Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lottie's Gift: Book Review and Author Interview

Lottie's Gift
by: Jane M. Tucker
published by: Crossriver Media Group
copyright 2016

Book Summary from GoodReads:
She’s a little girl with a big gift.
Lottie Braun has enjoyed a happy childhood in rural Iowa. Her mother was gone, but she knew her father and older sister loved her and her aunts, uncles and cousins surrounded her. But the quiet, idyllic life she enjoyed as a child ended with tragedy and a secret that tore the two sisters apart.
Forty years later, Lottie is a world-class pianist with a celebrated career and an empty personal life. She moves from city to city, guarding her privacy with fierce vigilance, all to protect herself from the past. But one sleepless night, she allows herself to remember and she discovers that memories, once allowed, are difficult to suppress. Can she make peace with the past? Will she ever find her way home?

My Thoughts:
Lottie's Gift is a delightful read. It flows like a lazy river in summertime, taking us on a pleasant journey through the past. While there are a few unexpected twists and turns, for the most part the novel focuses on the strong bond of trust and friendship that develops between the two sisters. It is a sweet story, and yet the author continually reminds us that this relationship will soon shatter. It is this subtle suspense that compels us to read "just one more page."

Lottie's Gift is the first book of a trilogy. The author did a great job writing a satisfactory conclusion, while leaving us wanting to know more. 

This is not a book I typically read. My fiction preference lies more with mysteries and thrillers. Because of this predisposition, I kept waiting for unfortunate events behind every corner. To my pleasant surprise, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the gentle pacing. It makes for a perfect summer read, or an antidote to a hectic life.

I also rarely read faith-based fiction. I read to escape, not hear a sermon. While Crossriver is a faith-based publisher, this book is NOT preachy. Yes, there are a few references to prayer and the theme of forgiveness is evident, but these references are sparse, subtle, and consistent with the story and characters. I would recommend the novel to anyone who enjoys a good character-driven novel - regardless of religious affiliation.

Caveat: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

For the first time (but I hope not the last) ... I had the opportunity to conduct an author interview. I sent Ms. Tucker several questions (my curiosity about successful writers is high), and this is her response to a few of them. 

Have you always had an interest in writing? What sparked that interest?
When I was in second grade, my teacher taught a lesson on personification, or giving human characteristics to objects or animals. I caught on right away, excited as always to learn a new word. She then spread small household objects out on our desks, and had us choose one to write about, using personification. I enjoyed every minute of writing the assignment, and all the positive adult attention I received when it was finished. I wanted to repeat the whole experience as often as possible. So an author was born.

Writing became an inseparable part of me as I grew. My adolescent journals filled several notebooks. But I also developed other interests, which shaped my college degree and job choices. I walked away from writing for many years.

What inspired you to write this book? I understand a photo from a garage sale played a part….
The garage sale picture played an interesting part in creating Lottie, for sure. I found it early in the whole process. I was still working as a preschool teacher, with no plans to quit my job, but this story had begun to nag at me.

The Lottie picture was part of a group of oversize photos that once decorated an insurance office. At the time I planned to write about Lottie as an old lady looking back on her life, so I took one look at the white-haired lady with twinkling blue eyes and knew it was her. My kids thought I was crazy, bringing home this gigantic portrait of a stranger. They didn’t yet understand the part Lottie would play in my life.

Lottie didn’t end up being as old as the lady in the picture. She’s 54 in Lottie’s Gift, a much better age for many reasons, one of which is the possibility of a trilogy.

Did you envision a trilogy from the beginning?
No. Back at the beginning, when Lottie was an old lady, I wanted to write one book with six plots. That turned out to be a tall order for a rookie. I came to understand that I’d be better off writing three books with one or two plots each.

“Write what you know” is advice often given to new authors. What elements of this story did you know? Which ones required research?
I’d like to modify that advice a little bit. I think it’s best to write what you know when it comes to the emotional underpinnings of a story. For example, a strong sister-bond lies at the heart of Lottie’s Gift
With two sisters of my own, I know that emotional territory. I believe that’s why Lottie and Helen come across as authentic. I would have had less success writing about brothers, because I’ve never witnessed that dynamic up close.

I don’t think you have to write what you know when it comes to the outward trappings of the story. That’s where research comes in. For Lottie’s Gift, I read up on child prodigies and the place of piano music in mid-20th century culture. I also read about, and listened to, a lot of music from the swing era.

Do you have any other words of wisdom for pre-published authors?
Two words. First, connect. Connect with other authors, online and in person. Jump into the social media pool, join a local writers group, go to conferences. Writing for publication is not a solitary pursuit.

Second, learn. Learn to write well. Learn the conventions of the industry. Learn how to use social media effectively. When you start out, you have raw talent. It’s your responsibility to develop skill.

Your blog—Postcards from the Heartland—focuses on travel and events in the great Midwest. What do you love about the Midwest that you want to share with others?
Many people consider the Midwestern states flyover country—someplace you have to endure on your way to more important things. I’ve made it my goal to point out the natural beauty and interesting people of this region. During the school year I’m limited to places and events around Kansas City, but in the summer months I get to branch out a little more. In a few weeks I plan to explore western Kansas, and report back on what I find. So stay tuned for that.

 Thank you, Jane M. Tucker, for a delightful interview... and a wonderful book!


  1. I've really never interviewed an author. I like yours because the questions you asked are ones you sincerely wanted to ask. I like that.

  2. Fantastic review and interview. I love the combination.
    And I do agree, learnign and connecting is of paramount importance today. Well, learning has always been, but connectiong is a skill that an author must learn nowadays. Didn't use to be, but hey... things change ;-)


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