Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Trace Your Writer DNA






HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Have you tried any of the genealogy sites? DNA is one way to figure out where you came from.

But there's another way. A writer DNA test. And the amazing Vanessa Lillie is tracing hers today.

But wait wait wait. Before we do that: Vanessa's new book, her debut LITTLE VOICES, is a spectacular (and chillingly disturbing) study of family, and parental love, and how far someone will go to get what they, and have they life they dreamed of.

DO NOT read this book--unless you are up for a non-stop fabulous page turning experience.


Anyway. The terrific Vanessa Lillie--here we are with Daniela Petrova, who I am also trying to lure here to the Reds page--has been tracing her author roots.


(And read on for a giveaway!)

Rhode Island; Small state, big stories

              by Vanessa Lillie

Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but many big stories have been created here. As a Rhode Island author (as of October 1st when my debut was published), I wanted to share a few highlights from our author card catalog.

Let’s begin in the summer of 1845 with a tragic romance starring Providence Poet Sarah Helen Whitman. Imagine her wearing her beloved coffin shaped necklace and tending her rose garden under a midnight moon.

Along stumbles Edgar Allan Poe, who notices her, a moment passes between them, but he doesn’t stop. Then over six months: she writes a poem about him; and he repurposes an old poem and puts her name on it; letters are exchanged; he boards a train after a nearly deadly dose of laudanum to see her, and recuperates in Providence. A whirlwind engagement includes graveyard walks and meetings at Providence’s Athenaeum Library (pictured).



Poe promises sobriety, and fidelity, and both are (likely) broken leaving Whitman to end the engagement. A few months later Poe is dead, and Whitman continues publishing poems throughout her lifetime. She also writes a biography in defense of Poe who believed had been harshly criticized and mischaracterized by his biographer. (Read more here: https://edgarallanpoeri.com )



Next we go forward about 40 years to a man Stephen King called "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." He’s the creator of the tentacled Cthulhu, Mr. “I AM PROVIDENCE” H.P. Lovecraft. Born in Providence, he lived most of his life here. From an early age, Lovecraft was reading and writing, typically darker stories that reflected a childhood he characterized as difficult (his family home is pictured). His father passed away in a mental institution, and Lovecraft likely suffered from depression most of his life.




He was relatively unknown during his life, but when he wasn’t writing for pulp magazines, he was writing letters to more famous author-friends, called the “Lovecraft Circle,” who borrowed his ideas (with permission) and worked them into their stories. It’s estimated Lovecraft wrote over 100,000 letters in his four decades of life. These friends carried on his name after his death and his prominence rose among horror and weird fiction readers.



While his influence and stories created legions of fans and followers and even an annual convention in Rhode Island, it’s important to note some of Lovecraft’s earliest writings are xenophobic and racist. He was heavily influenced by Poe, and a marker in Swan Point Cemetery for him reads: I AM PROVIDENCE.

Jumping ahead another few decades, we head to the coastal town of Kingstown, Rhode Island where Jhumpa Lahiri came to America from London at the age of three, remaining there until she graduate high school and went onto college.

In an interview with the University of Rhode Island where her father worked as a librarian, she said of growing up in the Ocean State: “From childhood, I always loved the ocean. I felt that being close to the sea is a basic human need. … There’s something so powerful about the element of it, the distinction between the land and the water, the force of the water and what it represents in contrast to the land.”



Rhode Island has made many appearances in Lahiri’s fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award winner, Interpreter of Maladies. Themes of identity, informed by her feeling out-of-place as an Indian-American in a predominately white town, also influenced her best-selling book, The Namesake. Most recently her best-selling book, Lowlands, also takes place partly in Rhode Island.



Returning to thrillers, Edgar and Macavity award winning author Bruce DiSilva set his mystery series in Rhode Island featuring Providence reporter Liam Mulligan. DiSilva was himself a journalist for the Providence Journal and Hartford Courant during his forty year career. In DiSilva’s debut, Rogue Island, Mulligan is investigating a series of arsons in his old working-class neighborhood of Mount Hope in Providence (pictured).



Next is Lisa Gardner, bestselling author of over twenty novels, that include New York Times best-sellers and five adapted for movies. She lived in Rhode Island for several years, and the smallest state had in impact on her writing. For example, her fifth novel, The Survivors Club, focused on a Rhode Island State Police Officer. She did extensive research with local officials on a well-known case where an entire family disappeared from their home in wealthy Barrington, RI.


Gardner was also the keynote speaker at the Rhode Island Authors Expo last year, and I was so pleased to get an opportunity to hear her speak and get a signed copy of her latest book. She also gave me great advice for my debut-day: “Treat yourself. I prefer bling, myself.”

We’ll end with my debut thriller, Little Voices, also set in Rhode Island. The story centers on a new mother who is struggling postpartum, but also determined to solve the murder of a friend.

That terrible crime is in Swan Point Cemetery, near the Seekonk River, where Poe and Whitman often walked on their ill-fated courtship, and likely were engaged there as well (based on her poem about the moment). Not far away is the marker honoring H.P. Lovecraft.

I often walked through Swan Point myself with my newborn son, imaging a story about a new mother solving a crime. And, now that my debut has arrived, I’m honored to join these incredible authors inspired by the smallest state.


HANK: And whoa. Little Voices is truly chilling!

So, reds and readers, who is in YOUR reading or author DNA? In my veins, I'm connected to Sue Grafton, and Edith Wharton, and Shakespeare (a very old connection), Scott Turow, and Mary Willis Walker, and my writing-imaginary-sister Lisa Scottoline. Geographically? Hmm. Boston is: Dennis Lehane. Peter Swanson. Lisa Gardner. Tess Gerritsen. And yeah, gotta say, Robert B. Parker.

How about you?


And a signed copy of LITTLE VOICES to one lucky commenter!


LITTLE VOICES


The voice in her head says he's guilty. She knows he's innocent.

Devon Burges is in the throes of a high-risk birth when she learns of her dear friend's murder. The police quickly name another friend as the chief suspect, but Devon doesn't buy it--and despite her difficult recovery, she decides to investigate.

Haunted by postpartum problems that manifest as a cruel voice in her head, Devon is barely getting by. Yet her instincts are still sharp, and she's bent on proving her friend's innocence.



But as Devon digs into the evidence, the voice in her head grows more insistent, the danger more intense. Each layer is darker, more disturbing, and she's not sure she--or her baby--can survive what lies at the truth.


Vanessa Lillie is originally from Oklahoma, but now lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and dinosaur aficionado four-year-old son. She's smitten with the smallest state, and enjoys organizing book events and literary happenings in the city's robust creative community.


www.vanesslille.com


www.facebook.com/vanessalillieauthor


www.instagram.com/vanessalillie


www.twitter.com/vanessalillie




67 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your debut book, Vanessa . . . it sounds very intriguing [and a little creepy] and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

    My Reading DNA connects me, most importantly, to Julia, Hank, Hallie, Lucy, Rhys, Debs, and Jenn.
    Geographically? Peter Benchley, Judy Blume, Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich, and George R. R. Martin . . . .

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    1. Thank you so much, Joan! I love seeing your reading DNA! Such wonderful writers on your list, and particularly the way a place impacts us.

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    2. I love hearing this! Thank you! I feel connected to you, too! xooo

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  2. Congrats on your debut!

    Geographically, I'm connected to such great LA writers as Michael Connelly and Robert Crais. While I do read both of them (partially because of the LA connection), there aren't as many cozies set here in So Cal, which is ironic since I mostly reading cozies. One series set here I do love is Laura Levine's Jaine Austen mysteries.

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    1. Hi Mark, what wonderful LA and SoCal connections. I've read few LA set stories myself, the Kellye Garrett mysteries are among my favorite. I haven't read Laura Levine's mysteries but with the Jaine Austen namesake that sounds right up my alley! Thank you for sharing!

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    2. I'm from the LA area originally, and I love the Anna Blanc historical series by Jennifer Kincheloe.

      Mark, check out this list: https://cozy-mysteries-unlimited.com/cozy-mysteries-set-in-california They aren't all set in the Southland, but I spied some I hadn't heard of.

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    3. Yes, Connelly! He is so perfectly LA.

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    4. Mark, thanks. I did not know there were also Jane Austen mysteries by Laura Levine. I only knew about the Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron.

      Diana

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    5. Edith, I'm off to check out that link.

      Bibliophile, it's the Jaine Austen mysteries. Jaine is a freeland writer living in LA. There's no connection to Jane Austen other than the name.

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  4. As one of my series features a midwife, I want to read this book just for the opening! And I love your post with all the books at the site.

    My writing DNA has to involve all the New England Reds. I wouldn't be where I am (19 books out, 23 completed) without the mentoring and cheering from Hallie, Hank, Lucy, and Julia. And before them Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsy, Katherine Hall Page, and Agatha Christie, of course, as models for the kind of protagonist I wanted to write.

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    1. Such a wonderful lineage! Isn't it sweet to feel part of that Grafton list?

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    2. Edith, thank you so much for saying that -- I put a lot of my postpartum, new mom self into my debut, so I hope it rings true! I love hearing about all the cheering and support as well as the models for writing. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Vanessa, congratulations on your book! It sounds fascinating.

    As for my writer DNA, I'm not sure I've ever really thought about it. I guess geographically I'd have to say the New England area would be my DNA playground, with Massachusetts being the focal point. I haven't lived anywhere else and while there are some places I would like to visit, I have no desire to live there or set a book there.

    I'd say that for writers in my DNA it would be a weird mix at the very list. Robert B. Parker would be one writer for sure. But then there's Jon Land and Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills. And there's Hank Phillippi Ryan, Ingrid Thoft and Edith Maxwell that would likely be in the mix there too.

    But then I'm sure there's probably a little bit of contribution from every author that I've read and loved their work. Given the type of books I prefer to read, the book baby would likely turn out to be some mishmash of a cozy mystery featuring a serial killer or something. I kind of would like to see the blurbs for that one. LOL!

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    1. Ha Jay, that would be a tough blurb to write!

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    2. Lucy, in that case I'll make sure to put you on the list of possible blurb writers just so I can see how you work out the blurb! :D

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    3. A cozy with a serial killer. Maybe--cereal??? xooxo :-)

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    4. I love hearing the mix of influences, and I agree each book we loved makes some kind of impression doesn't it? Another note: Jon Land and I live just a few blocks from each other in Providence!

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  6. Welcome Vanessa--the book sounds wonderfully creepy! My DNA would show a close match with the Jungle Reds and then all of my New England sisters. And then from Florida, Judy Blume, John D. MacDonald, Michael Connolly, Ernest Hemingway. And also Stephen White, and Jonathan Kellerman, and GH Ephron, and Denise Swanson, Steve Hamilton, SW Hubbard...I could go on and on!

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    1. It's fun to think about, isn't it? SO thought-provoking...

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    2. Thank you so much, Roberta! Such wonderful DNA and I love the mix of New England and Florida! Absolutely fascinating!

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  7. Congratulations, Vanessa! Can't wait to read your book. My reading DNA would pretty much match the Reds, especially the New England ones. But also many Southern writers. Actually, it would be all over the map!

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    1. Once you start thinking about it, it's so fascinating! What southern writers?

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    2. Thank you so much, Judi, I really appreciate it. I'm originally from Oklahoma, though you may not consider that the south, but I definitely mix in those traditions to my New England life now.

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  8. A debut novel with such great buzz! That is an excellent beginning, Vanessa.

    Rhode Island is a state I've not spent much time in, although my son-in-law is pretty sure some of his ancestors at one time owned most of the land the state sits on. His cousin has done extensive research on this, although I can't recall any of the details.

    My mystery/writing DNA would have to include Sara Paretsky, Faye Kellerman, Dick Francis, Diana Gabaldon, Herman Wouk, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, and of course Sue Grafton, all of whom predated my fangirl association with the Reds.

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    1. Herman Wouk! The BEST storyteller!

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    2. Thank you so much, Karen! I am really and truly obsessed with Rhode Island. It's a state with a really interesting history, and as far as white settlers, begins largely with the state founder Roger Williams who was kicked out of Massachusetts for his Baptist beliefs, and so the small state became a place for religious freedom. I wonder if some of your family history traces all the way back to then?

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    3. This is not my family, but my son-in-law's. His family name is Clarke, and they were British. My grandson did a report on whoever it was, but I did not get to read it.

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  9. Vanessa congratulations on the new book! And what a fascinating trail...
    My DNA? I hope it would start with Lucy Maud Montgomery and Booth Tarkington. Moving on to Dorothy Parker. I wish.

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    1. You are totally related to Dorothy! Lucky you! Love it.

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    2. Thank you so much, Hallie. What a wonderful trail! You know, while I was revising this novel, which focuses on a form of postpartum depression, I read of LM Montgomery's own depression as well as her husband's long history of mental illness. I was sad for her and her family, of course, but also glad fans of her (like myself) could see more of her as a person vs. just the author of so many beloved books.

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  10. This was a fascinating piece. I love that your book features a woman with postpartum problems. It's one of the difficulties people prefer to sweep under the rug rather than acknowledge all of the suffering women. Congratulations on your debut novel!

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    1. Yes, Abby, the book is amazing, and so revealing. And very touching. We should ask Vanessa about her research!

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    2. Thank you for saying that, Abbey. It was really important to me to write about a new mother because 1) I was one 2) I had many close friends who also had babies and 3) I wanted the challenges of new parenthood to be seen in all it sometimes difficult moments. I also spoke with a therapist who specialized in postpartum treatment of women, and postpartum depression is SO common, and often, can be helped fairly easily with the right treatments. So it's my hope this does start a conversation, especially because it impacts 1 in 8 families (if not more).

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  11. Congrats on the book, Vanessa!

    I haven't used one of those DNA services. But literary DNA? Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Mary Higgins Clark, JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie - at least I hope those folks would be included.

    The only other author off the top of my head who I know writes Pittsburgh is Dennis Palumbo. I'd have to look up others. Oh! Mary Roberts Rinehart!

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    1. Of course, MRR! AndI should have listed MHC, too! Liz, from that list, I think WE are related!

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    2. Liz, thank you so much! Pittsburgh seems like such a fascinating place! I'd love to read the literary DNA there!

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  12. Congratulations on your debut! Lots of Ohio authors: Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and in between. I write about small town Ohio, small town Cape Cod, and New Orleans. I remember reading KH Page's first mysteries and also Douglas Kiker's books set in a thinly disguised Chatham, MA. Walker Percy's The Moviegoer for NOLA.

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    1. Hi Margaret, thank you so much. These are absolutely fascinating places you're writing about and reading about. I've spent a bit of time in Cleveland (mostly Shaker Heights which alone has quite the literary DNA), and I love anything set in New Orleans and Cape Cod (such interesting places).

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  13. My sister has used a DNA test, not a lot of surprises. Literary DNA - off the top of my little pointy head - well Rhys lives in the next county south. Jack London in Glen Ellen, Robert Louise Stevenson up on top of the Calistoga grade between Sonoma and Napa counties. Charles Schulz lived in Sebastopol and his ice arena is around the corner from my apartment. That's the really short list off my pointy head, I'm off to work. Vanessa: your debut book sounds intriguing, I'll keep an eye out for it.

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  14. I like this unique and original query. Who is in my reading DNA? I know my real DNA since it was explained and known when I was very young and no surprises there since I am 98% Ashkenazi. But the author and one is delightful.

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    1. Yes, I'm with Hank, and very interested in your literary DNA, too! Thanks so much for joining the fun!

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  15. Congratulations! What a wonderful and very special DNA investigation which is intriguing.elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  16. My reading DNA is all over the map. It truly keeps expanding! As for geographic DNA, that's a little harder. Some authors start in Texas and move elsewhere. Others come here. And then there are those who are from here but write about other places. Debs? So, Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. O.Henry. Katherine Anne Porter. Larry McMurtry. Cormac McCarthy. Susan Wittig Albert. James Lee Burke. Kinky Friedman. Terry Shames. J.Frank Dobie. Horton Foote. Charlaine Harris. Katherine Center. Mary Willis Walker. And there are others currently writing but my brain can't spit them out at the moment.

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    1. WOW--what a list you have! Mary Willis Walker is my new fave.

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    2. I absolutely love this list, Pat. Actually, Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence and lived there until he was three. A local bookstore told me of this fact the other day because he'd come into their bookstore when he was visit family he still had in the area!

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  17. Congratulations on your debut novel, Vanessa! The book sounds amazing and I'm looking forward to reading it. I would have to say my reading DNA is very diverse. I enjoy lots of different authors from all regions.

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    1. Thank you so much, Dianne, I really appreciate that! I also try to keep my reading diverse, and I've been so excited to see more books being translated to English for the first time (for international diversity). It's a very exciting time to be a reader!

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  18. Congratulations on your debut novel, Vanessa and this novel sounds perfect for Halloween reading. Sounds spooky. Regarding Rhode Island, one summer we went to a beach in Rhode Island when we lived in Connecticut.

    Hank, yes, I have taken the DNA and there were a few surprises. I share a maternal haplagroup with Ann Curry, the lady journalist from the national news.

    Regarding my reading DNA, I never thought about it. Now thinking about my literary DNA, it is closely aligned with Jungle Reds, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Edith Maxwell, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, and mostly over the pond authors like Alexander McCall Smith, Shakespeare, Austen, Veronica Henry (How to Find Love in a Bookshop), among many others. I am such an Anglophile. LOL .

    Diana

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    1. LOL is right! What is a haplagroup? ANd how did you know Ann Curry is in it?

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    2. "A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patriline or the matriline."

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    3. Also, Diana...I am honored to read my name in that list!!

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  19. Hank, when I looked up my maternal haplagroup, it mentioned Ann Curry as a famous person who shared the same hapalgroup. When I googled my maternal haplagroup, that is when Ann's name was mentioned.

    Women only can trace their maternal haplagroup. If they have a full brother (same parents), then they can get both maternal and paternal haplagroup. For example, Prince William found out that his maternal haplagroup originated in India! Princess Diana's Scottish grandmother had a grandmother who was born in India.

    Edith, I love your Quaker midwife series!

    Diana

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    1. Thank you so much, Diana! I love the southern beaches of Rhode Island near the Connecticut border. And, such a wonderful literary DNA. I enjoyed reading those amazing names together!

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  20. Hub and I gave each other the DNA swab for our birthdays - so cool! Congrats on your debut, Vanessa! As a native of CT who spent a lot of time in RI - I can’t wait to read it!

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