Tuesday, February 28, 2017


"Davis’s impeccably structured debut is equal parts mystery, tribute to midcentury New York City, and classic love story. . . .
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I didn’t plan to make this rites of passage week, but it’s turning out that way. Yesterday, our pre-teens. Today, coming of age. Maybe. Do you remember the first place you lived all on your own?

I was 20, and, post-college, lived in a cute house (two bedrooms, LR, DR, bath, kitchen, driveway) on Illinois St. in Indianapolis. It was adorable, and such fun to share with my roommate (and still pal) Sharon. Our rent was $100. Total. A month. We scrimped and shared food and painted it ourselves and worked 7 days a week (I had two jobs, as a radio reporter and on weekends as an art galley helper, and Sharon sold real estate) and wow, we were on our own.

But you know the Barbizon? Of course you do. Think how many women were on their own for the first time there? And the brilliant Fiona Davis took that iconic apartment building in NYC and turned it into an acclaimed novel.

Here’s a bit about THE DOLLHOUSE—and I dare you not to gasp with, well, either mad desire to read it, or mad envy for not having thought of it. 

Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.” 

Okay, love it, right?

Fiona and I shared an event with Amy Poeppel (Small Admissions) and  Rachel Hulin (Hey Harry Hey Matilda) in Providence with Robin Kall Homonoff---here we are. (And in real life, we actually were in focus.)  It was great fun, and I’m so pleased to introduce her to you all.

(And we’re giving away a copy of THE DOLLHOUSE to a lucky commenter)
HANK: So, Fiona. How did you come up with this brilliant idea?

FIONA DAVIS: I stumbled on it.  A few years ago, I was apartment hunting in New York City and my broker took me to the Barbizon 63 condo, in what used to be the Barbizon Hotel for Women. While I didn’t take the apartment, the building had great bones and an intriguing history – the perfect setting for a work of historical fiction. Built in 1927, the Barbizon Hotel was the go-to place for cultured young women to live in while they worked or studied in New York City, the place where icons like Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Joan Didion and Eudora Welty got their start

HANK: Whoa. Yes, it’s so incredibly intriguing—when you think of all the women who lived there, and the changes that unfolded over the years. And why it existed in the first place! How’d you tackle the approach you’d take?

FIONA: I’d been working as a journalist for many years, but the thought of turning a story idea into fiction was a new one. So I approached it the same way I would an article: do the research, figure out the main characters, make an outline and off you go. “How hard could it be?” I thought to myself.  

HANK: Famous last words. I have said them myself. And so?

FIONA: But as I researched and plotted, my ambition got way ahead of me. Perhaps if I’d stuck to the historical fiction genre, I might have gotten off easy. But I had the insane idea to write about two time periods – the 1950s and today – and not only that, I simply had to add a mystery element into the plot.

HANK: Two timelines, two sets of characters, tons of research to make sure the period details are right, AND make it a mystery?

FIONA: Anyone with good sense might have stopped right there. But I adored the work of paragons like Agatha Christie, Laura Lippman, and Elizabeth George, so it was crucial to me to have a question that was answered at the end of the book, in a way that my readers least suspected.

I’ve never been a fan of books that meander along, examining the minutiae of a person’s soul. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as a reader, I crave mysteries because they engage not only my imagination, but my powers of reasoning. You know what I’m talking about - that running commentary in your mind as you turn the pages: Was that a red herring? Or a clue? If the author is overtly pointing my attention to this character as the murderer, who else might have done it? So weaving a mystery element in to THE DOLLHOUSE was non-negotiable.

HANK: We’re all with you on that. But back to that setting. Who’d you talk to?

FIONA:  As part of my research, I interviewed ex-guests who’d stayed there in the 1950s and 60s and was surprised to learn there was a lot of talk of ghosts and suicides among the guests, because every so often a distraught young girl would throw herself off the balcony, and that this was often hushed up in the press.

There was my angle. In my book, a heartsick journalist moves into what’s now the Barbizon condo and starts investigating a tragedy that occurred to her downstairs neighbor – an elderly woman with a terrible scar and a dark secret.

HANK: And then what?

FIONA:  Over multiple drafts, the story grew to encompass a number of themes, from women’s roles at work and at home to the challenges of aging, but what kept me sitting at my desk was the fun of revealing the unknown: what really happened back then?

HANK: Well it certainly worked! Here’s the rest of that PW starred review! “Darby and Rose, in alternating chapters, weave intricate threads into twists and turns that ultimately bring them together; the result is good old-fashioned suspense." 


I don’t think anything as glamorous and suspenseful happened in my first place alone—does cutthroat Charades count? But I treasure that time.  How about you, Reds? The first time you lived on our own—not school—where was it?

And we’ll give away a copy of THE DOLLHOUSE to one lucky commenter!

Fiona can be found on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  

Fiona Davis

Fiona was born in Canada and raised in New Jersey, Utah and Texas. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway and in regional theater. After 10 years, she changed careers, working as an editor and writer and specializing in health, fitness, nutrition, dance and theater. 

She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is based in New York City. She loves nothing better than hitting farmer’s markets on weekends in search of the perfect tomato, and traveling to foreign cities steeped in history, like London and Cartagena. THE DOLLHOUSE is her first novel.


When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Stuff Daydreams Are Made Of

Rudy Vallee
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  (More on the Oscar snafu below!) Who's your heart throb? Not now, but oh so many years ago? I mean, when you were young, and crushing, and imagined anything was possible. (That's a drawing of Rudy Vallee from Photoplay in the 1930's.)  I ask because I was invited to write an essay for a book edited by the fabulous Elizabeth Searle… And it's about how our teen idols shaped our lives. 

 I had to think about that for a moment, because did my "teen idol"shape my life? I had never thought about it before. Let alone write eight pages about it.

We each had to pick one person, and after a ridiculous amount of contemplation, I finally did. When I finished writing the final draft of my essay, I have to admit to you, I burst into tears. I guess I had discovered something I didn't know I knew.

So we'll talk about the book more when the publication date comes, not till next year! But for now, did you have a teen heartthrob? I won't tell you who I chose until you all do!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, yes, Hank. I fell madly in love with Paul McCartney when I was eleven, and I don't think I ever completely got over him. I saw the Beatles in 1964, can you believe it? I saw McCartney again on tour in Dallas a few years ago and was just gobsmacked. I guess this goes some way towards explaining my lifetime of Anglophilia, doesn't it?

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh, Debs, I was a Paul fan too. But since you got there first, I will admit, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees was my first luv. I was completely gaga over him, and begged my parents to let me subscribe to TIGER BEAT so I could read up on all things Micky. 

Mickey Dolenz
And then my parents bought my best pal Laura and me tickets to see the Monkees for my 14th birthday--I looked it up, the concert was actually on my birthday in Detroit. Amazing that they arranged this! Laura and I spent hours putting together a birthday box for Micky. This contained all kinds of handmade stuff for a birthday party--paper hats, artistic napkins, and who knows what else lovesick, naive teenagers might have felt necessary to include. We handed the box over to a ticket taker when we got to the concert. And then we screamed our love for the whole show:). I never did hear back from Micky, but I did get a signed poster in the mail--sigh...

HALLIE EPHRON: This takes me back to the early nineteen sixties. I was fourteen years old and obsessed with my shortcomings (tall, skinny, pimply, smelly, hairy.) And just at the time when a person couldn’t get more self conscious, along came breasts…or in my case, didn’t. In the throes of self-conscious adolescent angst I first clapped eyes on Warren Beatty. My best friend and I took the bus to the Picwood movie theatre in Westwood to see Splendor in the Grass. I left besotted with Warren Beatty’s Bud Stamper, a sweet, sensitive, sex-starved, high-school quarterback who’s madly in love with beautiful, popular, passionate, virginal good girl, Deanie Loomis (Natalie Wood). They burned up the screen, those two.

He (Bud? Warren?) nailed me with those crinkly eyes, that goofy smile, and an endearing boyish awkwardness. He had the perfect inarticulate stammer and aw-shucks manner about him, a sweetened amalgam of Marlon Brando and James Dean. By the time Bonnie and Clyde came out six years later the bloom was off the rose. The movie magazines I devoured were telling me that my sweet Bud was sleeping around. And around. Ya let me down, Bud.

HANK: Oh, Hallie, I interviewed Warren Beatty (for Rolling Stone Radio News) when he toured for Shampoo. In Washington DC, at the Watergate Hotel. I have to say, he was--not exaggerating--the handsomest person I have ever seen. EVER. We will talk about it in detail another time, but he hit on me, I mean, seriously. (I guess he was enchanted by my pink acid-washed matching jeans and jacket.) I went home and wrote it all down, word for seductive-ish word. Bottom line, I turned him down. I thought it would be hilarious to be the only woman who ever had. Plus, he was married at the time, wasn't he? To JULIE CHRISTIE? I mean--gah. 

Speaking of Warren: poor thing, though! To be handed the wrong envelope? What did you think? I felt so sad for everyone...

Anyway. Rhys?

RHYS BOWEN: I was a terrible judge of men in my early teens. I was madly in love with British pop star Cliff Richard, with British actor Dirk Bogarde and with Rock Hudson, all of whom turned out to be gay!
When the Beatles came on the scene I was actually more attracted to John than Paul because John had that raw sexiness. I was disappointed when I found out he was married.
The only real crush I've had since then was Robert Redford. I still have a photo of him on my bulletin board!

JENN MCKINLAY: At age nine, I was a hard core Shaun Cassidy girl. I mean, come on, the feathered hair, the satin pants, singing Da Doo Run Run, and shaking his money maker - seriously, what was not to love? LOL. 

Of course, it helped that he also played the adorable Joe Hardy on the Hardy Boys television show. I wanted to be Nancy Drew but I wanted to date Joe Hardy - never Frank - always Joe. Huh. And now I write mysteries with amateur sleuths...hmm.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Oh, my gosh, Jenn, my sister and I were GLUED to the tube when the Hardy Boys came on. She got Joe, and I got Frank, played by the oh-so-good-looking Parker Stevenson. They were the perfect very early girl crushes - with their smooth skin and coiffed hair, there was no chance to threatening masculinity. The first man I crushed on was Paul Michael Glaser in, yes, STARSKY AND HUTCH. He had chest hair and five o'clock shadow, and made 13-year-old me feel all confused and excited whenever he got shot (which seemed to happen frequently)  and had to be nursed back to health.

Finally, seeing Frank Langella in DRACULA (1979) pretty much completed puberty for me. When
he glided into Kate Nelligan's bedroom in his undone white linen shirt and whispered to her, "I need..." I finally understood what sex was all about.

HANK: This is so fascinating, and so indicative of how old we were and when. (I loved Spin and Marty, too. I forget which one.) And Dirk Bogarde! And Frank Langella in Dracula--and Compromising Positions? Whoo.

And it's incredibly interesting, and indicative of the times, to see who we chose. Back then. My mom told me she skipped a day in junior high to see Frank Sinatra.  It'd be SO different now, right? Anyone know anyone who's 10? Who would they choose? 

But for my hearthrob, I chose the poetic, intellectual, brilliant Paul Simon. I was so sad and unpopular, and when he sang I am a rock, I thought, I'll be a rock. too! And he's still my idol.

How about you, dear Reds?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hallie's Sunday Chili Sundae #Recipe...

HALLIE EPHRON: I love homemade chili. It's easy and delicious, makes the house smell yummy, and a pound of meat feeds us for days. 

 I make mine with (essential ingredient!) canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. They give the chili a smoky taste. 

And (also essential) I serve it like a savory sundae: over rice and under a dollop of sour cream and handfuls of grated cheddar cheese and chopped fresh cilantro.

Dial back the amounts of chili powder and chipotle peppers if you want it less hot.

1-2 T vegetable oil
1 lb. chopped meat
1 large onion chopped
2 large (or more small) garlic clove minced
2 T cumin
2 T chili powder 
2 (or to taste) canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped (include some of the goo they're packed in)
1 large (28-oz) can of tomatoes, chopped, with all their juices -- or use 2 lbs of chopped fresh tomatoes (skin, seeds and all) and add some water
1 DRAINED and RINSED can of beans (I like Goya's "small white beans" or black beans) Salt to taste

Sour cream
Chopped cilantro
Shredded cheddar cheese

Steamed rice

1. Heat a dutch oven (or large heavy skillet) over moderately high heat. Add 1 T (or more) vegetable oil and when it's hot, throw in the meat, break up, and sautée until browned through. REMOVE the meat from the pan.
2. Throw onions and garlic into the hot pan over medium heat; sautée until cooked down and starting to brown.
3. Add cumin, chili powder, chopped tomatoes,  chipotle peppers and cooked 2-3 minutes
4. Return the meat to the pan, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook stirring occasionally 1 to 2 hours.
5. When you're ready to eat, add drained beans and heat through.
6. Salt to taste

SERVE over rice and under toppings.

Last time I made it (pictured) I added a chopped zucchini and a chopped green pepper.  It would be great with corn. Some green onions on top wouldn't be amiss, either.

How would you tweak this to your taste?

To our readers: We're testing out a change -- In today's blog 'anonymous' comments are disabled. If this affects you and you have trouble creating an ID for yourself that enables you to comment, PLEASE EMAIL ME (Hallie "at" HallieEphron Dot Com)! I'll walk you through (all you need is a GMAIL account). Even more important we want to be sure this change doesn't stifle the conversation.  WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

WORD PLAY: Trying not to miss the pun farts

HALLIE EPHRON: I love words. What fun to mess around with them, making up new words and transposing sounds to amuse myself.

In today’s paper, a piece about Leslie Jones performing in Boston: “We also learned that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is a big fan of Jones. Hizzoner tweeted at the Ghostbusters actress on Friday to invite her to lunch.”

Took me a few blinks to process: Hizzoner? Turns out I’m way out of the loop. It’s a corruption of His Honor, of course. Merriam-Webster traces it back to 1882.

Here are some of my favorite word corruptions, many of which run rampant in my family, brought to us by baby-talking parents and babies learning to talk.

Attacking it in one swell foop

Stop being such a gilly soose

Marauding runny babbits

Catterpiggles before they turn into flutterbies

Try not to miss the pun fart

Act like a jibbertyflibbit

Indulge in belly jeans

Explain to the ossifer that I wasnt speeding

So mixed up I got it bass ackwards

Wearing a Thunderbra under my flaid plannel shirt

Where are my flop flips

Soap for the wishdawsher

Getting it done, dick and quirty.

Quit yer picknitting.

Tighten the nug luts

Freshen your stiplick

And then there are the words we like to mispronounce on porpoise…

Sharpen the skizzers

Eat your pisghetti

Load the hiccup truck

Take a ride in an upticopter

Put the milk in the fridgedator.

And every October 31 my husband wishes me a Hallie Happoween.

Please, share your favorite corruptions of the English language.
(And thanks to Edward Lear for the inspired nonsense of his drawings.) 

To our readers: We're testing out a change -- today's and tomorrow's blog will have 'anonymous' comments disabled. If this affects you and you have trouble creating an ID for yourself that enables you to comment, PLEASE EMAIL ME (Hallie "at" HallieEphron Dot Com)! I'll walk you through (all you need is a GMAIL account). Even more important we want to be sure this change doesn't stifle the conversation.  WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Friday, February 24, 2017

A poetic look back at Baltimore with Lynne Viti

HALLIE EPHRON: Poetry seems to me the most challenging of the literary art forms. Scenes are the atomic particles of novels, and their sheer length (pages!) gives the writer a lot of wiggle room. The poet’s atomic particle is the word. Every one has to be perfectly chosen, placed on the page, and ultimately read aloud and considered.

When I heard that my friend from college days, Lynne Viti, would soon be publishing a collection of poems – Baltimore Girls – I couldn’t wait to read them and to talk to her about how, how on earth, you write a poem.

Welcome to Jungle Red, Lynne… congratulations! And please, share where does this collection of poems spring from?

LYNNE S. VITI: In Baltimore Girls I reach back into my memories of growing up in the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties in the city of Baltimore, at a time when that very segregated northernmost Southern city was on the cusp of social and political change, and then became swept up in that chaotic time.

Memories of family— of the city itself, its factories and churches, public swimming pools, taverns, buses and trolleys, churches— blend with my imagined journey, through poetry, back to my adolescence: an all-girls Catholic school, coming of age, the fascination with music, from James Brown to the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, our rebellion against our parents’ tastes and mores. We thought we were so cool, that our parents knew next to nothing, relics from the Depression and the World War II era that they were.

HALLIE: Such a perfect way of framing the first poem in the collection, “Salad Days.” It includes this:

Our mothers thought our world was crazy. 

Too much Orbison and Presley, then in a whirr,

James Brown, the man in the orange cape, and

the Beatles, who made us scream, or the

Subversive Dylan, who questioned us,

How does it feel, to be on your own?
--when our mothers wanted us to be safe--

Take the bus to school, be home on time.

No drinking, no smoking, study hard,

Go to college. Find a nice boy. Get

married, stay in town. Our town, which

changed and burned, changed and burned again.
What’s so cool about this is that you’re both looking both ways, both back to when you were a teenager but from the perspective of a mother of two grown sons.

I began to see all of our shared history through the eyes of
a mature woman who now found herself on the other end of it, dealing with two sons and seeing them through their adolescence–out of “adultescence”  and into adulthood, in the new millennium.

What else did you find yourself writing about?

Several of the poems focus on the loss of friendships, whether by neglect or attrition, geographical distance, or death.  This preoccupation with loss is something that has always been part of my psychological makeup. But it has grown more intense, and more poignant, in my late sixties. 

Thinking about these losses and working towards the insights that come from meditating on one’s own mortality, have, I think, made my poetry deeper and more universal. I hope that a reader need not have grown up as a Baltimore girl in my era, for the poems to resonate with her or him.

HALLIE: Do you think poetry needs to be heard (as opposed to silently read)? I often find myself reading a poem aloud to myself, just because the spoken word seems to carry more meaning. And then I need to repeat it so I can hear it again.

LYNNE: Something I feel quite strongly about is the need for
poetry to be out there in the world, as a spoken art, a text read aloud, not merely lines in a printed book that no one borrows from the library. For me, this means doing readings everywhere I can get my foot in the door—public libraries, writing workshops, open mics, bookstores, churches, community centers. I use social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as my blog, to get my poetry in front of people who would not normally buy poetry books, or borrow them from the library.

So will you be giving readings? Where? When??


April 2,  2017, Westwood Public Library, Westwood, MA 3-5 PM

May 6, 2017 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, reading Salem, MA

October 19, 2017  Featured poet, Gallery 55, Natick, MA

January  13, 2017  Florida Center for the Book, Fort Lauderdale, FL

HALLIE: What’s your writing process? Do you workshop the poems with other writers or is it a solitary effort? Does a poem flow out or come in spurts?

LYNNE: I start by writing alone. I write on foolscap, those yellow lined legal pads.  Sometimes I start a poem in a notebook, but those big tablets are my favorite. I revise  right on the first draft, until it gets too messy, then I get it down on the computer. I save every version of a poem, because sometimes I've revised it, but haven''t made it better, and I  go back to an earlier version to get it right.

 I have a poetry writing group of two, actually. As well, I participate on and off in Danielle Legros Georges (Poet Laureate of Boston)'s poetry workshops, and for three years --up until 2014, I was a regular member of poetry workshops that the previous Boston Poet Laureate, Sam Cornish. Getting feedback from a variety of workshop participants is daunting, but also very useful.

I put myself on a schedule. I try to write a poem, or part of one, each day. Sometimes I get stuck, but usually, I start a poem and finish it, revise it, revise it again, and then show it to one of my first readers for feedback. Then I revise.

If I submit a poem over and over again and receive rejections from all sides, I look at it with a cold critical eye and work on it some more.  I hate to give up on a poem.

HALLIE: This is making me want to go back and revisit the many books of poetry we have, slow down, and read aloud to myself.

Today's question: Is there a place for poetry in your life, and which poets (or lyricists) have spoken to you and for you?

Baltimore Girls is a brief collection of poems that examines the poet’s early life in the 1960s and the culture in which she grew up. It is personal history — tales of a small group of young women who lived in the segregated city of my youth. The poems are mini-memoirs, snapshots of young women who had determined they were bound for greater things: “we were in a hurry to get out of town, out of state, through school, to a job…”
Pre-order from Finishing Line Press

Lynne Viti is a senior lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College, where she teaches writing-intensive courses in bioethics, legal studies, media studies, and journalism. Her poetry, nonfiction and fiction has appeared in over forty online and print journals and anthologies, including The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television (2009), The Baltimore Sun, Amuse-Bouche, The Paterson Review, The Little Patuxent Review, Drunk Monkeys, Cultured Vultures, Incandescent Mind, and Right Hand Pointing. She won an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, and the summer 2015 music poetry contest at The Song Is. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

kc dyer's love letter to Scotland & the elusive Jamie Fraser

HALLIE EPHRON: Today I’m delighted to welcome (back) kc dyer, whose bestselling book FINDING FRASER is a complete delight. Think OUTLANDER meets BRIDGET JONES DIARY.

Her protagonist (Emma Sheridan) has fallen hopelessly in love with Diana Gabaldon’s fictional (we think) creation, Jamie Fraser, and goes off to Scotland in search of the next best thing.

It’s a lovely homage to Gabaldon, who generously and enthusiastically cheered kc’s efforts. And for kc, it’s part love story, part coming of age, and it made me completely believe that the real kc had fallen in love with the real (fictional) Jamie Fraser.


kc dyer: But of course! Who could read the Outlander books and not fall for Jamie Fraser? Tall, noble, willing to do anything for the woman he loves? A heroic figure for sure. And that Scottish accent does NOT hurt.

HALLIE:  Not to get too personal, but were you actually looking for Fraser at the time when you conceptualized and wrote the book? And how has that worked out for you?

kc: Hahaha! You are not alone in that thought, Hallie! I've had a LOT of fan-mail from people convinced I wrote a secret sort of roman á clef, after having combed the auld sod for my own true love.

The sorry truth is that this story is entirely fiction
, apart from the fact I see it as a bit of a love-letter to Scotland itself. I have been to all the places Emma visited, it's true, but not in search of my own Fraser.

Would I mind if one had actually shown up? NOT AT ALL. But so far, no luck on that front!

HALLIE: The setting for the book is spectacular Scotland. Is that a place that holds a special significance for you?

kc: Absolutely. My family originally hailed from Scotland, both Edinburgh and Inverness. My very first book, SEEDS OF TIME, was set in the West Highlands at the time of the Black Plague. I love it there and go as often as I can. And I clearly took my children with me on research trips once too often, as my daughter now lives in Edinburgh. Yet another reason for me to visit!

HALLIE: Were you worried how Diana Gabaldon would respond to you, ahem, appropriating her character? How has she reacted?

kc: Oh my gosh. I was SO worried. When I first had the idea for the book, I told my writing partner and she laughed. So, essentially I wrote the story just for the pure fun of it. I told myself that Diana [who is a long-time friend] would never see it, and went ahead and wrote it. But, just by coincidence, I finished the first draft at about 3 in the morning on the night before Valentine's Day.

You know that post-draft feeling of euphoria that happens in the middle of the night? Well, that's what happened. I was feeling all giddy and happy to be finished, but the story actually opens on Valentine's Day, which is the main character's birthday. I decided to spill the beans to Diana.

I knew I would have to admit that not only does my Emma love the Outlander books, but that I had written Diana herself into the story, too. So I sent her a long letter explaining that if she didn't like the story or felt it impugned the marvelous world she had created, I would put it into a box under my bed.

I felt it was important she knew that Finding Fraser was a story about a fan of Outlander, but it was in no way fan-fiction. Luckily for me, she appreciated that distinction and has been wonderfully supportive ever since.

HALLIE: Have you had a great time watching this book do so well? And do men show up to your readings in kilts?

kc: Watching this book do well has been the most fun EVER. It's now an international best-seller. My first book was published in 2002, and Finding Fraser is my 7th book, but it's my first for grown-ups, and my first best-seller. And yes, I've had many men in kilts come to my signings. It's like a little Scottish miracle. Maybe I'll find that Fraser yet!

HALLIE: I completely loved this book and hope many of our friends out there will have as much fun with it as I did. Anyone who's been to the Surrey International Writers Conference will recognize the inimitable Jack Whyte (author of the Guardians of Scotland series and a true character in his own right) who shows up from time to time to drink with Emma offer his sage advice.

Today's question: What hunks from literature would you be willing to travel across the ocean to meet? Mr. Darcy? Robb Stark? Ross Poldark?