Just one more week until THE SECRET OF JOY arrives in bookstores (Tuesday, November 17th)! I am so excited about this novel for several reasons:
1) It's my first with my new publishing house, Simon & Schuster.
2) It's my first to be a book club pick and come complete with a Reading Group Guide.
3) It's my first to be written in the third person instead of my usual first person (She is hot stuff instead of I am hot stuff.)
4) It's my first to send me on a virtual blog tour of over 60 blogs! I've long been a member of the fabulous Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit tour, and you'll find interviews with me on all the Girlfriends' sites (I'll list them all next week), and I'll also be reviewed by forty-plus amazing book bloggers (fingers are crossed that they like the book!).
5) It's the first novel since my debut, See Jane Date, that helped me figure out some very personal stuff. Several years ago, I received an email out of the blue that said: "I think you might be my half-sister." Some rattling family skeletons later, I still didn't know how I felt about contact being made (and yes, there's a long-short story to go with this!). So I did what writers do: I let my questions come out on the page. Many pages.
The Secret of Joy is not autobiographical. I am nothing like Joy Jayhawk, the half-sister that my main character, Rebecca Strand, sets off to find. And I flipped everything on its head in the telling of this story so that only the most basic nugget of the premise is based in real life. But what is true, what is very real for me, is the emotional impact, the theme, the burning questions: what is meant by the word family? Do words like family, sister, brother, mother, father mean anything in and of themselves or must they be backed up by, say, actually being there? Does DNA a sibling make? Is the answer that black and white?
It's the gray that I love exploring in my novels. And I explored these questions to help me figure out how I felt. How I feel about my situation isn't necessarily what you'll find in The Secret of Joy, though. The novel is not my story; it's Rebecca Strand's story. But again, her questions, and Joy's questions, are mine. This is what I love so much about writing. What comes out of your heart, mind and soul on the page can explain yourself to you, even though you're writing a totally fictional character, a totally fictional scenario.
Here is a sneak peek at a review that one of my favorite book reviewers will post next week about the Secret of Joy: " In The Secret of Joy, we discover two wonderfully strong, different and appealing main characters—at first they are strangers to each other, but they will unite through a shocking secret—they are half-sisters and immediately from the beginning of the novel we get a very strong idea of just how different these two "sisters" are. This only adds another layer of complexity in a novel that offers us layer after layer of secrets, sentimentality and most of all of discovery . . . Touching, sentimental and absolutely riveting. As I write this, I am rethinking of some of the passages and they make me teary eyed. I recommend this book very, very highly!” –Tina Avon, Bookshipper
P.S. If you're anywhere near the lovely state of Maine next week, you are cordially invited to the launch day reading and signing for The Secret of Joy at Borders Books in South Portland, Maine, on Tuesday, November 17th at 7pm.
To pre-order, please see the links to online bookstores above. I love pre-orders!
As always, please feel free to contact with any comments or questions via email (MelissaSenate at Yahoo .com) — put it all together with the @ symbol; I'm just trying to stay ahead of the spammers.