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A love letter to the This Is Us writers

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Susan Bishop Crispell shares a love letter to the writers of NBC’s hit show, This Is Us. (Yes, she knows this is a TV show and not a novel like we usually tout on the blog, but good writing is good writing no matter what form it comes in!)

Dear This Is Us Writers,

When I first started seeing teasers for your show I honestly didn’t think it would be all that. (Sorry!) It’s just that NBC was pushing it way too hard. It showed up during every commercial break and there seemed to be too many unconnected stories for it to be something I would fall in love with, despite it having Milo Ventimiglia as one of the stars (I’m team Jess, always!).

And then it premiered. I must confess, I didn’t watch it. But when my Facebook feed flooded with mentions of the show and “that twist” at the end, my curiosity was definitely piqued. I’m not one to shy away from spoilers, so I found an article that recapped the episode, but most importantly gave away the big reveal. And before even watching the episode, I was hooked. The setup was daring and smart. And it promised to give me what I love most about stories—deeply personal connections between the characters. From a strictly story-telling point of view, I needed to see how you’d pulled off that twist with such success!

So I watched it that night. And these relatable, loveable, and beautifully flawed characters stole my heart within minutes. I forgot to pay attention to the mechanics I was so interested in—character motivation and pacing and whip-smart dialogue and hints of that twist to come—and got lost in their stories. I was heartbroken for Jack and Rebecca’s loss (but inspired by their epic love and devotion to each other and their kids), delighted by the banter between Kate and Toby (while still holding out hope that she’ll eventually come to realize she likes herself the way she is!), cautiously optimistic for Randal and William to finally have the father-son relationship they both so desperately need, and embarrassed for Kevin and his caught-on-camera career-meltdown but also a little bit proud that he chose to follow his heart (and his art!) instead of continuing to sell out.

Also, I cried. (Confession: I cry every single episode.) Some of that has to do with how perfectly cast this show is. But mostly the credit is due to you, dear writers, for taking these characters to the tough places emotionally. You’re not scared to make them hurt. To give them a little sliver of happiness—and the perfect balance of humor—and then wham! You go and try to break them again. But here’s the thing. The Pearsons have known since that very first episode how to take “the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade.” And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am in awe of your ability to give me everything I want each episode and still leave me wanting more. This Is Us is the kind of story I want to tell—full of heart and surprises and more than a few tears. Thank you for inspiring me week to week!


A fellow writer and devoted fan

Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is very fond of pie and is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world. Her debut women’s fiction novel The Secret Ingredient of Wishes released in Sept. 2016 with Dreaming in Chocolate to follow in Oct. 2017. For more information, visit

A Poppy Book Recommendation: Dragon Springs Road

It’s #PreFridayReads when a Tall Poppy author recommends a book she loved. So if you’re looking for a great recommendation for your #FridayReads or another book to meet your 2017 Poppy Reading Challenge, read on.

We’ll help you turn the page …

Weina Dai Randel recommends Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

I first fell in love with Janie Chang’s writing when I read her debut book Three Souls, so when I heard she’s releasing her second book, I was beyond excited. I love Janie Chang’s poetic language rich with imagery. She also excels in writing historical novels with supernatural elements. In Three Souls, the narrator is a ghost, and in Dragon Springs Road, it features a fox spirit.

If you’re familiar with the Chinese culture, then you’ll know fox spirits have a rather unfavorable reputation in Chinese folklore. Popularized by Pu Songling’s Liao Zai Zhi Yi, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, many people in ancient China believed fox spirits loved to disguise as young and attractive women to seduce and ruin innocent young men. Sounds interesting, right? But in Dragon Springs Road, Janie Chang would portray another facade of the fox spirit, which is not only humane, also intriguing.

Dragon Spring Road was just released in January, and here’s the backcover copy as written on Goodreads!

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Until now she’s led a secluded life behind courtyard walls, but without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Murder, political intrigue, jealousy, forbidden love … Jialing confronts them all as she grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother. Through every turn she is guided, both by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past toward a very different fate, if she has the courage to accept it.

Grab a copy of Dragon Springs Road today and be mesmerized by Janie Chang’s gorgeous writing!

Weina Dai Randel is the author of two historical novels, The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon. The Moon in the Palace was nominated for Best Historical Fiction of 2016 by Goodreads Choice Awards, and for Best First Historical by RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award. Born and raised in China, Weina came to the United States at the age of twenty-four. She has worked as a journalist, a magazine editor, and an adjunct professor. Find more about Weina on her television interview, The Wall Street Journal China Real Time, Library Journal, The Huffington Post, Los Angles Review of Books, and other publications, or go to her website:

Click here for more info on Weina.

Happy Book Birthday to Camille Pagán & Forever is the Worst Long Time

Today we’re celebrating the release of Camille Pagán’s Forever is the Worst Long Time. RT Book Reviews named Forever is the Worst Long Time a top pick and called it “A beautifully poetic reminder that life and love are often nothing like we expect but also exactly what we need.” Forever was also voted also an Amazon best book of the month, and named one of InStyle’s “Seven Best Books to read in February.” Here’s the summary:

From acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a wry, heartfelt exploration of love and loss.

When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

As the years pass, James’s dreams always seem just out of reach—he can’t finish that novel, can’t mend his relationship with his father, can’t fully commit to a romantic relationship. He just can’t move on. But after betrayal fractures Lou’s once-solid marriage, she turns to James for comfort.

When Lou and James act on their long-standing mutual attraction, the consequences are more heartbreaking—and miraculous—than either of them could have ever anticipated. Then life throws James one more curveball, and he, Rob, and Lou are forced to come to terms with the unexpected ways in which love and loss are intertwined.

Now Camille answers some fun Poppy questions to help you get to know her!

1. The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
I always wanted to write novels, but it wasn’t until I was in late twenties that I was ready to try. My first published novel, The Art of Forgetting, was also the first draft I ever attempted to write; my agent sold it at auction to Dutton and Plume, which are imprints of Penguin, and to half a dozen foreign publishers, too. 
That sounds like an overnight success story … except the book didn’t sell particularly well in the U.S. Over the next few years, I wrote several books I didn’t really like (more on that shortly) and didn’t attempt to sell, and tried to ignore the lingering suspicion that my career was over.  
In 2013, I was on assignment in Santa Monica and had a few hours to kill before I flew back to Ann Arbor. I was on the beach when the idea for my second novel, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, came to me almost at once. (The book is about a woman whose life falls apart in a single day, and who reacts by running away to a small Puerto Rican island called Vieques.) I wrote it over the course of six months, then took another six to revise it. My agent sold Life to Amazon’s Lake Union Imprint. The month it came out, it spent three weeks as the #1 bestselling (all-category) book on Amazon; I recently sold film rights to Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films. 
My next two novels, including Forever is the Worst Long Time, will be published by Lake Union, which has done an incredible job helping my work find an audience. But my early publishing experience is a constant reminder that publishing is nothing if not a roller coaster ride. 

2. When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
Well, I wanted to be a novelist—but I planned to be doctor. I was the first in my family to attend college, and I received a full ride to the University of Michigan, which upped the pressure to do something “useful.” I liked science (and still do, clearly; as a journalist, I specialize in health). But in college, I quickly realized I’d rather write about medicine than practice it. 
Though I took creative writing classes during college and read everything I could get my hands on, I didn’t begin writing fiction in earnest until my late twenties, shortly after I had my daughter. Looking back, I needed life experience in order to have something to write about. 
3. Talk about your book’s title.
I had originally called my latest novel How It Ends, which was fine but didn’t quite capture the tone of the book. I came up with the titles for my first two novels, The Art of Forgetting and Life and Other Near-Death Experiences early in the drafting process, so with this third book, it was strange for me to write an entire manuscript without having “the” title in mind. 
While I was drafting, one line I had written—“As far as I’m concerned, forever is the worst long time”—kept rattling around in my head. I told my developmental editor that the second half of that sentence might make a good title, and she shared it with my primary editor at Lake Union, who shared it with her publishing team … and the rest is history. The title is perfect for the tone of the book: Sad but slightly irreverent. 
4. Have you ever tried writing in a different genre? How did that turn out?
Oh yes. After The Art of Forgetting, I wrote a historical novel, a romance novel, and a very literary novel. I didn’t publish them—they were awful—but I’m glad I wrote them. Those terrible, unpublished drafts helped me find my voice and figure out what I did want to write. I’m still learning, of course, and if all goes well, will continue to learn as long as I’m still writing. 

5. What’s your next big thing?  
I’m just wrapping up a draft of a novel called Woman Last Seen During Her Thirties. It’s a funny take on tragedy, much like my second novel, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences.And like all of my work, it centers around love, loss, and living without regret. It will be published in February 2018. 
Camille Pagán is the author of FOREVER IS THE WORST LONG TIME, THE ART OF FORGETTING, and the #1 Kindle bestselling novel LIFE AND OTHER NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES, which was recently optioned for film. An award-winning journalist and former editor for Real Simple, Fitness, and other publications, her work has appeared in Fast Company, Forbes, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Parade, and many others. Pagán lives in Ann Arbor with her family. Visit her at

Happy Book Birthday to Kaira Rouda & Laguna Dreams

Today we’re celebrating the release of book 5 in Kaira Rouda’s Laguna Beach series, LAGUNA DREAMS. All of the Laguna Beach novels can be read individually, or enjoy the entire five-book series. Here’s a bit about the book:

Welcome back to Laguna Beach . . .

Phillip Kensington has been a lucky man. His wine business is booming, he’s engaged and about to marry a woman he thought he loved. But she has changed since he slipped the ring on her finger. When Amanda, a beautiful stranger needs his help, he jumps into action. In the process, she helps him realize his future must change.

Amanda Crown is suffocating under the bright spotlight of her mother’s dreams for her future. Running off the studio lot in Hollywood after a particularly embarrassing scene, Amanda meets the man of her dreams. And then his fiancée. Amanda decides it’s time to follow her dreams and make a big move, what she didn’t realize was her step toward her future would bring her back into Phillip’s world.

Will he be able to take the steps to make their dreams come true?

Kaira shares her thoughts on release day…

Today’s a bittersweet book launch day for me! It’s sweet, because my latest contemporary romance novel, LAGUNA DREAMS, arrives in the world today. Bitter-ish, because, due to my new publisher and my pivot to writing domestic suspense, this will be my last romance novel for the year!

But that’s the thrill of the publishing world, really. I feel truly blessed to be working in the field of my dreams these past six years since my debut novel, HERE, HOME, HOPE came into the world. I’ve had the chance to meet amazing readers, fantastic writers and build a “second-act” career of my dreams. I was well on my path of releasing a women’s fiction novel once a year when I met Jane Porter, a fabulous author who publishes in both the women’s fiction and romance world. She convinced a somewhat reluctant me to give romance a try, and the result was WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON published in July of 2014. I’ve been writing romance, some say frenetically, ever since and loving every minute of it. Who doesn’t love happily ever after? Following the Indigo Island four-book series, I launched the Laguna Beach series set in my beautiful hometown. Today’s launch, LAGUNA DREAMS, is the culmination of both the series, and of my romance career. For now. Because who knows what the future holds. That’s the fun of the writer’s life.

LAGUNA DREAMS is the culmination of my Laguna Beach series, and of my romance-writing journey. It’s a happily ever after for my favorite characters, with a few bumps along the way. Amanda Crown is a reluctant Hollywood star looking for her future. Phillip Kensington’s wine business is booming, but his love life is a mess. These two meet by accident and sparks fly, but will he be able to take the steps necessary to make their dreams come true? I hope readers will enjoy LAGUNA DREAMS, available today in both eBook and audio book.

I’m so thankful for this chance to work in the publishing industry, for my friends in the romance world and women’s fiction world, including my Tall Poppy Writer team. And I’m so excited about the future thanks to my agent, Katie Shea Boutillier, and my publisher, Graydon House Books, a new imprint from Harlequin launching this fall. After today I’ll shift focus to my first Graydon House release, BEST DAY EVER, coming September 19th. As with all of my stories, romance and women’s fiction, BEST DAY EVER takes a look at what goes on behind closed doors of seemingly perfect lives. In this case, a domestic suspense tale where the perfect husband may not be what he seems.

All of this is my happily ever after. Thanks for sharing in it!

Kaira is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction exploring what goes on behind closed doors of seemingly perfect lives. Novels include ALL THE DIFFERENCE, HERE, HOME, HOPE, IN THE MIRROR, THE GOODBYE YEAR and BEST DAY EVER, coming September 2017. Her modern beach romances include the Indigo Island series and the Laguna Beach series, also its own Kindle World.

She lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest: @KairaRouda; and on Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books. For more please visit

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A Poppy Book Recommendation: The Feast of Love

It’s #PreFridayReads when a Tall Poppy author recommends a book she loved. So if you’re looking for a great recommendation for your #FridayReads or another book to meet your 2017 Poppy Reading Challenge, read on.

We’ll help you turn the page …

Brandi Megan Granett Recommends The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

I don’t read a lot of books written by men anymore, but when I do, odds are it would be a book by Charles Baxter. His novel, The Feast of Love, hooked me with his narrator also an author named Charles Baxter who starts out on a late night journey that turns in an exploration of a neighbor’s divorce. This meddling in the affairs of others doesn’t stop with the neighbor. Narrator Charles Baxter encounters a whole town worth of people, weaving in their stories about love and relationships.

One of the best things about this book is the how each chapter focuses on a different character’s point of view, and while some people would say this book is light on plot, I would say it is rich in human experience.

Jacqueline Carey in The New York Times echoes my assessment, writing, “In ”The Feast of Love,” Charles Baxter shows us the hard-won generosity of spirit that day-to-day dealings with other human beings require. He builds a community right on the page before us, using a glittering eye, a silvery tongue — and just a little moonlight.”

I dare you to immerse yourself in the buffet of characters Baxter so expertly laid out before us.

Brandi Megan Granett (formerly Scollins-Mantha) is the author the upcoming TRIPLE LOVE SCORE (Wyatt-Maczenie, Fall 2016), MY INTENDED (Eagle Brook/Morrow, 2000), and CARS AND OTHER THINGS THAT GET AROUND (2014). She earned her Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University, Wales, and her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Stockton, NJ, with her husband and daughter. When she is not writing or teaching or mothering, she is honing her Olympic archery skills.

Click here for more info on Brandi.

Meet debut author Abby Fabiaschi & I LIKED MY LIFE

Let’s give a warm welcome to Abby Fabiaschi! Today is the launch of her debut, I LIKED MY LIFE and we’re excited to be able to share this amazing day with her.

First, a little about I LIKED MY LIFE according to Goodreads: In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? comes a story from debut author Abby Fabiaschi that is “as absorbing as it is illuminating, and as witty as it is heartbreaking.”

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

Abby stopped by to take our Tall Poppy Q&A, where she talks about what’s making her happy these days, where the idea for the book came from, and the perks of this writing life … 

read more…

Katie Pryal on the importance of reader reviews

“Your words are as important to an author as an author’s words are to you.”

Those words may seem counterintuitive to you if you are a reader, but in our data-driven age, book reviews left by readers on and Goodreads can make a huge difference to the success of an author, especially to emerging and mid-list authors who aren’t getting their books reviewed in The New York Times.

read more…

Check out the 2017 Tall Poppy Book Lineup!

The new year is upon us, and many bibliophiles are setting their 2017 reading goals. We’ve compiled a list of the upcoming Tall Poppy Books coming out this year to help you select books to keep you busy the whole year through. Publishing is a tricky business, so more books may be added and release dates might shift, but keep an eye out for these wonderful titles as you stock your shelves with all those bookshop gift cards you got over the holidays!

read more…

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