

ooh, sounds like a great read! I'd love to be entered, but I'll probably get it from the library when I don't :)

Posted by: ailo at June 11, 2009 11:00 AM

Pick me, oh virtual N-sided die of doom!

Posted by: Rachel at June 11, 2009 11:24 AM

ooo! Pick me! I need a new good book to read.

Posted by: Katie at June 11, 2009 11:26 AM

Now I want to read the book just to see what books are in April's apartment!

Posted by: Jen at June 11, 2009 11:28 AM

I really need a book intervention. But not yet...here's hoping my numbers up...(that sounded less final in my head)

Posted by: Karen at June 11, 2009 11:36 AM

This story sounds good! I hope the random number generator likes me.

Posted by: DebR at June 11, 2009 11:47 AM

Ah, writing! Both the bane and the joy of my life.

I could use another joy - in the form of a book.

C'mon Random Number Generator! Momma needs some new pages to read!

Posted by: Chris at June 11, 2009 11:59 AM

April and Oliver sounds like just what I've been looking for! And like others, our book club is always wanting to be on the cutting edge of reading. And I can't disagree that children add an entirely new level of comprehension to the way I see the world and how to deal with it.

So I'm holding my breath that the random number generator calls me out!

Posted by: Chandler at June 11, 2009 12:05 PM

I need a good summer read (please).

Mary Craig

Posted by: Mary Craig Puntney at June 11, 2009 12:10 PM

I need some great fast reads. My one-year-old gives me only small moments of peace at a time. I hope I win!

Posted by: Marilyn at June 11, 2009 12:22 PM

sounds like a great story...please pick me, i can't wait until my library gets it in (and i come up on the hold list :P)

Posted by: Trish at June 11, 2009 12:24 PM

This book sounds so great I can't wait to read it. I'd love a free copy, pick me!

Posted by: Laura F at June 11, 2009 12:28 PM

I really love these 3Q that you do with other authors! This book looks amazing, can't wait until I have time to read it!

Posted by: Elizabeth at June 11, 2009 12:44 PM

This sounds like a wonderful book! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the chance to win one.

Posted by: Pamela L at June 11, 2009 1:07 PM

I am intrigued. I will be reading this book and hopefully more from this author. Thanks for sharing this 3Q, ladies!

Posted by: Cindy Ericsson at June 11, 2009 1:08 PM

Count me in.

Posted by: Emily at June 11, 2009 1:10 PM

I love books. I would love to have this book!

Posted by: Kathy at June 11, 2009 1:10 PM

Sign me up, sounds fabulous!

Posted by: heidi at June 11, 2009 1:16 PM

Wow, this book looks great. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: corrie at June 11, 2009 1:17 PM

Sounds fabulous, sign me up!

Posted by: Kristin at June 11, 2009 1:22 PM

Sounds like another wonderful book. I will certainly search the library for it.

Posted by: Linda J at June 11, 2009 1:33 PM

Sounds good!

Posted by: Jill W. at June 11, 2009 1:47 PM

Oooo! I've already got this book on my "I want it" list - put me in!

Posted by: Jen A at June 11, 2009 1:50 PM

I can't wait to read it! Add me to your entries!

Posted by: Melinda at June 11, 2009 2:31 PM

Summer reading, yay! Sign me up.

Posted by: kmkat at June 11, 2009 2:34 PM

I'm in!

Posted by: Melisa at June 11, 2009 2:56 PM

this book sounds like something i need to read. especially an autographed copy. oh, please, pick me!

Posted by: dramamama at June 11, 2009 3:00 PM

Sounds like an awesome book. I'd love to read it!

Posted by: Allison at June 11, 2009 3:38 PM

I got tempted to come here and now that I am here am very interested and will stay a while, with or without a free book. Thanks for the contest but thanks for the content more

Posted by: Jim at June 11, 2009 4:25 PM

The book sounds fabulous!

Posted by: sheri at June 11, 2009 4:26 PM

Yay! I'm in!

Posted by: Cristin at June 11, 2009 4:36 PM

Oh great and powerful random number generator, hear my prayer...

Posted by: Heather at June 11, 2009 4:40 PM

I'm in ;D

Posted by: Heather at June 11, 2009 4:42 PM

Great interview! Sign me up please!!!

Posted by: Bridget at June 11, 2009 4:48 PM

Sounds very interesting!

Posted by: Lindsey at June 11, 2009 4:59 PM

Well, at least I am not #1 this time. May 47 is lucky!

Posted by: jean at June 11, 2009 5:05 PM

So Joshilyn-how do you find these authors to interview?

Posted by: Bridget at June 11, 2009 5:10 PM

The book sounds fantastic! Count me in, please. :)

Posted by: this girl remembers at June 11, 2009 5:21 PM

This sounds precisely like a book that I would pick up, read the back blurb, and then buy on the spot. Thanks for pointing me toward it. If I don't win it, I'm sure I'll buy it in the future;)

Posted by: Tina at June 11, 2009 6:06 PM

I've found that if Joshilyn likes a book, it's a good one. (I LOVED David Cristofano's "The Girl She Used to Be.")

Posted by: cheryl at June 11, 2009 6:18 PM

Wow, this sounds good!

Posted by: pam at June 11, 2009 7:51 PM

Sounds like a great read! I've never yet been able to sweet-talk Mir's random number generator, but maybe yours is more easily swayed: hey, baby, nice algorithm you've got there...

Posted by: Catherine at June 11, 2009 7:58 PM

Ooh! Pick me, pick me!! I would love to win a book (and as mentioned previously, I NEVER win anything)!

And, building on Catherine's comment above, maybe your random number generator would like some chocolate? :)

Posted by: Erin at June 11, 2009 8:36 PM

Yes, please!

Posted by: Gretchen at June 11, 2009 9:37 PM

I too, loved The Girl She Used to Be and am looking forward to this new novel.

Posted by: jean at June 11, 2009 9:43 PM

Cna I comment and not be entered, since I have the best signed book by Joshylin ("to my BFF" -- thankyouverymuch!) and I'm going to buy this regardless?
I just wanted to say the part that really, really rang true for me was writing after parenthood. It really did make things have a trueness.

Posted by: JulieB at June 11, 2009 9:51 PM

This sounds really, really good! I hope I win this time!

Posted by: Julie G at June 11, 2009 10:12 PM

I'd love this book! Sign me up. :-)

Posted by: Linda Sherwood at June 11, 2009 10:40 PM

If I keep entering your contests, law of averages says I have to get lucky SOMETIME! I laughed at "slave to the math" in your last award post...
Thanks for the interview!

Posted by: elizabeths at June 11, 2009 10:56 PM

Sounds like a great book! Love the interview! Sign me up, please!

Posted by: Teresa Wells at June 11, 2009 11:14 PM

I'm always looking for another good read. Summer reading, here I come!

Posted by: Theresa S. at June 11, 2009 11:58 PM

Me too, me too, please!


Posted by: JMixx at June 12, 2009 12:06 AM

Please enter me!

Posted by: Nik at June 12, 2009 4:14 AM

Ahh, looks intriguing . .

Posted by: Brigitte at June 12, 2009 5:40 AM

Thanks for another great interview!!

Posted by: Carol at June 12, 2009 6:51 AM

The cover alone is enough to make me want to pick this book up...your endorsement sealed the deal.

Posted by: Karen at June 12, 2009 8:31 AM

Sounds like a fantastic read, please sign me up! But it's going on my list of "to reads" even if I don't win!

Posted by: Amy S. at June 12, 2009 9:47 AM

Wow, sounds like one to put on the list...

Posted by: Chris S at June 12, 2009 10:14 AM

This sounds really intriguing. I'd love to have a read.

Posted by: Keri at June 12, 2009 10:20 AM

I want it!

Posted by: Lynn at June 12, 2009 11:02 AM

Another book for the to-read shelf. Can't wait. Thanks again for the recommendation.

Posted by: Rita at June 12, 2009 11:24 AM

I read authors, and love to find a first novel first! BUT... that also means the dreaded WAIT for the second one.
I think I'm up for it, count me in.

Posted by: Jody at June 12, 2009 2:19 PM

I really enjoyed the Q & A with this author. When she said : "Deep down, I think the prospect of harnessing my own creative power was too terrifying." I had a moment of insight into my own blocked walls. Thank you for the introduction to this writer and her work.


Posted by: Michelle at June 12, 2009 2:38 PM

Loved the interview. Can't wait to read the book!

Posted by: Chris at June 12, 2009 3:32 PM

We sell April & Oliver (and all books by Joshilyn Jackson) in our small indie store, and it looks so wonderful. I would love to win my very own copy.

Posted by: Jess H. at June 12, 2009 4:21 PM

Oh, sounds like another must read to add to my list. Love your author interviews!

Posted by: Kim at June 12, 2009 4:58 PM

RNG, work your numbery magic. This sounds like a great read!

Posted by: tuney at June 12, 2009 5:14 PM

I am on the waiting list for this book at the library, but I have a feeling that I would love to own it!
BTW, I saw TGWSS in paperback at Borders yesterday and I was sure to pick it up to admire it!! Looks great! (I have my hardcover copy already.)

Posted by: Andrea at June 12, 2009 8:06 PM

sounds great, i'd love to win it

Posted by: michelle m. at June 12, 2009 9:42 PM

Oh, pick me - I am desperate need of a good book!

Posted by: Tina at June 12, 2009 11:54 PM

This sounds like a great book...I would love to win!!

Posted by: Kimberli at June 13, 2009 1:15 AM