Tuesday, August 2, 2022

What Sara Goodman Confino has been up to...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

We are thrilled to have Sara Goodman Confino back at CLC today, to celebrate the publication of her sophomore novel, She's Up to No Good. If you read her debut, For the Love of Friends, you will recognize Evelyn, the quirky grandmother. While No Good is a standalone, there are some spoilers for Friends, so just keep that in mind. 

Since Sara was last here, I devoured For the Love of Friends (reviewed here) and got my hands on an early copy of She's Up to No Good, which is also really great (reviewed here). I also have enjoyed getting to know Sara even more over the past year and she is absolutely delightful. She also has a great sense of humor and I enjoy chatting with her. I'm hoping we'll meet up in the near future since we live relatively close. Today she's sharing a guest post about her writing inspirations and it's just as much fun as her books! Thanks to Get Red PR, we have one copy of She's Up to No Good for a lucky reader!

Sara Goodman Confino teaches high school English and journalism in  Montgomery County, Maryland, where she lives with her husband, two  sons, and miniature schnauzer, Sandy. When she’s not writing or working  out, she can be found on the beach or at a Bruce Springsteen show, sometimes even dancing onstage.

Visit Sara online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Thirty-four-year-old Jenna is expecting to buy a house and have a baby soon, not receive the abrupt announcement that her husband has met someone else. Bored, dateless, and living with her parents, Jenna jumps at the chance to get away when her quirky grandmother, Evelyn, announces she’s driving from Maryland to her Massachusetts hometown to attend to some mysterious personal business. 

Soon Jenna learns that there’s much about her grandmother’s life that she never knew about, including an ill-fated romance with a man named Tony more than seventy years ago. Evelyn and Tony couldn’t marry  because he wasn’t Jewish, and although she insists the trip isn’t about him, Jenna doesn’t quite believe it. 

Tony’s handsome great-nephew, Joe, turns out to be their Airbnb host, and as she lets her guard down and enjoys the coastal scenery, Jenna  realizes that maybe she can move on, after all. 

Alternating between the present and 1950s Massachusetts, this  heartwarming story of second chances is the perfect novel for your beach bag this summer.

“You can almost taste the lobster rolls and smell the warm salt air in Sara Goodman Confino’s latest, which will leave you smiling long after you turn the last page. When Jenna agrees to a road trip with her sassy grandmother, Evelyn, she never could have imagined how her life would change. Confino deftly weaves together two time periods to tell a charming and funny story of true love, second chances, and why we should always be open to new beginnings.” 
—Susie Orman Schnall, author of We Came Here to Shine

“A heartfelt and endearing story where generations of women do what women do best—keep one’s feet firmly planted while simultaneously moving forward with love.” 
—Ann Garvin, author of I Thought You Said This Would Work

How to win friends and influence people: Don't write a book about them

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all writers steal from anything that inspires them. 

See what I did there?  Stole from Jane Austen. And shamelessly stole a line from The Great Gatsby in my first novel, For the Love of Friends, then had to explain to my copy editor that, yes, I was allowed to because it had entered the public domain. Which, fun fact, is why you’re seeing so many Gatsby retellings coming out now, old sport!

But the reality is, authors borrow details most from their lives. I have a mug on my desk at work that says, “Do not annoy the author. She may put you in a book and kill you.”

It gets a lot more complicated with friends and family though. Sylvia Plath, for example, literally had a clause in her contract that The Bell Jar could not be published under her real name while her mother was alive. 

Friends and family members of authors often struggle to separate the person they know from their work. Which also drives authors nuts, but that’s a story for another day. So if you use too many real details, you wind up with a lot of people pointing fingers—sometimes not so nicely. 

I learned this lesson the hard way with a now-scrapped early novel. My grandmother was a consummate storyteller, filling my young head with tales of her childhood in the seaside town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. They say to write what you know, and some of those stories were so fantastic that I decided to use them in a fictionalized frame story. Sounds good, right? 

Here’s the problem: When you’re relating real events, you’re not creating, you’re transcribing. And when you’re transcribing an event, you’re going to upset the other people who witnessed it and had a different experience than you did. I have a relative who still isn’t speaking to me over that unpublished mess.

But, as I like to tell my students, nothing is a waste of time as long as you learn from it. And what I learned is that you wind up stuck when you use actual people and events. It’s harder to put them into fictional scenarios, because that isn’t what happened. When you create an entirely new character, their world is a blank page.  

Some situations though, are too good to not steal. My best friend keeps saying she’d like Reese Witherspoon to play “her” if they make a movie of For the Love of Friends. But which bride is she? (Correct answer? Whichever one she wants to be. Love you Jen and Reese!) The real answer is that she’s none of them. And a little bit of several of them. She kept texting me while re-reading (she read the draft early on) and saying, “Oh no! I did that to you, didn’t I?” She never told me to get Botox or that I couldn’t date a groomsman. But there are some situations that I’m sure feel vaguely familiar to certain bridal parties that I was in.

It’s impossible to see those traces of real life when you know the author and not want to paint it in terms of black and white which character is who. My mother, knowing this, insisted that I put a disclaimer in the acknowledgments that my main character’s mother was NOT her. Which, ironically, is exactly what that character would make her daughter do.

Joan Weiss, however, has an entirely different inspiration, and it’s one that no one in my circle guessed, those some reviews mentioned that she had that vibe: I borrowed from Ms. Austen again in the relationship Lily has with her parents. Joan is the long-suffering Mrs. Bennett, concerned with marrying off her children, while Lily’s father exudes Mr. Bennett’s droll support of his still single daughter. Yet Mrs. Bennett is the last woman I would compare my own mother to. (Lady Catherine, anyone? Just kidding, Mom!)

I teach creative writing. And I frequently have students come to me and say they want to write about something that happened to them. If it’s for a journal, great! Do it. Writing is an amazing form of therapy. But if it’s something you’d like to share with the larger world, the best advice I have is to fictionalize as much of it as you can.

The idea for She’s Up to No Good came out of my real-life grandmother planning a trip home to Gloucester for a week with my uncle. She insisted, at ninety-two and after a small stroke, that she could drive it all herself. And I asked myself where would I have to be in my life to say, “Nope, I’m driving you”? 

In my original concept of She’s Up to No Good, much of the story took place in Gloucester. But I hadn’t been there since I was fourteen. And with a baby in a pandemic, a research trip wasn’t happening. I asked my parents for old photos to help set the scene, but my father was the one who suggested I create a fictional Cape Ann town. I thought about what that would look like, and suddenly the whole story bloomed in front of me. Gloucester was absolutely the wrong setting. My family had too much history there. I’d feel constrained by what had really happened. In a fictional town, Evelyn, the star of She’s Up to No Good, could grow and change and do literally anything that my real grandmother never did (and a handful of things that she did do).

Your own history means more to you than it ever will to others. Using it as inspiration instead of gospel allows you the freedom to create something unique and really special. And it also lets you avoid being the drama at family reunions; I’d rather sit in the corner and take notes to use as inspiration for a future story when the bickering inevitably starts any day.

Thanks to Sara for this wonderful guest post and to Get Red PR for sharing her book 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

Giveaway ends August 7th at midnight EST.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.


Toni Laliberte said...

I didn't really know my two grandmothers. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was eight. I do remember her being nice, funny and kind. My paternal grandmother was not in my life very much. I have a few nice memories, though. She passed away when I was twenty two.

Mary C said...

I would go on a road trip with my sister.

Christina Lorenzen said...

This sounds like the perfect book to escape these crazy times we're living in.

traveler said...

This book is a real escape. Delightful and unique. I would have loved a road trip with my mother who is gone now. My grandmother's had very hard lives and were unable to enjoy life.

diannekc said...

I love going on road trips with my Sister.

bn100 said...

likes to cook

Mary Preston said...

My maternal grandmother was the illegitimate daughter of an English Lord.

Nancy P said...

When I was a teen, I saw a picture of my paternal grandmother around the same age. It was such a spitting image that it was like looking at myself dressed up in old clothing from a time long ago. Even have her lovely green eyes which is extremely rare in my family. Super cool!

satkins said...

I would definately take a road trip with my 20 year old grandaughter-she is so much fun to be with and is very adventurous

Rita Wray said...

I would love to take a road trip with my sister.