Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Allison Larkin and Matthew Norman are keeping it together...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

A while ago, I invited Allison Larkin to visit CLC in honor of her latest novel, The People We Keep. Just recently, she surprised me by inviting along a special guest. They did a fun interview together and shared it with me. That guest is Matthew Norman, whose latest novel, All Together Now, published earlier this summer. They're a fun team and I know you'll enjoy their friendly banter! Thanks to Gallery, we have TWO copies of The People We Keep to give away. And thanks to Matt, each winner will also get a copy of All Together Now!

Allison Larkin is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Stay, Why Can’t I Be You, and Swimming for Sunlight. Her short fiction has been published in the Summerset Review and Slice, and nonfiction in the anthologies, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship and Author in Progress. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with her husband, Jeremy.

Visit Allison online:

Matthew Norman lives with his wife and two daughters in Baltimore, Maryland and holds an MFA from George Mason University. His first novel, Domestic Violets, was nominated in the Best Humor Category at the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards, and his second novel, We're All Damaged, was an Amazon bestseller. (Photo credit: Jason Rice.)

Visit Matthew online:

Synopsis of The People We Keep
Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her absent father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo’s diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than Little River. After a fight with her dad, April packs up her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.

Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at CafĂ© Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt. 
As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be. 
This novel is an uplifting tale for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of found family or to grasp the profound beauty of choosing to belong. It’s a nostalgic escape into Ithaca, NY and Asheville, NC in the 1990s, where love wasn’t so easily found on an app and people weren’t updating Instagram with their whereabouts, providing a wistful look into the past for those looking for healing amidst times of uncertainty.

Synopsis of All Together Now:
At just thirty-five, reclusive billionaire Robbie Malcolm is a renowned financial prognosticator, a celebrated philanthropist, and a mathematical genius. Also, he’s dying, which is a fact he’s carefully concealing from the world.

As he takes stock, Robbie realizes that his wealth means nothing if he can’t help the people who matter most. So he invites his oldest friends—Blair, Cat, and Wade—to their beloved Fenwick Island on the coast of Delaware to share his secret and to reveal plans for each of them that he believes will change their lives forever.

However, Robbie isn’t the only one with secrets. The bonds the friends formed as teenagers still exist, but adulthood has brought a whole new set of complications, like unrequited loves, marriages on the brink, and so much unfulfilled potential. Robbie’s plans may look good on paper, but are they any match for the utter disaster that is real life?

As everything comes to light over a wild weekend full of surprises, Robbie learns there are still some things money can’t buy, and a group of friends who thought their best years were behind them realize just how much they have to look forward to.

Ten Questions with my Literary Rival Matthew Norman
By Allison Larkin

When a feud between two novelists was making news several years ago, Matthew Norman tweeted that he was looking for a literary rival, and I took the bait. 

At the start, the prospect of our feud seemed promising. I assumed we’d be like Keats and Byron, or Hemingway and everyone who wasn’t Hemingway. I imagined us exchanging sharply worded insults. Maybe someday at a literary conference, we could snub each other, or one of us could throw a single malt scotch in the other’s face. 

But, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and novelists...Unfortunately, Matt and I are really bad at being rivals. For the most part, our literary feud involves saying nice things about each other while also mentioning that we’re in a feud. Occasionally, I draw a Batman mask on photos Matt posts. But I can’t remember why the Batman mask is even a thing, and I don’t think it bothers him. 
I was still holding out hope that we could get our feud on track, and then Matt had to go and blurb my new novel.

The People We Keep is a daring, emotionally rich joy of a novel that will get in your head and grab hold of your heart. You don’t just root for Allison Larkin’s main character. You want to protect her. You want to reach into the pages and do whatever you can to help. Simply put, this is a great book.” 
—Matthew Norman, author of Last Couple Standing and All Together Now 

How am I supposed to feud with a writer this lovely and thoughtful? And he’s also funny and talented. If we crossed paths at a conference, I’d be too happy to see Matt to snub him.

Our new books even look nice together. The blue matches! 

In one final attempt to rescue our literary feud, I asked Matthew Norman ten questions to see if we can come to some sort of impasse. Fingers crossed.  

1. Favorite book
MN: STRAIGHT MAN by Richard Russo. I read it in college, and I’ve been blathering on about it ever since. 

AL: Mine is SONG OF THE LARK by Willa Cather, but Matt’s choice is solid.

MN: Wonderful! My oldest daughter’s middle name is Willa. Willa Cather and I both have ties to Nebraska, so I thought it’d be a nice touch. Also, it’s a very pretty name.  

2. Coffee or tea?

MN: I wholeheartedly support both. I typically drink espresso in the morning and then iced green tea throughout the day. If I’m picking one, though, I’ll say tea because I’m fancy. 

AL: See what I’m up against? Even though Matt is ultimately picking tea, he supports my choice of coffee too. And I have to admit the iced green tea is fancy. 

3. Beatles or Stones is the obvious question, so let’s get less obvious. Beatles or Dylan?
MN: For me, it’s the Beatles over literally everyone. 

AL: Clearly, this is the wrong answer, but we just like what we like, right? It’s no reason to throw a scotch and soda in Matt’s face. 

4. Favorite writing implement 

MN: Nice pens and cool stationery are wasted on me. I learned to type when I was really young and never looked back, so my handwriting is comically bad. My laptop is my favorite writing implement. The keys make the loveliest snapping sound. 

AL: I was going to say mechanical pencils because I do love them, but honestly, I also prefer my laptop over every other writing implement. 

5. Most productive time of day? 
MN: The morning, for sure. By the afternoon, all that espresso and green tea have worn off, and I’m pretty much useless. 

AL: Four o’clock in the afternoon. I think my brain is most creative in that useless haze. I admire the whole morning person thing. It would be nice to work and then be done with work for the day.

6. Claire Cook once told me most writers have a personal theme that recurs in their books. I think she’s right. What’s your theme?

MN: I believe that about 10% of the adults in the world have their shit together. The rest of us are just holding on as best we can and trying to avoid true catastrophe. This theme shows up often in my work, as I tend to write about characters who are among the 90%. 

AL: Ooh, I love this. That’s why your books make me feel better in my soul -- because my life is basically held together by duct tape and hope. Your theme even relates to my theme of found family because to me, family is the people who see your mess clearly and love you. Not love you anyway. Just love you. 

7. I think I’ve seen a guitar in your Instagram photos. Do you play guitar?
MN: Sadly, no, I’m a fraud. My wife is the musical one. She plays the piano beautifully. She took guitar lessons years ago, but mostly just dabbles now. Her guitar looks cool as hell hanging on our wall, though. 

AL: Shoot! I play a little guitar and was hoping we could start a literary band like a couple of Rock Bottom Remainders wannabes. 

MN: That would be fantastic. However, I’d probably have to be the roadie or florist or something. Bands have florists, right?  

8. Will your wife be in a band with me? 

MN: She just checked her Outlook calendar, and she’s free to be in a band with you next Tuesday from 1-2pm Eastern Time.

AL: Okay, good. We’ll get back to you about the florist gig after we vote on it at our band meeting. If it were just up to me, I’d probably say yes, but I’m in a band now, Matt. So I can’t go making unilateral decisions about florists.  

9. What’s your favorite non-writing activity?

MN: I love running. I could fly when I was younger. I’m in my 40s now, though, so I mostly just hobble along in expensive footwear. 

AL: Same. I love running too. I think we’re the exact same age. I’m not super achy yet, but it’s only because I run so slowly I may as well be walking. 

10. Go-to snack while writing?

MN: Sour Patch Kids. They’re just the best. 

AL: Yeah, I like those too. I’m also partial to the kind of dried mango that’s dusted with chili powder. Do you have any feelings about that? 

MN: <slams laptop shut, shakes head>

AL: Finally! An impasse! Snack foods don’t seem like enough to go full Hemingway at this juncture, but maybe if we let this disagreement fester for twenty years, our feud will grow to epic proportions. 

AL: Hey Matt?

MN: Yeah? 

MN: You’ll be hearing from my lawyer. 

Thanks to Allison and Matthew for visiting with us and thanks to Gallery and Matthew for sharing their books with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

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Giveaway ends August 8th at midnight EST.

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rubynreba said...

No, I have not ever had a rivalry.

Suburban prep said...

Rivalry has happened in my family between siblings.

Carla S. said...

I've not ever had a real rivalry.

traveler said...

I haven't been in a rivalry.

Anita Yancey said...

No, I have not been in a rivalry.

Mary C said...

No, I have not been in a rivalry.

Toni Laliberte said...

I've never really had a rivalry with anyone. I'm not that type of person, I guess. Lol.

holdenj said...

No, I haven't.

Rita Wray said...

No, I have never had a rivalry.

diannekc said...

I can't recall being in a rivalry.

susieqlaw said...


Mary Preston said...

No, not what I'd call rivalry.

Mary Patricia Bird said...

I don't think I've been in a rivalry, except maybe sibling rivalry.

dstoutholcomb said...

high school rivalries were a thing back in the day


bn100 said...


Jennifer said...

With an old roommate once....

Kelly Rodriguez said...

No, I haven’t had that situation occur.

Nancy said...

No. I have never been in a rivalry with someone.

allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

Peggy Russo said...

I had a minor rivalry back in high school. It was a very looong time ago.

Linda Kish said...

No, I get along with everyone.

Annmarie Weeks said...

Never had a real rivalry with anyone...just the typical sibling rivalry with my only sister when we were younger.