I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for Amelia Henley’s The Art of Loving You, publishling on July 22nd, 2021 by HQ.
Life isn’t always beer and skittles.
To be honest, when I first started reading this book, I didn’t know if I could finish it because of the subject matter. Having been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and tumor in the last year, some of this hit way too close to home for me, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a book that delves into the way that we experience grief and loss. Emotionally, it didn’t seem to be the right time, or that’s what I told myself.
But I soldiered on with it, and I’m glad I did. So many of us have had to deal with unexpected grief in the last year, whether it be via illness or a sudden catastrophe that this book could not be more timely, nor more beautifully written. Ms. Henley’s honest, realistic portrayal of the many stages is grief is sometimes a sucker punch to the gut, because it’s so beautifully raw, it eeks out every bit of emotion out of you.
I found great comfort and relief in the characters of Sid and Norma, especially in their relationship. Although the primary relationship is of Libby and Jack, Sid and Norma taught me so much, and Norma’s Book of Kindness reminded me that indeed, life isn’t always beer and skittles but we can do things, small things, to help brighten the day of someone else.
In times past I’ve always heard that helping someone else out can sometimes make your own troubles seem easier, and truthfully, this is hard to put into practice, as is illustrated by Libby as she deals with what so many of us are dealing with right now: the unexpected and sometimes cruel changes of life.
Yet thank goodness there are the Jacks and Sids and Norma’s of this world who try to make life more beautiful one painting, one square, one page at a time. Simply breathtaking.
A must-read for everyone. I cannot rate this book highly enough.
Not long ago, an author friend posted about her current working title for the second book in her series, and how she was undecided about the final title. Many authors will have a working title that we let the reader know about, only to change that title when it comes time to cover creation. Others just find it later.
I had titled my fourth book “Ball of Confusion” for most of its journey as a work in progress. I had even gone through the rewrites and structural edits and had toyed with changing the title, but nothing seemed to convey the central theme of the book.
It was research that led me to it, though. Back in December I was reading Elizabeth Kim’s memoir Ten Thousand Sorrows as she is a Korean War orphan and nearly my character Suzy’s age. I wanted to hear about her experiences and challenges of growing up in America. If you haven’t read her book, I highly recommend you get it, and also invest in some hankies. I read it nearly in one sitting.
A central theme of Kim’s book was fear of abandonment, and as the daughter of divorced parents from an early age, I could relate to her so much. So when she quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Song of the Nations” as a poem that gave her peace, a lightbulb went off immediately.
As a writer and a creator, you have to trust your gut. It’s one of your most prized tools, and you must cherish. The moment I read that first phrase, I knew I had a title. Once I read the entire poem, I was bobbing my head up and down, because everything I wanted to express in this book was encapsulated into one poem.
Here is the poem in it’s entirety:
Out of Night and alarm Out of Darkness and dread, Out of old hate, Grudge and distrust, Sin and remorse, Passion and blindness; Shall come Dawn and the birds, Shall come Slacking of greed, Snapping of fear– Love shall fold warm like a cloak Round the shuddering earth Till the sound of its woe cease.
After Terrible dreams, After crying in sleep, Grief beyond thought, Twisting of hands, Tears from shut lids Wetting the pillow; Shall come Sun on the wall, Shall come sounds from the street, Children at play– Bubbles too big blown, and dreams Filled too heavy with horror Will burst and in mist fall.
Sing then, You who were dumb, Shout then Into the dark; Are we not one? Are not our hearts Hot from one fire, And in one mold cast? Out of Night and alarm, Out of Terrible dreams, Reach me your hand, This is the meaning of all that we Suffered in sleep, — the white peace Of the waking.
I discussed my thoughts with my editor and she, along with one of my beta readers, loved the new title. My old art instructor used to say, “Now you’re cooking with gas.”
From there I was able to form a clear picture of the cover. Two women clothed in contrasting black and white, representing the imagery of coming out of depression and despair into healing and affirmation. Doubt and self-loathing into confidence.
The rest was orchestration, playing on images found in 1960s fashion ads and dress pattern illustrations. My designer, the fabulous Victoria Cooper of Victoria Cooper Art, and I went back and forth on dresses and hairstyles until I had that “That’s it!” moment straight out of a Charlie Brown Christmas.
I’m so pleased to reveal that inspiration with you, and to introduce Kate and Lydie’s story. I often return to themes in my series, and this one touches back on elements of books one and two in the saga. The first is that although darkness may seem impenetrable, light is always out there. The other is that no matter what your past may be, no matter what place you have come from, your future is in your hands. You have the choice and the chance to change that and become the person you want to become. It isn’t an easy path by any means. In my own life, it has sometimes been a series of one step forward and two steps back. But as long as you keep moving, even if you must crawl, you are still on that path.
Out of Night is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.
We’re only a couple of short weeks away from the release of The Broken Tree, so it’s time for #teasertuesday!
From The Broken Tree Copyright 2019 by Kellie Butler. All rights reserved.
As they approached the old blackened oak, both Chester and Minstrel stopped abruptly. “What’s going on?” Henry nudged Chester, but he wouldn’t budge. Lydie shook her head. “I don’t know. They won’t go near that tree.” Remnants of the tree lay broken like the remains of a skeleton long forgotten. It’s bare branches reminded Lydie of arms and fingers. Underneath, the ground had withered despite that the surrounding heath was covered in purple flowering heather. Even a few passing birds seemed disturbed by the old tree and refused to take refuge from their flight in its branches. “They certainly don’t like it.” Henry said. “I’ve heard about this. There’s something about this tree that no living thing will go near. Don’t you remember me telling you about it before we married?” “Vaguely, now that the you mention it.” An overwhelming sense of sadness seemed to emit from the tree. “I’m going to investigate.” Lydie hopped off her horse. “Lydie don’t,” Henry called but it was too late. “All right, I’m going too.” He dismounted and followed her. Lydie walked slowly towards the old oak allowing Henry to catch up with her. “I just want to see what’s making the horses so upset.” “It looks rather sinister to me.” “An inanimate object, Henry? I’m surprised at you.” “I’ve heard of a tree like this back in New England. There’s one in Pennsylvania or Delaware called the Witch’s Tree. According to legend, a witch’s soul will take up residence in a dead tree, hence why living things won’t go near it.” Lydie shook her head. “I would have thought a man of science like you wouldn’t believe old tales. It sounds something out of the film.” “Yes, but I’m not liking this tree one bit. Look at its trunk.” Henry gestured to the split trunk. “It appears as if it was struck by lightning.” “I think you are right. Look at that burn mark. “Henry traced his gaze upwards towards the canopy. “It must be several hundred years old from how massive it is. Look at those limbs down on the ground.” “They look like fingers coming out to grab you.” “Lydie, you and your imagination.” “It’s so silent around here, Henry. Listen.” The haunting sound of the wind rolled across w the deserted heath. She bent down to touch the black bark of the tree. “Don’t, Lydie. Don’t touch it,” Henry said. “What is it going to do? Grab me?” “No, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Henry glanced back at the horses, who pawed at the ground. “Look, the horses are getting antsy. We need to get going.” “Yes, I think you’re right. That bark is just so odd. Do you see how it appears burnt from the inside out? I can’t describe the markings.” “Lydie, let’s go, okay? Come on, I’ll help you mount.”