Monday, June 27, 2016

Top 5 Novels That Influenced My Life and Writing by Lucie Whitehouse, Author of Keep You Close + Giveaway (US/Can only)

Keep You Close
Lucie Whitehouse

When the artist Marianne Glass falls to her death, everyone insists it was a tragic accident. Yet Rowan Winter, once her closest friend, suspects there is more to the story. Ever since she was young, Marianne had paralyzing vertigo. She would never have gone so close to the roof's edge.

Marianne—and the whole Glass family—once meant everything to Rowan. For a teenage girl, motherless with a much-absent father, this lively, intellectual household represented a world of glamour and opportunity.

But since their estrangement, Rowan knows only what the papers reported about Marianne's life: her swift ascent in the London art world, her much-scrutinized romance with her gallerist. If she wants to discover the truth about her death, Rowan needs to know more. Was Marianne in distress? In danger? And so she begins to seek clues—in Marianne's latest work, her closest relationships, and her new friendship with an iconoclastic fellow artist.

But the deeper Rowan goes, the more sinister everything seems. And a secret in the past only she knows makes her worry about her own fate...

Novels That Influenced My Life and Writing

My husband has the excellent custom of tucking inside his books a small reminder of the time he read them. Among the pages of his paperbacks, I’ve found Amtrak tickets and the receipt from a crab shack in Maine; the pink ticket for the ferry across the river in Fowey, Cornwall, which we took together not long before we got married.

Though I love it, I’ve never thought to do the same thing because I always remember where and when I read a book that really affected me. Books have been essential to me since I learned how to read, they’ve formed me, and I know I wouldn’t be either the person or the writer I am without the following:
  1. Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper. In this, the first book in The Dark is Rising sequence, three children are sent to spend the long summer holiday with their Uncle Merry in Cornwall, ancient land of King Arthur. The discovery of an ancient map leads to a Grail quest that conjures up dark forces. We read this at school but I felt as if it had been written just for me. The threat of danger, the darkness, the sense of unfinished business from the past—these are all things that fire my imagination, then and now.
  2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Again, I’ve always felt as if this was written with me in mind. It was first published in 1992, the year before I went to university to study Classics in a group the same size as the Greek class that Richard Papen, the narrator, joins in the novel. A few months before I read it, I saw Euripides’s The Bacchae performed in an open-air amphitheatre rimmed with dark pine trees. It was an uncharacteristically hot afternoon, the sky high and intense, and it wasn’t hard to imagine that we’d been transported from England to a parched Greek hillside. The Bacchae is my favourite of the Greek tragedies and I loved that Tartt used it as the starting point for her plot. I love the atmosphere of this novel and its intensity. Along with Greek tragedy, this started my fascination with psychology.
  3. Temples of Delight by Barbara Trapido. I’ve loved Trapido ever since I read Brother of the More Famous Jack, her debut novel, at seventeen. I immediately went in search of more and found Temples of Delight. This is the story of Alice, whose life with her petit bourgeois parents is interrupted by the arrival at school—mid-semester, mid-lesson, in fact—of Jem, a vivid character in love with literature and Mozart’s Magic Flute. Jem vanishes as abruptly as she arrived but years later, she interrupts Alice’s life again, this time by means of a manuscript brought by the magisterial, appallingly sexy New Yorker, Giovanni. This book spoke to the part of me that longed for a life full of books and drama, as well as a friend like Jem to share it with. Can it be entirely coincidental that I married a literary New Yorker of Italian heritage?
  4. The Magus by John Fowles. This I read in great afternoon-long jags in the summer of my second year at university. Nicholas Urfe, recently graduated, takes a job teaching English at a boys’ school on a Greek island. Isolated (literally) and increasingly desperate, he takes to wandering about the island and soon stumbles onto the land of Maurice Conchis, a wealthy man who befriends him and uses him as the object of a series of psychological games so intense Nicholas can no longer be sure what is real and what is illusion. The heat, the psychological intensity, the atmosphere—this was a revelation to me.
  5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. As a teenager, I made several runs at Dickens and could never get into him – I found his voice so arch and irritating. At thirty-four, I decided that it was embarrassing for a professional writer never to have read him and decided to try again. I chose this (one of his shortest...) and read it in two days. From the beginning scene, in which the postal coach to Dover is stopped in the night by a fast rider, via false imprisonment, appalling crimes, the French Revolution (gory details unspared) and unrequited love, this started me on a Dickens-reading marathon that hasn’t finished yet. I love the way he writes place and atmosphere, and his understanding of people. And he plots. Atmosphere + psychological insight + fine writing + plot: this is perfection for me, and what these five novels inspire to aim for in my own novels.

About the Author

Lucie Whitehouse was born in the Cotswolds in 1975 and grew up in Warwickshire. She studied Classics at Oxford University and then began a career in publishing while spending evenings, weekends and holidays working on the book that would eventually become The House at MidnightHer other books include The Bed I Made and Before We Met. Keep You Close is her most recent novel.

Having married in 2011, she now divides her time between the UK and Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She writes full time and has contributed features to the New York Times, the Sunday Times, the Independent, Elle and Red Magazines.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Keep You Close—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is answer Lucie's question in the comments below:
Do you use something other than a bookmark to mark your place in a book? Do you leave these things with the book when you’re finished reading it?
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. Lucie and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

I rarely use an actual bookmark unless it came with the book (e.g. an author's gift, included from a local bookstore, etc.) For review books I typically use the press packet to mark my spot; otherwise I'll just grab the nearest paper item (receipt, clothes tag, Post-it, etc.) and use it. In a crunch I'll dog-ear the pages. 

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours and Bloomsbury Publishing!
Giveaway ends July 11th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar 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!