Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Carla Buckley Talks Domestic Suspense

INGRID THOFT

I'm so excited to welcome my wonderful friend and writer Carla Buckley to Jungle Red.  Carla and I have been conference buddies since my first book came out, and it's always a treat to spot her across the hotel lobby and spend time catching up.  Carla's latest book, The Good Goodbye, was just released in paperback, and it's a perfect summer read.  It's suspenseful and nuanced, but I'll let her tell you all about it!

INGRID THOFTThe Good Goodbye is the story about two young women who are cousins and the way their families intersect, both good and bad.  A theme running throughout the story is how well can you know another person, even your own child?  What prompted you to write this particular story?

CARLA BUCKLEY:  First of all, thank you, Ingrid, for inviting me to appear on Jungle Red. It’s a true honor.

IPT: It really is my pleasure!

CB:  As for your question: I’m endlessly fascinated by the secrets people keep from one another, especially from those they love the most. One of the biggest surprises I’ve had as a parent is the realization that around the age of eleven or twelve, children really do start to lead separate lives. They keep secrets. They experiment and push boundaries. For better or for worse, they make their own choices. All you can do is hope they remember the lessons you taught them back when they were little and (maybe) paying attention.

The inspiration for The Good Goodbye was actually twofold. I’d been in the middle of writing my previous novel when it suddenly struck me to structure my next novel around a key event, told from three points of view. One narrator would tell her story from a point in the past leading up to and stopping at the key event. The second narrator would tell her story from the moment of the event onward. And the third would skip back and forth in time. Together, they’d end up painting a full and complete picture of what really had happened in these families’ lives. 


But what should the key event be?

Several years ago, a dramatic story played out in headlines across the nation. The two families involved ended up writing a memoir about what had happened to them. Their horrifying experience raised haunting questions in my mind, and I tucked it away for a time when I might be able to explore what it might be like to walk in their shoes.

IPT:  You’ve been featured on conference panels about the “domestic suspense” genre.  Is that how you’ve always thought about your work?  Do you think that’s an apt description of the stories you tell?

CB:  When I sold my first novel back in 2007 (The Things That Keep Us Here) the question that cropped up between my agent and my publisher was, what is this book and how do we categorize it? Back then, there was no such thing as a domestic thriller, or at least, there was no such term.  The Things That Keep Us Here talked about a deadly flu pandemic but played out in the setting of one family’s living room, and that’s pretty much what all my stories do.

I take families in crisis and make things worse. I don’t tell you what the President is doing, or what the terrorists are up to. I just talk about real people facing real dilemmas. I want my readers to be able to put themselves in my characters’ shoes; I want them to ask themselves the same, hard questions. I don’t know why domestic thrillers are on the rise—but I’m glad they are! 

IPT:  Two of the characters own a restaurant in the book, and I love your descriptions of the food, but also the specifics of running a restaurant.  What kind of research did you do?

CB:  Okay, I confess. I picked a restaurant because I thought the research would be fun. I mean, I’d have to go to a restaurant. I’d probably have to eat there, too. I watch Food Network. I love "Top Chef." I wanted to find my own top chef and ask this burning question: how is it possible to be passionate about working so hard to make something that lasts so briefly?

I knew what kind of restaurant I wanted to write about—beautiful, intimate, with one-of-a-kind menu items, and a devotion to locally sourced foods. Most importantly, it had to be run by a female chef. I was lucky to find it in real life just a few miles away: [One] restaurant in Chapel Hill. I showed up one morning before the restaurant was open for lunch and introduced myself to the executive chef, Kim Floresca. Over the course of several weeks, she showed me around her restaurant, and answered a million questions. I watched her prepare food, interact with her staff and customers, and then one magical night, I and my husband had an incredible meal comprised of items she’d specially selected. 

And Kim gave me the answer to my burning question: the joy in being a chef is all about bringing people together.
Being interviewed by your friends is always more fun!

IPT:  That's one of the perks of being a writer!  You get to chose your subject matter!  So what has surprised you most about being a published author?

CB:  I never imagined, when I was growing up and dreaming of one day being published that I would end up writing about family life in the suburbs. I wrote eight novels about everything else, and every single one was rejected. It wasn’t until I turned to my own life to talk about the things that truly mattered the most to me—discovering who you are and what you’re made of when you’re driven to your knees by circumstances outside your control—that I finally broke through. My hope is that my readers see themselves in my stories and ask themselves: what would I do if something like that happened to me?

IPT:  Is there a wannabe book lurking in the back of your brain, something you would write if you didn’t have to consider agents, editors, and fans?  A romance?  Essays?  Cookbook?


CB:  There is! There are two of them, actually. One’s a young adult novel, and the other’s set in North Dakota in the middle of winter. They’re both dystopian and somewhat bleak, so I’m a little afraid of what that says about what’s lurking in the back of my brain. 

IPT:  It says you're a writer!


Carla will be joining us today, and two lucky readers will get copies of The Good Goodbye.  Comment to enter!



The Good Goodbye
The first thing you should know is that everyone lies. The second thing is that it matters. 


On her way to her nineteenth wedding anniversary celebration, Natalie Falcone leaves the struggling restaurant she owns with her brother-in-law, Vince. She doesn't speak to him on her way out; they haven't spoken in months. But out on the sidewalk, she gets a phone call every mother dreads: It's from the emergency room where her daughter, Arden, attends college. Arden's been in a fire, along with Natalie's niece, Rory—Vince's daughter and Arden's best friend.

Natalie rushes to the hospital and learns that both Arden and Rory lie unconscious, and that another student has died in the blaze. The police suspect arson.

As the investigation mounts, Natalie struggles to piece together the elusive details of Arden's and Rory's freshman year. Growing up, Rory was charming, popular, and charismatic, while Arden was artistic, perceptive, and reserved. They were different yet inseparable, more like sisters than cousins. But the case unearths a different portrait—of a complex friendship, a love triangle, a fight, and a girl who was struggling more than anyone realized. To discover what really happened that tragic night, Natalie's and Vince's families must confront the one truth that ultimately emerges: Nothing is ever exactly what it seems.


Carla Buckley was born in Washington, D.C. She has worked as an assistant press secretary for a U.S. senator, an analyst with the Smithsonian Institution, and a technical writer for a defense contractor. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She is the author of The Good Goodbye, The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a Best First novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is currently at work on her next novel. 

71 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Carla, on your new book. It certainly sounds intriguing and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Your research time with Chef Floresca sounds like lots of fun. I’m wondering what was the most surprising thing you learned about restaurants and restaurant work?

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    1. Hi Joan! (It's Carla, in case my Google profile doesn't show up.) It's great to meet you here. I think the most surprising thing I learned from Chef Floresca was how there are trends in food and how hard chefs work to stay ahead of the curve. They are constantly researching and watching the market, and in her spare time, she does a lot of reading: of cookbooks! She regularly sits down with the other chefs and they all pore through cookbooks and discuss what they're finding and what's sparking their imaginations.

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  2. Hi, Carla - the new book sounds wonderful. Sounds like a sort of Rashomon-type story. I am in awe since I have tried that....and failed. And I like that tag: "Nothing is ever exactly as it seems." Because we're always filtering 'reality' through a character's naturally skewed/biased viewpoint. That's the fun part. And the food.

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    1. Hi Hallie! That's what I love about telling a story from multiple points of view, showing how the same event can be seen so differently. Like a kaleidoscope, all the pieces shifting around to form different images. The food was definitely the fun part. Maybe next time I should have to research a handbag designer? Or shoes!

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    2. I would go with a chocolatier...

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    3. Ingird I'm with you on the chocolatier. Call if you need someone to make the rounds with you and carry your stuff.

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    4. See, this is why we need friends.

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    5. Carla, we could also try a master margarita maker!

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  3. I'll say that I'm already a big fan of Carla's and I've read The Good Goodbye. It's a great read, very much one that I couldn't put down. So, run not walk to get it people. Ha! I loved hearing about the research you did, Carla. How 'awful' to have to haunt the kitchen of a wonderful restaurant in order to check it out. What goodies did the chef serve you and your husband? Just curious. In any case, I'm so pleased to know that you're working on your next book. I've been wondering. I loved The Things That Keep Us Here too.

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    1. Hi Kay! Thank you so much for your kind words! Kim prepared a chef's menu for us, numerous courses and small bites that led up to a trio of gorgeous little desserts prepared by her pastry chef. One of the things I remember most is how she served us small nibbles on flat river stones that she had collected during a hike through the local woods. It amazed me how much detail and focus went into every single tiny step. My next novel, The Liar's Child, will be released March 2019 and I CANNOT wait! Here's a brief description: https://bit.ly/2IAgyJd

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    2. I posted info about "The Liar's Child" below. I'm marking my calendar for March 12!

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  4. As you well know, I love your books so much! And The Good Goodbye was astonishing. I could not read it fast enough :-)
    I love writing the story behind the story… When the idea is a real occurrence, but you come up with another explanation for it. Are you now searching for another such case for another book?
    And Hey, so great to see you here! You know I am such a fan!

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    1. Hank!! It's so terrific to hear from you, and THANK YOU for such lovely words, and all the ways in which you've so Kindly supported me (especially The Good Goodbye)! My next novel, The Liar's Child, was partially inspired by a real event that occurred in Columbus, OH where I lived before moving to North Carolina. It was a terrible event (why am I attracted to those?) showing just how far a parent will go to protect their child. In my work, I never really talk about evil because I'm more interested in talking about average people confronted by disaster, but this proved to be an exception for me. I think it's the closest I've come to really exploring a deeply dark side.

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    2. Oh, running in so late after a work day...SO thrilled to hear this. ANd that exploration is so fascinating..and makes you see the world in another way, doesn't it? And as you well know, SO eager to read it! Hint Hint. xoxoxoo

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  5. I've never stopped championing Carla's The Things That Keep Us Here. I just think it is such a unique take on the domestic suspense spectrum. And every book that has followed has been excellent. I LOVE the idea of a YA novel from her.

    Hope to see you at a conference again soon, Carla!

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    1. How wonderful are you? I've always appreciated how you understood what I was trying to do in that novel. As for the YA--I've started it. I know where it goes; I have my voices. All I need is a teeny tiny PUSH ;)

      I'll be at BCon this year. You, too, right?

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    2. Oh yes, I will be there for sure. More involved than ever. ;)

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  6. I love reading cookbooks even thought I no longer do much cooking! I'm looking forward to reading The Good Goodbye; I have an idea what might happen. I'll just have to see if I am right or on the wrong track altogether!

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    1. I really enjoy paging through cookbooks, Judi, despite the fact that I don't love to cook. I love to eat, though!

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    2. Ooh, I'd love to hear if you were on the right path, Judi. I work really really hard to fool my readers.

      And I love to read cookbooks, too, but I'm like you, Ingrid. I'm happy to bring my fork and let someone else bring those recipes to life.

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  7. I'm in awe of the process it must take to write from three different characters' points of view at once. How hard was it to change from one person's head to another?

    Carla, I think I met you at Books by the Banks a few years ago? I'm pretty sure that's where I came by your book, which you signed for me. The Thing That Keep Us Here was so unusual, and so compelling. I look forward to more of the same in The Good Goodbye.

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    1. I can't imagine keeping those narrative threads straight. Carla, did you write one thread at a time? Did you alternate even in early drafts?

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    2. Hi All. Karen thank you for that question. I was wondering the same thing. And Ingrid, what a great way to approach the POV issue, write three separate threads.

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    3. Hi Karen in Ohio! I loved Books by the Banks--it's a fantastic event. I do plan to return someday.

      As for your/Ingrid's/Lyda's question re: multiple POVs--although I dream of telling a story from a single POV, because I love dramatic irony so much (where the reader knows something the characters in the story don't) I always find myself adding another narrator...or two. Or three.

      When I was writing The Good Goodbye, I kept a notebook beside my laptop where I jotted notes to myself to keep track of what each character knew, when, so that I had a reference guide when I returned to write her next chapter. Sometimes (and this was the best part of all) I'd jot down ideas for future scenes based on the scene I was currently writing. It was great to turn the page of my notebook and stumble on these gems.


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    4. It's a great feeling when your brain is laying ground work for later pages, and you don't even realize it at the time.

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  8. I read and enjoyed your book and look forward to your next one set in Columbus. Lots of new fiction coming out of that city!

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    1. Hi Margaret: Columbus deserves every possible literary accolade. It's a great city!

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  9. Good morning Carla and welcome. I met you at LCC a coupe of years ago and immediately bought The Good Goodbye, chewing thru it during the conference. I thanked you then and nI thank you now for that wonderful heartbreaking book

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    1. Hi Ann--what a nice thing to hear. Thank you! That was the only time I attended LCC (and I was happy to connect with Ingrid there!) and now you're convincing me I have to go back. It's a lovely conference.

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  10. Welcome Carla. Your novel sounds captivating and unforgettable. What an interesting premise and your interview was wonderful.

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    1. Hi Traveler (cool net persona!) Thank you for stopping by and saying hello. If you have a chance to read The Good Goodbye, I hope you enjoy it!

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  11. This book sounds so good! Why is this the first time I'm hearing about it? Judging from the comments I am behind the curve, but at least I'm in the know now!

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    1. Hi Marla! I'm delighted to meet a new-to-me reader! Now I owe Ingrid a drink the next time we're at a conference together ;)

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  12. The Good Goodbye would be greatly enjoyed. Your writing is always a pleasure and this intriguing novel sounds heartrending and memorable.

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    1. It's a great blend of family drama with suspense, and the different points of view let you dip into the characters' thoughts and motivations. Definitely a page-turner!

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    2. Hi petite! How lovely of you to say so. It's a true delight to be here today, and meet readers like you.

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  13. This looks terrific, Carla! I always enjoy hearing other writers speaking about how they came to construct their novels - I love the idea of the Rashomon-style multiple narrators, each with his or her own version of the truth.

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    1. Hi Julia--nice to meet you here! I'm a huge fan of dramatic irony and structure. It's always a major challenge to reveal just enough truth so when the final revelation is revealed, the reader doesn't feel cheated, but enough red herrings so the reader is satisfyingly surprised when that final revelation is revealed.

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  14. Congratulations, Carla! I bet the restaurant research was a blast. What's the most interesting thing you learned?

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Hi Mary/Liz--the research for this novel was WAY more fun (and fattening) than the research I've conducted for my other novels (attending a building implosion, riding in a fire truck, suiting up to tour a lab where they analyze viral strains.) One of the most interesting things I learned was that the restaurant world really tends to be male-dominated and that it's tough for a woman to carve out her place.

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  15. I was totally remiss in not including info about Carla's next book, "The Liar's Child," which will be out March 19. Here's the description:

    A troubled woman faces a gripping moral dilemma after rescuing two abandoned children from a hurricane in this intense and intimate family portrait that moves at a thriller’s pace.

    On the outskirts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks sits The Paradise, an apartment complex where renters never stay long enough to call the place “home”–and neighbors are seldom neighborly. It’s ideal for Sara Lennox, who moved there to escape a complicated past–and even her name–and rebuild a new life for herself under the radar. But Sara cannot help but notice the family next door, especially twelve-year-old Cassie and five-year-old Boon. She hears rumors and whispers of a recent tragedy slowly tearing them apart.

    When a raging storm threatens then slams the coastal community, Sara makes a quick, bold decision: Rescue Cassie and Boon from the storm and their broken home–without telling a soul. But the seemingly noble act is not without consequences. Some lethal.

    Bestselling author Carla Buckley crafts a richly rewarding psychological portrait, combining a heart-wrenching family drama with high-stakes suspense, as the lives of three characters intertwine in an unforgettable story of fury, fate–and redemption.

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    1. It's out March 12, 2019. It's early for me, people!

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    2. You're amazing at every hour of the day, Ingrid.

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  16. Hi Carla! I cannot wait to read THE GOOD GOODBYE. I'm also writing a book in which one of the primary characters is a female chef, and I've been immersed in the world for food and restaurants. It's so fascinating, isn't it? I, too, was intrigued by what drives successful chefs to work as hard as they do--it takes obsession, I think.

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    1. Debs, have you learned anything in your research that you can apply to your own cooking?

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    2. Yes, Ingrid, I've learned so much. I thought I was a pretty good cook but I think that just shows the depths of my ignorance. And it's not so much that I've learned to do fancy or complicated things, just to do the basic things better. Even my knife skills are better. I've also become a super restaurant critic--I think I missed my calling:-)

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    3. Hi Deborah--how cool to meet you and hear this about your WIP. I can boil water (barely) but never want to (my family's stopped asking) so the primary question for me is WHY someone would be passionate about preparing food. I think you're absolutely write: it's an obsession, very much like the obsession that drives us to close off the world with only our keyboards to keep us company (and in my case, a large cup of coffee.)

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  17. Hi Carla: Congratulations on the new book. This post is my introduction to your work. I just popped over to Amazon to order a copy of "The Things That Keep Us Here." The tag line on the description is as follows, "in this marvelous first novel, written with authority, grace, and wisdom." Those words, "authority", "grace", wisdom". Wow! I know what I'm going to be reading tonight. Thanks again.

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    1. You'll love it, Lyda! In addition to suspenseful stories, Carla's prose is lovely!

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    2. Aw, Lyda--that's so nice to hear. Thank you! I truly hope you enjoy it. I have a soft spot for that novel.

      And Ingrid, what a kind friend you are.

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  19. Another "new to me" author.........can't wait to dive in and start reading!

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    1. Hi Helen! I love meeting new to me readers! Thank you for stopping by and for the kind welcome!

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  20. Some years back, I met one of the nicest people who happened to be an author at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. She was a new author with her book The Things That Keep Us Here just out. She wasn't at all pushy, but I could tell that she was passionate about the book and her writing. Carla, I consider that a most fortuitous meeting. Of course, I bought the book, and after reading it, I knew that this was a special book and special author. And, when I last saw you at Bouchercon, I am glad to say that you have remained one of the sweetest, nicest people around.

    Now, if you haven't read The Good Goodbye, I strongly urge an immediate reading of it. I was fascinated all the way through this book, and delightfully gobsmacked by its twist. I won't even preface my recommendation with "if you like this kind of book or that," because The Good Goodbye is just a great story, and we all love great stories.

    Carla, I am so looking forward to The Liar's Child.

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    1. Oh, Kathy--how lovely you are. I remember that meeting, too. You were so kind to take the time out of your very busy schedule to stop and talk with a brand new author. You told me you'd let me know what you thought of my novel after you'd read it, and you have--in all the ways that make a writer feel truly. heard. Thank you

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  21. Like Helen says above, Carla is a new author to me - and her genre 'domestic suspense is a new one to me, also - and I'm looking forward to reading this 'good read' this summer. Thanks, Reds!

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    1. Hi Amanda! Ooh, I'm so intrigued that domestic suspense is new to you. If you decide to give me (or other domestic suspense novelists) a try, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts.

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  22. I love stories that unfold by following different characters' perspectives. I don't even try to unravel the truth or fantasy of them. I just enjoy the flow.

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  23. My heart stopped when you said that kids start keeping secrets around eleven. I AM NOT READY FOR THAT.

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    1. You have some years to prepare, Chevy!

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    2. What you do, Chevy, is let your child grow very close to one of your trusted friends, with whom they can share all their secrets. Cough cough.

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  24. One thing that we can always do as parents is continue to model the behavior (hopefully good) that we want our children to emulate. Even if they are living their own lives, we can continue to be a positive example.

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    1. I completely agree. If we're lucky, we get to learn positive lessons from our parents throughout our lives.

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    2. Yes, absolutely true. And keep the lines of communication open, even when we learn of the choices they've made that make us wince or weep or pour a large glass of wine.

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  25. If the story is as good as the title and the cover then we’re in for a real treat. Thanks for this interesting and informative interview.

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    1. Hi Sherilyn--thanks so much! Happy to meet you here.

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  26. This sounds sooooo good! I’m thrilled to “meet” you, Carla, as I was just looking for something like this to read this summer! Congrats on the release of The Good Goodbye.

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    1. Hi Jenn--it's a pleasure to meet you, too! Thanks for the warm welcome, and I hope you have a terrific "reading summer."

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  27. Great conversation, Carla and Ingrid! Looking forward to this!

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