Monday, March 1, 2021

An Exclusive Interview with Celebrated Novelist Patricia Leavy about Twinkle

Patricia Leavy, Ph.D. is an independent sociologist and best-selling author. She has published over 30 books, earning critical and commercial success in both nonfiction and fiction, and her work has been translated into numerous languages. She is also the creator and editor for ten book series with Oxford University Press, Brill/Sense, and Guilford Press, the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, and a blogger for various outlets.

In addition to numerous honors for her books, Patricia has received career awards from New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the National Art Education Association, and the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. In 2016 Mogul, a women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and SUNY-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.” Patricia’s latest release, Twinkle, is a love story about how love can help us heal from past trauma, overcome doubt, and accept that we are enough. Patricia is a long-time supporter of Mental Fitness, Inc, and a blogger for We Are the Real Deal and we’ve spoken with her many times over the years. We recently had a chance to chat about her sparkling new novel. The back cover describes the novel as follows:

Twinkle follows Tess Lee and Jack Miller after two years of marriage. Tess is a wildly successful and world-famous novelist. Her inspirational books explore our innermost struggles and the human need to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Jack is a federal agent. After spending decades immersed in a violent world, a residue remains. As they both heal from past trauma, their epic love, fostered by their ability to truly see one another, has brought them true happiness. However, when an anonymous threat is made against Tess’s life, everything changes. Will they learn to lean on each other, or will they fall apart into the darkness? Their friends are along for the ride: Omar, Tess’s sarcastic best friend, who calls her Butterfly; the female president of the United States, who Tess visits regularly to discuss politics and bake cookies; Joe, Jack’s friend from the Bureau, who understands the sacrifices he’s made; and Bobby, Jack’s younger friend, who never fails to lend a calming presence. Twinkle is a novel about the nature of doubt, the struggle to feel worthy of love, the relationship of the small part to the greater whole, and the ways in which love – from lovers, friends, or the art we experience – can help us move from trauma to healing and redemption.

Congratulations! Twinkle is being heralded as “captivating,” “stunning,” “a must-read,” “beautifully written,” and “contemporary literature at its very best.”

Thank you so much. These characters are incredibly special to me and I’m overjoyed early readers have embraced them so generously.

Please describe Twinkle.

It’s a love story that explores the nature of doubt in our lives and relationships. It’s a deeply human experience for people to think, on some level, that they aren’t enough. This belief causes so much pain and an inability to truly give ourselves to others and accept love in return.The characters in this novel use love to confront this innately human fear and help one another learn to more fully love themselves and those around them. Tonally, there’s a balance of drama and humor with laugh-out-loud, light-hearted moments, those that are painful or tearful, and those that are tender. In the end, it’s a feel-good read with a takeaway about letting go of doubt.

Twinkle is a sequel to Shooting Stars but can also be read as a stand-alone novel. What inspired you to keep writing about Tess Lee and Jack Miller?

I absolutely love these characters, not only Tess and Jack, but all their friends. When I finished Shooting Stars, I knew there were more stories to tell and I hoped readers would enjoy following their journey as much as I love writing about them. I’m using these characters to explore love, to write a love letter to love, one that will unfold over at least five books. Shooting Stars explored love and healing. It also had a theme of darkness and light. These themes are still a part of Twinkle, because the characters are who they are, but this is a new exploration. Twinkle explores love and doubt, and investigates the relationship of the small part to the greater whole. When all five books are released, readers will see that really the whole serial is a grand love letter to love itself.

Even though it’s a serial, it was important to me to write each as a stand-alone so that readers can pick up any of them, if they choose. For example, someone may be interested in the topic of love and family, and the theme of intimacy, the focus of the third book in the series, and I want them to be able to read and enjoy that on its own. Of course, if you follow all the books, you pick up extra things that add to the story, but each one can be read as a contained novel.

Let’s talk about the female president of the United States, whom Tess befriends. The gala chapter and their subsequent friendship are so much fun to read.

Thank you. I had a lot of fun writing those lighter parts of the novel. We have yet to have a woman president in the US and I enjoyed imagining what one fictional example might be like. I think we need these kinds of representations so that we can all more clearly imagine our country with a female leader. We need to normalize it. In terms of the specifics of Twinkle, for those who haven’t read it yet, the novel is set in Washington DC. The president hosts a big international gala to celebrate arts and peace. It was enormously fun to write the kinds of characters one might encounter at such an event. At the gala that Tess meets the president. A world-famous novelist, extremely wealthy, who has relentlessly traveled the world most of her life, Tess and the president find they have quite a bit in common and forge a friendship that leads to some funny encounters later in the novel. After all, how many people hang out in the White House residence eating mac and cheese, baking cookies, and talking politics?

There’s a big plot twist in this novel that brings a lot of drama and suspense, and ultimately a beautiful evolution of the characters. What do you want to say about this without giving too much away?

About halfway through the novel an anonymous, deadly threat is made against Tess’s life. Suddenly we’re swept into a suspenseful situation filled with federal agents and police officers trying to figure out who has made the threat, while keeping Tess safe. As both her husband and a federal agent, Jack desperately wants to protect her. As the story unfolds, he falls into a dark place, and she has to help him through, and then as they learn more about the nature of the threat, she slips into a dark place. Her childhood abuse is stirred up—not the violence she survived, but the internal wounds she carries as a result. They help each other through this drama, and their friends help as well. As the situation plays itself out, Tess and Jack learn to lean on each other in a way they never have before which allows for a beautiful development of their relationship and also their own identities. Tess’s truest friend has always been writing, so that plays a central role in her ability to get through this crisis, process it, and transform it into personal growth.

Let’s talk about Tess Lee’s novels. The excerpt at the end of the book is everything. It beautifully pulls the whole book together and leaves readers with such a wonderful final thought. As a writer, what’s it like writing a scene meant to be written by another novelist?

The excerpt at the end of the book was my favorite thing to write, and that’s pretty much been the case across the Tess Lee and Jack Miller novels. It’s also been incredibly challenging. The excerpt needed to be written in a different voice than my own, because it’s not my novel, it’s Tess’s. What would she write? How would she make sense of what happened? How would she weave together things that happened to her and her loved ones across the entire book? It’s a summing up of the lessons of the novel. It’s my way to pull them all together. The pressure is always on when writing those kinds of things, to be succinct, truthful, and do it through Tess’s eyes. I’m proud of how it turned out. I think writing these short pieces of Tess’s work has pushed me as a novelist and I’m always grateful for the chance to grow and refine my craft.

Who is the audience for Twinkle?

Tess Lee dedicates her novels “to everyone, everywhere” and that’s exactly how I feel about Twinkle. It’s for everyone. Ultimately, it’s a story about love in all it’s forms and the ability we each have to rewire our brains so that we know in the depth of our souls that we are okay, we are enough. I hope anyone looking for pleasure reading, escape, or inspiration gives it a read.

What do you hope readers will take away from Twinkle?

We are enough, exactly as we are. We need to breathe into who we are and breathe into love. Sometimes, truly accepting love is the hardest thing to do, whether it’s from a lover, friends, family, or even the art we experience, but accepting it brings the greatest rewards. Breathe. Just breathe.

Twinkle on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Twinkle-Social-Fictions-Patricia-Leavy/dp/9004447067/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=patricia+leavy&qid=1606837805&s=books&sr=1-5

Twinkle at Brill: https://brill.com/view/title/59481

Shooting Stars on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/900443934X/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Shooting Stars at Brill: https://brill.com/view/title/58920?rskey=qQCIqu&result=1  

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