Hello lovely readers! The Bungalow is out in less than a month (4 weeks and a day!), and because I'm so excited, I'm giving away one **signed** copy to someone here this week. Leave a comment below to enter. And, if you tweet the link to this post or share on Facebook, I'll give you an extra entry (just be sure to tell me that you did this in a separate comment(s) below, since I will choose the winner randomly). And, be sure to pre-order your copy, too! (This way, there's a chance your copy might appear in your mailbox before Christmas---fingers crossed!) **Update: An extra entry if you "like" my Facebook author page (just let me know in a separate comment that you've "liked")!**

I'm so thrilled to announce that The Violets of March was chosen as a Best Book of 2011 by the prestigious Library Journal! I share the award with the fantastic authors Jennifer Weiner, Elin Hilderbrand, Claire Cook, Erica Bauermeister, Jennifer Close, Mary Kay Andrews, and Sarah Bird. Wow! Such an exciting day. I've very grateful to Library Journal for the honor.

My box of finished copies of The Bungalow arrived today (which means they'll be on their way to bookstores soon---on shelves December 27!). They're so pretty and the colors are gorgeous---brightened up this gray fall day in Seattle! I remember all the years before this that I wondered if I'd ever write and publish a novel, and now I have two, and two more coming out in the months ahead. It's still all very hard to believe---and very, very wonderful.

The Bungalow will be released in a little more than a month (can you hear my heart racing with excitement and anticipation all the way over here in Seattle?!), and the early reviews are starting to pour in. Each day I race to my computer to read what book bloggers and reviewers are saying about my second novel, and it's been really fun reading all the lovely things people are saying. I wanted to share some of these early reviews with you: *Book blogger Bonnie of Sweet Tidbits gave The Bungalow five out of five stars and said "I was completely captivated!" *Library Journal, one of the biggest reviewing publications, had terrific things to say about The Bungalow, and they even compared me to internationally bestselling novelist Nicholas Sparks---oh wow! *Book blogger Tiernan McKay read The Bungalow in an entire sitting, on her birthday, no less, and wrote "The Bungalow is an emotional story of uncertain love, true love, the lure of stability, the ugliness of pride and the beautiful intertwining of lives through generations." Lots more reviews to share as they come in. Be sure to pre-order The Bungalow, if you haven't already. Thank you, everyone, for your support!

Continuing in my series of "behind the scenes" of book publishing (or maybe I should call this, "beyond the pages?"), I'm excited to introduce you all to my lovely publicist at Penguin, Milena Brown. I adore her (and not just because she knows how to rock a great scarf!). Milena handles all the details of publicity for my books, and don't you just love how my latest novel has a face out spot on her bookshelf!? She's 100 percent gracious about answering all of my sometimes-annoying and needy-author questions, and she handles the big things (talking to bigtime media professionals) and the little things (booking my hotels and flights for upcoming tours) with perfect amounts of patience, savvy and kindness. (Someone give this gal a raise!) I thought you would enjoy reading my recent Q&A with Milena: Sarah: You are living the dream---working as a book publicist in NYC (a career so many people would die for!). How did you achieve your career goals? Milena: It is a dream job; especially working with a company as prestigious as Penguin. I really encourage people to try and make a living out of a hobby. My hobby has always been reading since I can remember, and being able to turn my love for books into a career is a joy. Knowing that the book publishing industry was predominately based in New York City, I moved here from California a year out of college. I started as an entertainment publicist because I didn’t know a soul in book publishing and entertainment in Los Angeles was so prevalent. After being completely unhappy in entertainment, I decided to finally pursue book publishing any way I can. I networked like crazy, even taking positions that had nothing to do with publicity just to get my foot in the door. I made the necessary contacts with publicity at various publishing companies, proved myself and now I’m in a career that suits me perfectly. Sarah: Tell us about a day in the life of a book publicist! All the glamorous (and non-glamorous details, please!) I am what you would call a cheerleader for my authors. Sarah: Yes you are. Just the other day you cheered me up! Ha! Milena: In a nutshell I promote books and authors, but my typical day always consists of 3 things: reading, writing and communicating. I’m constantly drafting letters and publicity materials for various media representatives whether it is for broadcasting, print or online.  I am in constant contact with producers, editors and writers on a daily basis on behalf of books and authors I represent. I handle publicity campaigns from beginning to end: speaking directly to magazine editors to scheduling author book tours (from booking airlines to hotels, which would count as the un-glamorous part). My job is essentially to get people excited about a book and it makes my work that much more fulfilling when someone matches my enthusiasm. Sarah: What gets you really excited in any given day? I’d love to hear about the things that make you do a happy dance at your desk. Milena: Writers are the most talented people in the world and it’s such an honor to be able to interact with authors on a regular basis in which I’m also a fan.  Every season there are books that I’m really eager to be working on. However, there are two things that literally make me do the happy dance at my desk: overdose of caffeine and when someone from a very important media outlet calls whether it be the New York Times or TODAY Show---you tend to drop everything your doing when those phone calls come in. Sarah: Tell us about a few of the campaigns you’re working on right now! I’m working on a few November/December campaigns that encompasses a wide variety of topics and genres. Of course, I’m working on a beautiful novel for January…The Bungalow. Sarah: I may be partial, but I hear that's a pretty good novel! OK, really, what else are you excited about? Milena: A wonderful holiday book The Puppy That Came for Christmas, which is sure to be stocking stuffer. The World in 2050, a non-fiction book that predicts what will happen if we continue with demographic, climate and global trends…scary stuff! And You’re (Not) The One – a hilarious novel on a woman who thinks she’s found “The One,” but the romance takes a turn for the worse. Sarah: Ooooh, those sound great! Will be keeping my eyes peeled. OK, so we’ve talked about the fact that we’re both fueled by coffee, so I have to know: What’s your espresso drink of choice and do you have a favorite NYC café where you always start your day? I think coffee literally flows through my veins. Sarah: Me too. You'd be at home here in Seattle. Milena: My favorite coffee is one that isn’t even sold in the states (I know…I go to extremes for good coffee). My mother is from Puerto Rico and lives in California. Her aunt in Puerto Rico ships a box filled with packages of coffee called “Mami” and my mom sends me a good 6 month supply. I make it the “old school” way---in a stove-top espresso pot and warm the milk separately in a saucer.  Despite that, I still have a favorite NYC coffee spot---Café Lalos. Their cappuccino is heaven in a cup. If they had a location near the office, I would be there everyday…until then, Dunkin Donuts it is. Their coffee is on point. I can’t complain. Sarah: Now I'm craving coffee! OK, so when you’re not reading a book, what magazine are you reading cover-to-cover these days? (You know, I’m a magazine junkie, as it’s where my career began!) Milena: I am obsessed with Bon Appétit! I am always in search of new recipes and they also have great ideas for dinner parties and entertaining at home. We subscribe to a good amount of magazines here at the office and I notice that O magazine, PEOPLE, Vanity Fair and New York Magazine tend to linger on my

Hi everyone! I'm excited to introduce a new series on my blog called "Behind the Scenes" where I'll be sharing conversations with several of the folks at Penguin and elsewhere who have been instrumental in making my novels successes, and I am ever grateful to them. And, because so many people don't know all the work that goes into creating a book (beyond just the author), I thought it would be fun to introduce you to the cast of characters (truly wonderful people) who have worked on The Violets of March and my forthcoming novels. So, to begin, I interviewed my wonderful editor Denise Roy at Penguin! Here's my recent conversation with Denise (who appears in the photo below in her office in New York---with my books on her desk!): Sarah: I think it’s a common misconception that editors only “edit” books, because the job is so much more all-encompassing than that! (I know, because you have been there at every point along the way for my books in the last year!) You really have shepherded my novels every step of the way, and I’m so grateful for your support. Can you share a part of the job as an editor that readers may not know much about? Denise: On the occasion of my grandfather’s ninetieth birthday, a hurricane was bearing down on south Florida just when that year’s National Book Award finalists in fiction were being announced. The phone lines were dicey, but one of my authors had been honored, and the author, her agent, my publisher, and my assistant were all trying to get through to share the exciting news. When I explained the excitement to my family, my father asked, “You mean, you pick the books?” Sarah: Haha. I love that. Denise: Since then, he’s adopted industry lingo, asking, “Any new acquisitions lately?” Essentially, book editors have three main concerns: Signing new projects (which means choosing from among numerous submissions, and negotiating terms with the agent who represents the writer in question), editing the manuscripts authors deliver (making sure the final version is ready in plenty of time for the sales force to read before they present the title to booksellers), and getting involved with all the details---book jackets, interior page design, publicity and marketing plans---that happen as a manuscript transforms into a published book. Sarah: I think it was you (or maybe Elisabeth, my agent) who told me about your fascinating editing style—that you take a manuscript home and set the pages out on the floor so you can see them all together and then mark them up that way. (Did I just dream this up, or is this indeed how you approach some of your projects? If not, please disregard the question!) This is so fascinating! How did you start editing this way and why do you find it helpful to do it? Denise: I approach editing as I would a jigsaw puzzle, challenged by making all the pieces fit together perfectly. So, yes, I really do spread manuscripts out on the floor when there are structural or pacing questions to unravel. Every manuscript is different, though, so I try to tailor my editing plan project by project. Sometimes phone conversations with the author to brainstorm plot details or character arcs are crucial; other projects are best served by the onion approach---peeling the layers back to reveal the best expression of the book. Sarah: You read so much, and I’m always so amazed and honored that you remember the smallest details of my stories (sometimes even better than I do!). How on earth do you keep these details organized in your mind with so many books and authors on your plate? I think I need to start taking your vitamins. Denise: More game theory here---Remember “Concentration” or “Memory,” in which cards are flipped in search of matching pairs? I couldn’t get enough of that game as a child, and I’ve transferred to the editing process the skill of remembering where all the pieces go, and how they support the architecture of the plot. It’s an unusual skill set, but the rewards come when favorite details linger in the mind, and inspire the imagination. Sarah: I knew we were meant to work together---I used to be obsessed with "Memory" type games as a child! (And I know we share a love for the Frances books too!). Now, tell me about some of the books you’ve edited that are coming out in the next few months. I’d love share some titles for my readers to add to their winter and spring reading lists! Denise: Connecting first-time authors with their audience is a personal passion, so the upcoming season holds the special anticipation that only the opportunity to publish distinctive debuts--four novels, Seré Prince Halverson’s The Underside of Joy, Sarah Pinneo’s Julia’s Child, Melanie Thorne’s Hand Me Down, and Meredith Goldstein’s The Singles---as well as Claire Bidwell Smith’s memoir, The Rules of Inheritance---can bring. Thank you, Denise! Readers, is there a question you've always wanted to ask about what goes on behind the scenes in making a book? I'd love to hear! More installments of this new feature coming soon.