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It’s rare that I travel without children. These are some of the differences that stand out:

1) Packing for just oneself feels impossibly simple and light. I keep thinking, “It can’t be this easy, can it??”

2) Since the family is staying home, no need for the pre-trip stress of readying the house to be unoccupied.

3) Airport security with only one pair of shoes to come off and one bag to send through is laughably simple. Heck, I remember the days of having to wake up a sleeping baby so I could fold up his stroller and heave it up onto the conveyor belt, one-handed, while holding the now vocal and annoyed baby with the other. Downside: because I will be a lone adult instead of a mom, I will probably be sent through the creepy backscatter machine instead of getting to follow my boys through the regular metal detector.

4) Even with my sweetheart’s frequent flying, we never have enough air miles to upgrade all of us. With me flying alone, however, and it being low season, I have finagled an upgrade. I will drink champagne! I will swivel my seat to face my laptop on a desk beside me, or face the TV shows diagonal to me, or the fancy food in front of me, or even to LIE FLAT. I consider this upcoming flight to be a vacation entirely on its own.

I grew up close enough to New York that my best friend and I occasionally ditched school to catch one of the frequent commuter trains into the city instead. New York is the city of my childhood, and I’m delighted to be “coming home” for a few days.


I can finally share the specifics of the lovely news: The Whole World and The Start of Everything have been picked up by UK publisher Allison & Busby. In June, The Whole World will come out in paperback to accompany the launch of The Start of Everything in hardcover. Hooray!

This is partly thanks to the behind-the-scenes influence of bookseller Richard Reynolds of Heffers, whose crime fiction expertise is legend. He is devoted especially to crime fiction set in Cambridge, and Cambridge is very lucky to have him.

It’s a general principle that all meetings in publishing happen over lunch. Allison & Busby publishing director Susie Dunlop and I met at the cafe in John Lewis in Cambridge, and I was honored that she’d travelled up from London to see me. She said I would know her by the Allison & Busby tote bag she carried. I said she would know me by the new bright pink coat I had just bought at Marks & Spencer. It’s a lovely coat, new for the season, and I should have foreseen that I wouldn’t be the only woman in that packed cafe wearing one! There were about four of us. Ah, well. Susie and I eventually managed to find one another, and fell easily into conversation. She is going to be wonderful to work with.

Susie gave me that tote bag she was carrying, and it was full of a selection of their lovely books. I’m thrilled to be sharing a publisher with Laurie R. King, Jacqueline Winspear, D.E. Meredith, and Jamie Ford. I’m especially enchanted by the cover of D.E. Meredith’s Devoured, with its textured dustjacket and the old map of London printed on the hardcover underneath.

As I finish The Start of Everything‘s launch month in the US, it’s wonderful to have June to look forward to.

Writers are playing tag!

These ten questions are being answered by writers all over the web.

Thanks for Carole DeSanti, author of The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), for tapping me. Carole’s answers are here, and are a fascinating glimpse of an editor’s decision to write, and why:

The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R.  arose from a desire to flee the pressures of 20th/21st century  commercial publishing (i.e. my day job) to escape back into the earlier love that brought me to novels in the first place.  As a young editor, I sometimes felt like a courtesan of literary life – if the publisher thought something would sell and dropped it on my desk, I worked on it — from diet books to erotica.  I supplicated bestselling authors and pretended to like things I didn’t, which was hard going, because for me, reading is an intimate, personal act.

Don’t you want to read more?

Here are my answers:

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:

  1. What is your working title of your book?

The Start of Everything.

  1. Where did the idea come from for the book?

A friend of mine had a very specific job for the Cambridge University Registrar: finding the intended recipients of insufficiently addressed mail. The story possibilities of this role leapt out at me, and The Start of Everything begins with a letter to a women who seemingly doesn’t exist.

  1. What genre does your book fall under?

Like my previous book, The Whole World, psychological suspense.

  1. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A misaddressed letter, an unidentified body, and a compromised cop.

  1. Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass agency, and The Start of Everything has just this month come out from Delacorte Press.

  1. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year.

  1. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m inspired by Ruth Rendell, especially her alter ego Barbara Vine, and by Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Kate Atkinson.

  1. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Along with the letter job described above, I was also struck by the strangeness of the annual fen floods. It’s apparently normal here in Cambridgeshire that, every winter, whole swaths of land, including roads, go underwater. The fens were once marshes and, despite drainage efforts that have technologically improved over centuries, the water always has to go somewhere. Here’s a pic of my mom pretending to hitchhike at a point where the road just disappears. In my book, the body is discovered when the floods recede in the spring.


  1. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I started writing this story just after the unveiling of a new clock in Cambridge. It’s on King’s Parade, one of the most picturesque streets in the city, and people will actually turn their backs on King’s College Chapel, the most iconic building here, to gaze at the clock. It’s operated by an enlarged and exposed “grasshopper escapement” at its top, and this bit of machinery, named for the resemblance of its motion to the legs of a grasshopper, is on this clock represented by an actual monstrous robot grasshopper, which blinks and snaps and lolls its tongue. The designer, John Taylor, who has lived a fascinating long life and is poignantly aware of growing older, says that time is a monster. The clock is present in several key scenes, and various characters react to it.

  1. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t care who plays the parts, so long as it is properly filmed on site in Cambridge and the fens. The setting is very present in my books, and Cambridge itself is the most important character.

My turn:

I tag Marisa Labozzetta, author of  Sometimes it Snows in America. Doesn’t this look interesting? “Born into Somali royalty and Saudi Arabian wealth, Fatma is given away in infancy and, at age 12, forced into an arranged marriage with a young Peace Corps worker. Prejudice and cultural demands lead to a number of painful promises that will dictate the course of her life on two continents. Sometimes It Snows in America is a novel loosely based on the true account of an African woman’s descent into an American hell, and finds its echo in the descent of her native Somalia into its own hell of violent desperation. It leaves the reader with the gifts of unsuspected connection and surprising hope.”

Is your new year’s resolution to finish your novel, or to start one? Join literary agents Janet Reid (“Query Shark”) and Donald Maass (“Writing the Breakout Novel”), in discussion with authors Jenny Milchman (“Cover of Snow”) and Emily Winslow (“The Start of Everything”) for advice, inspiration, and solid ideas for making this your year.

Writing a Novel With Blockbuster Potential
Wednesday January 30, 2013 7:00 PM
Barnes and Noble
86th & Lexington Ave
150 East 86th Street, New York, NY 10028, 212-369-2180

Emily Winslow’s The Start of Everything “[brilliantly portrays] the ragged fragments of these lives. What emerges isn’t a single killer with motive and means, but a tangle of stories crossing and colliding, stray intersections of incidents and accidents, misunderstandings, and misreadings, all thanks to the myopia of individual perspectives and the self-centeredness of individual desires.” The Washington Post

Jenny Milchman’s Cover of Snow is a “superlative, dark, wintry debut…These well-defined characters take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the darkest night, with blinding twists and occasionally fatal turns. This is a richly woven story that not only looks at the devastating effects of suicide but also examines life in a small town and explores the complexity of marriage.” Booklist

Janet Reid is a literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management in New York City, specializing in crime fiction and narrative non-fiction. Her humorous and insightful Query Shark blog is the go-to site for aspiring authors preparing query letters.

Donald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, which he founded in 1980. He represents more than 100 fiction writers and sells more than 100 novels per year to top publishers in America and overseas. His books for writers include the inspiring classic “Writing the Breakout Novel” and his new book “Writing 21st Century Fiction.”

startofeverything coverofsnow


I haven’t yet had the courage to listen to the audiobooks of my novels. (I also haven’t yet had the courage to look inside the published hardcovers, so it’s not about the performances. I’m just very shy of seeing or hearing my words in a state where I can’t change them anymore. It’s as bad as watching myself on videotape! *cringe*)

What I have done is google all the actors involved. Here they are, in order of appearance:

Connor Kelly-Eiding (Polly in The Whole World)

Connor is a mystery. The only public photo I was able to find of her is as a clown called Peking Duck. So, here it is! Connor Kelly-Eiding as Peking Duck in the Hollywood Fringe Festival, 2012:

From left to right Connor Kelly-Eiding as PEKING DUCK, Dave Honigman as TOM and Lis Roche Vizcarra as LORETTA.

Philip Battley (Nick in The Whole World)

From his website, I see that Philip was recently in a Lifetime movie called “Layover.” (Don’t you think that title calls for an exclamation mark? Layover! ) As a Lifetime movie addict suffering withdrawal out here in the UK (the free movies on Lifetime’s website only play in the States), I am delighted to see that it will soon be out on DVD (under the much-less-fun title “Abducted,” which would also benefit from an exclamation mark). Philip has also performed Shakespeare at The Globe, so his life seems to be pretty awesome. Jealous!

John Mawson (Morris in The Whole World)

His website tells me that John “has a reputation on stage and on screen as an authoritative, intelligent performer with a fine dry wit” and also that he has acted in several “Funny or Die” sketches. This past year he wrote and starred in the short film “6 years, 4 months & 23 Days.” He has played Sherlock Holmes on stage to adoring reviews, so I count myself lucky that I get him to read the role of my detective.

Jane Carr (Gretchen in The Whole World)

Jane Carr Picture

IMDB describes her as “she with the close-set eyes, lilting voice, trowel jaw and bubbly disposition.” Highlights from her resume include: a teenage role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with Vanessa Redgrave on stage and with Maggie Smith on film, numerous productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Olivier nominations, and, interestingly, “body double and voice actress of “Tabitha Lenox” on the daytime soap drama “Passions” when actress Juliet Mills took a brief hiatus.” An intimidating width and breadth of work that fits well for the intimidating personality of Gretchen!

Robin Gwynne (Liv in The Whole World)

“Rubber-voiced Robin Gwynne, comedic actress and one-time bikini model, blends funny and sexy in a quirky twist on the tried and true Hollywood formula.” She’s guest-starred on lots of TV shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, Samantha Who?, and Pushing Daisies. “Quirky” sounds ideal for the role of Liv, and “one time bikini model” sounds like Liv’s unfulfilled fantasy, so, perfect!

Sile Bermingham (Mathilde, Chloe and Grace in The Start of Everything)

Sile Bermingham Picture

Her lovely Gaelic name is pronounced “Sheila,” which she is probably very tired of having to explain. Her recent films include a moody, Canadian-set serial killer movie “A Kiss and a Promise” and the heist film “2:22.” So, lots of experience with crime stories.

Stephen Hoye (Morris and George in The Start of Everything)

Stephen did a lot of stage and TV in the seventies and eighties, switched over to non-profit fundraising, then got his start as an award-winning narrator of audio books from a chance meeting with a producer in an elevator. So, he must be charming as well as talented! He says in an Audiofile interview that he learned to love audio books when he “became a commuter.” Ha! Amen.

I’m extremely lucky that these talented people have read my words aloud. Thanks to each one of them!

You can hear their work by buying the books here:

The Whole World

The Start of Everything

Books tend to launch on Tuesdays. Tomorrow, January 8th, is my Tuesday!

Launches are *exciting* and *nerve-wracking*. Three confidence-boosting things happened this weekend, preparing me:

1) One of the actresses who voiced the audio book of my debut novel wrote to tell me how much she liked it. I know from experience how intimate an actor becomes with a role, so a compliment from someone who knows the character (Liv) that well is a real treat. It absolutely made my day. Thanks, Robin Gwynne!

Yes, I said “one of” the actresses, because Audible cast five different voices for the five narrators of The Whole World! I’m delighted. For The Start of Everything, which also has five narrators, they cast two voices (a man and a woman). It’s an understandable difference, because the narrators of The Whole World have more variation in nationality and age.

Interestingly, there is one character (Morris) who narrates in both books, but two different actors were cast.

(Also, I would just like to say that Philip Battley, who was cast as Nick in The Whole World, has a smiling headshot that captures Nick perfectly. I know it’s irrelevant whether audio narrators look the part, but, yes, he looks the part! I can absolutely imagine Liv and Polly falling for him.)

The audio books are available here:
The Whole World
The Start of Everything

2) Art Taylor wrote a fantastic review of The Start of Everything for The Washington Post. I don’t mean that the review says that the book is fantastic; I mean that the review is amazingly written. It’s more an analysis than a review, and I’m thrilled to see the book talked about with such intellect and intensity. For example:

While Cambridge and that manor house may hark back to traditional British mysteries — a murder or two, clues and red herrings, the killer smoothly unmasked — it’s important to note that the manor house here has been “chopped into flats,” traditions have been broken, modern life is intruding. If Winslow overworks some of the connections here, she’s brilliant at portraying the ragged fragments of these lives. What emerges isn’t a single killer with motive and means, but a tangle of stories crossing and colliding, stray intersections of incidents and accidents, misunderstandings and misreadings, all thanks to the myopia of individual perspectives and the self-centeredness of individual desires.

What a privilege it is to have my work examined with such care.

3) I carry cards with info about the books, in case people ask. Yesterday, walking home from church, we stopped to chat with a family who lives on our route home. The mother looked over the information, and read aloud one my favorite reviews of The Whole World, from the Palm Beach Post:

“A first novel about growing up, having sex and going seriously off the rails at Cambridge University.”

She smiled, gazed wistfully into middle distance, said “Story of my life!” then laughed. Ha!

From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."