Coming this August, available for preorder now. Check out the cover for Family Tree right here.

#1 New York Times-bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns with the heartbreaking, heartwarming story of one woman’s struggle to make peace with her past and take control of her future—a story that celebrates family and love in their many forms.

After a shock event rips her life to pieces, Annie Rush retreats to her family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the place where she grew up, the people she knew before, the hometown boyfriend whose life has been filled with unexpected turns. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, this is a novel to cherish and to remember.

I’m getting  a lot done on my work+fun trip to Australia. Here is one of the best photos I’ve taken. Just a casual phone snap as I was standing in line to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol. (Note to American readers–that word is pronounced “jail.” Swear.)

There is a whole story in this image. The bride, the insanely huge humvee limo, the driver, the groom…and don’t get me started on the wedding party that poured out after. Suddenly I wasn’t so interested in the gaol.

Melbourne bride

What’s she thinking?

That’s how it works when writing fiction. You think you’re after one thing–some historical details about the outlaw Ned Kelly, for example–but then the world offers you something else.

A story begins where it ends. And it ends where it begins. For me, the key is to follow the emotional pull. And obviously, this image is a lot more interesting to me than Ned Kelly. I’m excited to see where this writing journey takes me.

Where will your writing journey take you today?

 

 

My grandmother was a lifelong reader who had a quirky little habit of rating a book she’d just read. On the inside front or back flap, she would put a little star if she especially liked a book, followed by her initials–“MB”.

She was kind of stingy with the stars but I remember some of the books she loved–Came a Cavalier by Francis Parkinson Keyes, the “Rhanna” series of books by Christine McDonald Fraser, Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger.

There was one special book that rated not just a star but an exclamation point, surely the highest praise from a very particular reader. I remember finding that book on her shelf when I was just a girl of perhaps twelve years old. I was intrigued by the interesting cover art, which resembled a French advertising poster, and even more intrigued by the title of the book: Dandelion Wine. There was another set of initials endorsing this novel–“CLB”–my mother. I figured a book beloved by both my grandmother and my mom couldn’t be half bad, and so I read it.

Dandelion Wine turned out to be the kind of book you fall into, starting with the first page. There’s something about the voice and timeless sense of place that draws the reader into that fictive dream, that alternate reality we find so absorbing and comforting.

I’d always been a voracious reader–that annoying toddler foisting The Pokey Little Puppy on any unsuspecting adult who would read it to me, the self-important first grader reciting Yertle the Turtle by heart, the geeky twelve-year-old obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and her torrid affair with Gilbert…but Dandelion Wine was even more powerful. As soon as I finished reading it, I turned right back to page one and read it all over again.

Afterward, I very stealthily found a pen and added my own initials to the back flap of the book, then returned it to my grandmother’s shelf of beloved favorites.
As the years went by, her eyes grew dim and her penmanship grew spidery and indistinct, but her love of books and reading never flagged. She lived to the ripe old age of 95, and when she passed away, she left behind a small but beloved collection of books. Things were crated up and shuffled around as things have a way of doing, and passed among various family members.

My own daughter, Elizabeth, turned out to be as avid a reader as her predecessors. Each year, I tried to find a special book to give her, one that would go on her keeper shelf–a signed edition of Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Golden Compass, Harriet the Spy, Treasure Island. One Christmas, not long after my grandmother died, I was sorting through belongings–okay, clutter–when I came across a box of books. And in the box I found the perfect gift for my daughter. My grandmother’s original copy of Dandelion Wine. It didn’t look like much by then. The cover art seemed lackluster, the pages had yellowed, but it was a special joy to show her the initials of my grandma, my mother and the twelve-year-old me, carefully inscribed in the back of the book. In time, she read the novel too, and added her own initials to the list.

More time passed, and Elizabeth went away to college, pursuing her own writing career with a well-received funny memoir about planning her wedding with yours truly. [www.howiplannedyourwedding.com] And again, books were boxed up and lsost in the shuffle, but Dandelion Wine resurfaced just a few years ago, looking tattered and worn, the way a well loved book should look. Even better, it had four generations of readers’ initials endorsing it.

On a whim, I scanned the cover and back flap, and sent the picture to Ray Bradbury with a letter telling him this story. As an author myself, I know what it means to hear from readers.

To my amazement, I received a note back from Mr. Bradbury, who was 85 at the time. He enclosed a poem he’d written and signed his name to.
It was one of those moments–unexpected, unasked for…and indelible.

Wishing you nothing but joy in the new year.

www.susanwiggs.com

“Help us, Dobie-wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope.”

#Barkis #doberman #StarWars

Who’s going to the movies tonight? Who’s already seen it?

It’s by far the most frequently-asked question a writer gets. Dr. Seuss famously told people, “I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Über Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.” 

So is it any wonder I went on a quest to Europe?

2015 SW in cassis

The Calanques near Cassis. Hike until you drop...or until inspiration strikes.

The Calanques near Cassis. Hike until you drop…or until inspiration strikes.

Once again, we relied on advice from locals. In Aix-en-Provence, we bought matching pinky rings (I know. I know!) and a cool necklace made with tagua nut beads. The jeweler urged us to go to Cassis. He was an incredibly sincere person and a fine artist, with his atelier right there in h is tiny shop. Since I’m a big believer in following one’s instincts–off we went.

There were some fine and inspiring surprises there. A torrential downpour, complete with lightning strikes and waves crashing against the phare.

An old-school hotel perfectly situated at the harbor, where you could stand at the balcony and watch the fishing fleet going out. A friendly shop keeper who offered us her parking space, because in the old town, parking is virtually impossible. And bouillabaisse, which is both art and religion here.

France’s newest national park–The Calanques (“creeks” but they’re not creeks; more like towering cliffs like the ones in South Africa or Sydney, Australia) is criss-crossed by hiking trails so long and twisty and tough that you just have to jump into the crystal blue water. And by the way, the water quality is officially rated, and the water here is rated “excellent.” Clean and clear.

And chilly. But whatever. And while there, I watched a very attractive older couple holding hands to wade into the water on one of the tiny, rockbound beaches.

“It’s cold,” the woman protested, sucking everything in.

“We’ve driven a thousand kilometers to get here,” said her husband. “We’ve got to do it.”

And a moment later, they were swimming and laughing like children instead of seventy-year-old pensioners.

And a moment after that. I had an idea.

See? Easy. You just have to travel to a remote part of the world you’ve never heard of, et voila! 

We went to Lourmarin and Cassis, both suggested by locals in Aix. This is when you open your mind and let the book start talking to you. It’s always a good idea to talk to locals. Fortunately, my very good French from way back is still pretty good French after a few verres de vin. Even if you don’t speak the language, there is always a way to talk. Just try not to be self-conscious about it.

We stayed at a mas (more on that later) near Laguiole, home of the world’s finest knives, and a nice lady at the farm told us to check out Belcastel. We spotted a sign pointing to it, drove the twisty road, et voila! Look where we ended up. You barely need an imagination to think of the stories breathing from the past here.

I love traveling with Jerry, even when he takes sneaky pictures of me. Enjoy this view of Belcastel, in the Aubrac region of France.

My adorable daughter suggested Aix as our home base. We found a splendid apartment in the old town and moved right in. So here’s Aix–a funky university town housed in an ancient and venerable city. Markets, music, food, energy…I had my hair done (lisse et raide) in a salon that called itself the “best fucking cut shop” (painted on the window, sorry) and bought a cool necklace made from a nut. Trust me, it’s cool. And I thought about my book. The characters from the past who are pointing the way for the characters in the now.

Here’s Aix at sunrise:

When you’re traveling, embrace your jet lag. When you wake up, grab your notebook and start writing.

If you’ve ever taken a trip on a train or ferryboat, you know what I mean. You’re forced off the grid, leaving you 2 choices: read or write. It’s singularly relaxing. This is known as reader (or writer) heaven. From Paris, we took the TGV (tres grande vitesse) train to Aix-en-Provence. 3 zippy hours in a comfy seat with France out the fenetre.

Paris gare de lyon

What did I write on the train?

Sometimes productivity is overrated.

Sometimes productivity is overrated.

And what did I read? An international bestseller called THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND… by Swedish author Katarina Bivald. It will be published in the US in January, and you’re going to love it.

I am on a working vacation. When you’re a writer, it’s not a contradiction in terms, because your job comes with you in your head wherever you go. So if you go someplace awesome, you’re still working. But trust me, it doesn’t suck.

First stop–Paris. I finished FAMILY TREE (coming in 2016) and started research on my next book. Here’s the Jardin de Luxembourg and it doesn’t look much like Paris but when I see beehives, I have to take a photo because, well, beehives.

paris-beehives

I love discovering strange shops that sell things like mushroom hunting knives. Here’s one on Boul’ St. Germain called Le Prince Jardiniere:

paris - le prince jardiniere

My amazing husband Jerry takes the best people-watching shots. Check out this French kid taking a selfie in Place des Vosges, aka the prettiest square in Paris:

paris-place des voges

what’s on my mind right now:

Join me on Facebook. You won’t be sorry.

I tend to spontaneously give stuff away to readers and libraries. Join the fun here. Really.

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