Monday, July 7, 2014

Interview with Lydia Netzer, Author of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

I'd like to welcome Lydia Netzer to the blog today to celebrate the publication of her newest novel from St. Martin's Press, How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky. Stick around until the end for a fabulous giveaway that you don't want to miss!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Lydia! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

I was born in Detroit and raised by two public school teachers. We lived in Michigan during the school year, and at an old farm in the hills of western Pennsylvania during school vacations. My world revolved around horses, music, and books.

I went to college and grad school in the midwest, met my husband and got married in Chicago, and then moved to Norfolk when we decided to have kids. We have two: a boy and a girl. I homeschool them and taxi them to orchestra rehearsal, the karate dojo, the pony farm, and many music lessons. At our homeschool co-op I teach literature, and I love to travel, knit, play my electric guitar, and of course read.

I currently live in Virginia with my family.

Readers, here's a bit about this new book, which was published last week!

Lydia Netzer, the award-winning author of Shine Shine Shine, weaves a mind-bending, heart-shattering love story that asks, “Can true love exist if it’s been planned from birth?”

Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation's premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.

George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other's soulmates.

When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them—together or, perhaps, apart.

Lydia Netzer combines a gift for character and big-hearted storytelling, with a sure hand for science and a vision of a city transformed by its unique celestial position, exploring the conflicts of fate and determinism, and asking how much of life is under our control and what is pre-ordained in the heavens.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million | iTunes | Kobo | Google PlayPublisher

Describe the How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky in six words.

Do I deserve to be loved?

What was the inspiration for the book?

Thirteen years ago, I was sitting with my friend Kristen in her mom’s living room, and we were watching our babies playing together. They were one year old, and they were stacking blocks, knocking them over, and just generally being adorable. We speculated, as friends often do, about what it would be like to be grandparents together, if our kids got married, and how perfect and wonderful that would be. It started me thinking about arranged marriages, asking myself whether engineering soulmates might not be possible.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
On the night when George and Irene were born, the sun set in a boil of red-orange ribbons across the Ohio sky.
This is the first line of the prologue, and the prologue suggests that maybe sleep is practice for death, and dreaming is practice for the afterlife. A few of the characters in the book can control their dreams and meet each other in their dreams, and I play with the idea that maybe being asleep is a mild version of what death is like, and lucid dreaming may be what our minds give us in heaven. We know so little about falling asleep and about dying, about dreaming, and about what happens after death. It’s always fascinated me that this huge, important thing is such a mystery, so unknown. Especially the transition point from waking to sleeping, from life to death—what is this moment? It’s one of the big questions of the book.

Are the characters from your books based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your stories?

There are always pieces of people I know in the characters I write. That’s just one of the hazards of knowing me. Some pieces of this novel are so directly related to the reality around me that I had to ask permission before using them, and some are very tangential.

As for my actual life—I say some things in this book that are very personal, very close to me. The best way I can say these things is to make up characters and situations and play out a plot. Sometimes the plot seems a little bananas—going in and out of a dream world, a game world, a made-up Toledo Ohio that’s a glittering mecca of culture and learning for the world. But just because the book is invented and there aren’t really narwhals in Lake Erie and you can’t really make black holes in a lab—that doesn’t mean the message isn’t coming straight from my heart. This is just the best way I have to communicate.

Which character from How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky was most difficult to write?

Irene was the toughest. She represents a hard part of me—a cynical, world-weary part—so giving her such a tough, bitter shell and then relentlessly breaking her open was satisfying, and good for me, but definitely a challenge. George was much easier. George is so lovable, so funny, so feckless; I could happily write ten more novels about George.

How do you react to a negative or harsh review to your books?

The fact that people are out there reading my first novel, having opinions, writing those opinions down, and posting them on the internet, still shocks me, and it’s been two years. When I say shocks me, I mean delights me.

I’ve been known to read out a negative review to my husband and laugh and laugh, as if I’m two years old and it’s rainbow bubbles or something. I just cannot get over the reality that my characters, my ideas, my scenes are out there in the world and that people read them. I know that my books are not going to be wonderful for everyone; no book is wonderful for everyone! (Not even Pride and Prejudice, apparently. I found out as I force-marched a gang of homeschooled high-schoolers through it last fall. I even tried the cover with the smoking D’Arcy—no luck with the boys.) So I’m glad to read all the reviews, even the thorny ones. It means I’m in the game.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Lydia's random favorites! Favorite chocolate, favorite websites, favorite vegetable... We're also hosting a giveaway for finished copies, so you don't want to miss that either!

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Some randomness...

Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark, milk, white, coffee-flavored, the kind with nuts or berries inside?? Salted.

What kind of kid were you in high school?  A nerd obsessed with horses and my GPA.

All-time favorite quote? “Only connect.” — E.M. Forster

Most romantic thing a guy has ever done to you? Fixed my computer.

Most disastrous date you’ve ever been on? Once I forgot the name of the guy I was with when I ran into an ex-boyfriend and tried to introduce them. This was so traumatizing I put it straight into the new novel.

How do you get over heartbreak?  Valium.

Currently reading? Great Expectations.

Currently wearing? Pajamas.

Most visited websites? Book Riot, Gawker,

Favorite vegetable? (Yes, you have to pick one!) Pie.

LOL! Biggest celebrity crush? Angelina Jolie in Maleficent.

Guiltiest pleasure? Reality television.

What did you want to grow up to be when you were little? A doctor.

Go-to comfort food? Chili.

Charity or cause of choice? Arts education.

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Where can you be found on the web?

Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

If you had to pick one, would you be an astrologer or astronomer?

It was an absolute pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Lydia! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away
 two print copies of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky
—that's two winners total! Woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Lydia's question:
If you had to pick one, would you be an astrologer or astronomer?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Lydia and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends July 21st at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canadian residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!