Dear Mariners…

cutIt’s been a helluva season, hasn’t it?

A season that’s had a little bit of everything in it. Games canceled due to extreme cold and eagles landing on pitchers’ shoulders and a wildly improbable run of one and two-run victories with the league’s best closer slamming the door time after time. It’s a season that’s contained both what seemed like a sure playoff spot to a long slide down coupled with a division rival’s refusal to take that expected nosedive after their own wildly improbable run.

It’s been a season that showcased both the best and the worst of sports fandom. The kind of season that reveals who the fans of a team are versus who the fans of winning are. Not that there’s anything wrong with winning, of course. To quote Nuke LaLoosh, “it’s like, better than losing.”

But here’s the thing—and it’s just my opinion—if you truly love a team, you also have to love the game.

News flash: I love the game.

My love of baseball is the sole good memory I have of time spent with my father. (Also, as a Cuban girl, it’s entirely possible béisbol  is in my blood.)

Growing up as I did in Miami in the 70s and 80s, we didn’t have a local team to root for. Not a single team in the state. Those were dark times. (I mean, it’s Florida, so dark times anyhow, but yeah—dark, man.) But perhaps because my parents had lived (and I had been born) in New York and because there were so many transplants, and because they held Spring Training in Ft. Lauderdale, a lot of people in South Florida were Yankees fans. Those national broadcast Saturday Major League games, nine times out of ten, we got the Yankees. And let’s face it—those Yankees teams of the mid-70s were a lot of fun to watch. A team of true characters of the sort you only find in baseball. Billy Martin and Sweet Lou, and Goose Gossage and Catfish Hunter, and hometown boy Bucky Dent, and of course, Mr. October.

But even so, they never truly felt like my team.

It wasn’t until I moved to Cleveland in the mid-90s that I felt as if I had a team I could legitimately claim. I didn’t even care that in early 1994 the Indians were still one of the league’s laughingstocks. It was baseball. In my city! I could go to games! My local grocery store was even an official ticket outlet, so I could pick up a pair of main level seats for that night’s game along with the veggies and cat litter! Seats were both cheap and plentiful because despite the move to the shiny new Jacobs Field, the team wasn’t really expected to do much. But boy, did they ever. In what seemed like a case of life imitating art, this ragtag team of kids and grizzled vets started out weak and then somehow began climbing up in the standings, not unlike the film Major League that documented a similar rise for a fictional Indians team.

Unfortunately, the strike cut down that season, so we’ll never know what could have been, but it did set the stage for what would be an incredible era of baseball in Cleveland. I even attribute the fact that my daughter was born during the 1997 World Series as the reason why she’s my best baseball buddy.

For the past ten years, however, I’ve lived in Seattle and after nearly a decade, I can safely say I’m a True To the Blue Mariners fan. I, too, suffer the tortures of the damned when the team misses the playoffs again and I revel in the absurd things that set baseball apart, from an eagle landing on James Paxton’s shoulder to Dee Gordon flossing in the background of a televised interview to deep fried grasshoppers to the rise of the Maple Grove as one of the best fan sections in baseball to a ridiculous haircut bet made between a manager and his young closer.

I’ve enjoyed Marco Gonzales’ and Mitch Haniger’s breakout years. My heart breaks a little watching Felix struggle to remain the King even as it’s filled to bursting to watch Nelson Cruz produce at age thirty-eight. I cheered like a lunatic when James Paxton threw his no-hitter and wept a little when Hisashi Iwakuma took his final bows as a Mariner.

Yeah, I’m deeply sad I won’t get to watch my boys play October ball, but by the same token, I’m not going to point fingers and issue blanket condemnations. I can be critical of the missteps and missed opportunities and be disappointed at the disintegration of what was once such a promising season, while still taking pride in the little things—like our record’s improvement from last year to this and Eddie Diaz’s emergence as one of the best closers in baseball and how we had five starters hit the 150 innings pitched mark—remarkable in this era of the specialized pitcher.

There are so many things I took joy in this season and nothing—not even not making the playoffs—can diminish that joy. Because of my love for the game.

So thank you, Mariners.

Thank you, Jerry and Scott and the entire coaching staff and every player who donned Mariner blue this season. Thank you for a season that gave me everything I love about the game of baseball.

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“If your book was going to be a movie…”

“…who do you see in the roles?”

We’re often asked this—or some variation, like, “Do you cast your books as you’re writing?”

Truth?

Some writers do—some don’t. I happen to fall in the camp of casting the roles as I’m writing. I’m so very visual, it helps me to have a touchstone of sorts, as I’m writing. If I need to come up with a physical tic or go into particular detail about how light plays across features or the myriad of shades eyes can contain. I use a photograph or film clip as a springboard and then my character has a tendency to blossom from there and become their own person.

When I was asked this question about Between Here and Gone, however, I came up against a bit of a conundrum. Y’see, I first started working on BHAG in 2007 (ironically, the same year Mad Men premiered), yet the book wasn’t published until January 2016. Yes, that’s a lonnnnnng time. And with respect to the casting question, it rendered some of my original selections…obsolete, as it were.

So I decided I would give you a Then vs Now comparison of my primary players. So without further ado…

Natalia/Natalie

Then: Rachel Weisz

Now: Dominik García-Lorido

Back then, I wasn’t thinking beyond the sort of look I wanted for Natalia. Dark hair, but not black, fair skin, light eyes or if they were brown, more of the hazel variety. In other words, not unlike the majority of the Cuban girls I’d grown up around. So yes, Rachel’s British, but she embodied the period look and the vulnerable strength I envisioned for Natalia. Fast forward to now and I have Dominik García-Lorido. Andy García’s daughter and an accomplished actress in her own right. And she’s done the period thing, having appeared in Magic City.


Jack

Then: Jack Davenport

Now: JJ Feild

It would appear I have a thing for British actors. It’s not intentional (okay, maybe it is). But in this case, since Jack is as WASP as WASP gets, British—not so far off the mark.

At the time I used him for my model for Book Jack, Jack Davenport was already edging on too mature—nearly nine years on and he definitely is, although one could possibly argue that Book Jack is definitely old beyond his years and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, there are many delicious options these days and how could I go wrong with JJ Feild? He has the elegant reserve I would expect Jack to have, yet also has a raffish, can-let-down-his-hair charm that’s also necessary to the character, and we already know he can do character out the wazoo.. And to those who do a double take when they see JJ and go, “Why didn’t you just go with Hiddles?” well… Tom Hiddleston is so very Hiddles, that I actually had a hard time looking beyond his very Hiddlesness. (Is too a word!)

Ava

Then: Kate Winslet

Now: Evan Rachel Wood

Kate would have been brilliant. Actually, Kate is so brilliant, she’d still be brilliant. But Ava is the consummate narcissistic character who is on the verge of turning thirty and Kate, God love her, looks precisely as a 40-year-old woman should. Hence, a currently closer to Ava’s actual age actor which brings us to Evan Rachel Wood. Both women are spectacularly gorgeous and have the requisite acting chops to pull off batshit crazycakes.

Remy

Then: Nacho Figueras

Now: Sebastian Stan/Lee Pace

Remy has always proven to be difficult for me. In a way, he was the easiest character to write without having a visual reference, since has so visceral in so many other ways. The closest I came back then to having a physical model for him was Argentinian polo player (and Ralph Lauren model) Nacho Figueras, but even he didn’t seem quite right. These days, I vacillate between Sebastian Stan and Lee Pace, with Lee just edging out Sebastian. Mostly. Kind of. Ask me tomorrow…

Dante

Then: Leonardo DiCaprio

Now: Dominic Cooper

Back then, Leo was an obvious choice because a) envisioning him and Kate Winslet as Dante and Ava was absurdly easy and b) it’s the sort of role I could just see him in. Still true today, however, I must admit, I can just as easily see Dominic Cooper, based in no small part (ain’t lyin’) on his portrayal of Howard Stark. He speaks and I can just hear Dante. (I know, I know…I’m dipping into the Marvel well quite a bit. It’s not intentional.)

Bonus: Leo and Kate as I would imagine Dante and Ava.

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Greg & Constance

Then: ??

Now: Greg Kinnear and Emma Thompson

Yep. It’s true. I had no visual markers for either Greg or Constance. But when asked about it now, it seems a no-brainer. I love Greg Kinnear and think he can totally pull off the well-bred wise-assedness of Greg and as far as I’m concerned, Emma is divine in pretty much everything. I can totally see her utterly embodying Constance’s warmth and intelligence and inherent kindness.

 

So there you have it. My take on who I see in these roles. If you’ve read the book and have your own thoughts, let me know! I’d love to know how readers see these characters.

Evolution of the Perfect Cover

One of the most consistent comments/compliments I’ve received on Between Here and Gone is what a striking and lovely cover it has. And looking at it, you can’t imagine the book with any other cover, can you? It just so perfectly captures the essence of the story. BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEWith one glance you know it’s a female-centric period piece, likely involving a journey, whether metaphorical or literal (or in the case of BHAG, both). One would think it was easy to arrive at this cover and yes, once we found the perfect image, it was. Getting there, however…

Lemme ‘splain.

As many of you are aware, Between Here and Gone began its publication life on Wattpad, the online publishing platform that allows writers of all stripes to post their work. At that time, BHAG had been out on the submission rounds, had received many rejections, some decent feedback, and I was absolutely convinced it was never going to see the light of traditional publishing day. But I didn’t want what I felt was a good story languishing on my hard drive so I decided to perform an experiment. I would revise, based on the notes I’d received in rejection letters, and post the story, a chapter a day, on Wattpad, and see what sort of response it could garner.

So I set up my profile, prepared the first chapter to load, and…well, I needed a cover, didn’t I? Something that would give readers a hint of what they were getting, yeah? I’m no graphic artist, but I figured I could throw something reasonably decent together with the tools at hand. I scoured the internet for appropriate pictures, played with layouts in, of all things, the iPhoto card program, and came up with this:

BH&G1

Pretty, innit? I loved the wistful expression on the model’s face and the dreaminess of the background. The title font I was less fond of, but given I was working with limited options, it was sufficient. It was elegant and readable and didn’t distract from the overall effect.

Flash forward almost three years later. Between Here and Gone had sold to Diversion Books and we needed a cover. Both Marketing and Design loved my Wattpad cover and wanted to know if they could use it as a springboard for the new cover. (I mean, really, it is a gorgeous image, isn’t it?)

One teeny, tiny problem, however.

The image I’d used, which I had thought was an out-of-copyright image from the annals of Look magazine, was in fact, not. Umm… whoops? And when I contacted the art gallery that owned the rights to the image about the cost to acquire usage, they never even responded to me.

Double whoops.

So we had to start from scratch.

No problem, right? I provided the Diversion team with a slew of images of the sort I could imagine working for the cover. I knew I wanted a female-centric cover and one that conveyed travel or adventure or movement. After all, Natalia and her journey are the absolute emotional center of this book, with the time period setting the background for the events.

Time passes—we get the first prototype.

Between Here and Gone_coverpreview

It was…not right. Mind you, I can see exactly what the designer was going for and I can’t say that it was a bad idea, but its execution was all wrong for the tone of the book. The bright colors and cartoon-like graphics suggested a light, classic-era Shopaholic-style chick lit, rather than a more dramatic women’s fiction/coming-of-age story. And certainly, nothing, other than perhaps the shape of the glasses, suggested the time period. Certainly not the font—and if you discount the importance of the correct font, just take a look at titles like Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset or Helen Simonson’s  The Summer Before the War. 51btTR4u4eL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_
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One glance and you have an immediate sense of the when of the time period. Even if you can’t pin it exactly, you know it not to be contemporary. Of course, the graphics aid considerably, but the font supports the graphics. In the case of the first BHAG cover, the font didn’t do much to support the graphic or the story. It was serviceable enough, but like the cover itself, not right.

TL;DR It didn’t work. Armed with constructive critique that the colors and images needed to be a bit more period/locale specific, the cover designer returned to the drawing board.

And lo, we got Cover 2.0:

Between Here and Gone_preview2

Well, then. We were on the right track. I did love the color scheme. And the geometric graphics definitely had a mod 60s sort of vibe to them. I liked the idea of the NYC skyline although I was a bit disconcerted by the visual of One World Trade Center—but I knew that was something that could be dealt with in production.

Unfortunately, however, the legs threw me for a loop. I know the image was supposed to convey the sense of walking (the motion I had requested), but just having disembodied legs didn’t work for me (and the fashion hound in me felt that the shoes gave more of a 30s vibe than 60s). And while a period font might have made a strong argument to support of the cover, the one used was again, nice, but somewhat generic and unremarkable.

By this point, I was concerned the designer and the team in general wanted to strangle me, but I knew in my gut we needed the perfect cover for this book and moreover, that the perfect cover was out there waiting to be created.

Luckily, the Diversion team was exceedingly patient and tolerant with me and once again allowed me input into what I thought would make the perfect cover. So I set to work, searching out images and cover examples—finally, I stumbled across a stock photoset that seemed to capture everything I was looking for. On a wing and a prayer, I emailed off the links and…they loved them. A few weeks later, I received these:

Needless to say, I lost my tiny little mind with excitement. Here was the cover I’d been longing for—two of them, in fact! Now, to choose. While I loved the font on the all-turquoise cover and liked that you could see more of the car, it was the coral/turquoise ombré shaded cover that whispered, “Me. Pick me. I’m the right cover.”

And it was. I loved that the young woman was the focus of the cover. That she was staring off into the distance, whether it was looking back to where she’d been or looking forward to where she was going, who knew? It was up for interpretation. I loved that while her expression was wistful, there was still a focus and determination about her. And I loved that you got a distinct sense of the when of the piece. It didn’t have to be exact, but it was enough for the reader to be able to ascertain that yes, this is a mid-20th century set story.

It was perfect.

And judging by the reactions I’ve received since it was revealed back in October, you all think it’s perfect, too.

Let me just thank the Diversion Team and my wonderful, wonderful cover designer again for their patience and for allowing me to be such a big part of the process. Most authors, we’re never given that gift and to have had it, for a book that means so much to me, defies words, really.

 

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A STARRED review for BETWEEN HERE AND GONE!

So yesterday, I found out this happened:

PW Review_BHAG

What this is, is a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for Between Here and Gone. Only my second review ever from PW and my first ever starred review. To say it was unexpected would be understating it. To say I’m BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEthrilled would definitely  be understating it. There are so many great things about this review, but I think my favorite has to be this quote: “Ferrer (Both Sides Now) has created a story that’s breathtaking in its scope, and a heroine whose strength will leave readers in awe.”

*insert pleased giggle*

If you’d like to be introduced to Natalia/Natalie, my lovely heroine, you can read the first chapter HERE.

And if you enjoy what you read and want to have the rest the minute it’s available, you can preorder HERE or just click on the book cover. (And isn’t it a pretty cover?)

Remember, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE will be released on January 12, 2016, from Diversion Books, so go forth and pre-order. It makes authors’ holiday seasons merry and bright!

An excerpt from BETWEEN HERE AND GONE!

So a long, long time ago (okay, three years), in a galaxy far, far away (well…Wattpad) I put up the first chapter of a manuscript I loved an awful lot, but which I thought had no chance in hell of being traditionally published.BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGE

I had no real audience or platform, and the genre wasn’t one that lent itself well to self-publishing so that wasn’t a viable option. But I was tired of having stories I knew were good sitting under my metaphorical bed. I’d seen other already-published authors use Wattpad to share excerpts or stories they loved with their readers as well as just starting out authors use Wattpad as a sort of informal publishing platform, so I figured, “Why not?”

I also figured maybe about sixteen people would read it, but hey—that’s sixteen more people than who would have seen it had it stayed safely tucked away on my hard drive.

I posted a chapter a day for the next month. Slowly, readers started finding it. And by the time all was said and done, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE had nearly 300,000 views. Paltry by some genre standards, but for a sort of women’s fiction/coming-of-age/culturally specific/mid-century modern set story? Might as well have been an entire universe.

I’m pretty much of the opinion that having the story up on Wattpad and having all those views is what ultimately brought BH&G to the attention of Diversion Books. (Well, that and an agent who just will not give up, bless her stubborn heart.)

And now, on January 12th, 2016, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE will be published, with its beautiful new cover. But in the meantime, we’re going back to our roots as it were, and with my publisher’s blessings, I’ve posted the edited first chapter—which is now the Prologue and I can hear Jenny Crusie swearing at me from Ohio. (Sorry, Jenny—that was one edict that needed to be broken.)

To get to the Prologue, you can either click on the cover (SHINY!) or Right Here.

Art Imitating Life (or is it the other way around?)

As a writer, one of the most common questions I get—if not the most common question—is “Where do you get your ideas?”

Those of you who follow me on social media know I have a habit of posting outrageous/interesting/sometimes horrifying news articles with a sub-title of Writers Are Such Ghouls, Part…

Generally followed up with some commentary along the lines of “If I ever submitted anything like this to an editor, it would get rejected because it’s just that unbelievable.”

But as most of us know, sometimes, life really is too unbelievable. And oftentimes, art skirts uncomfortably close to the truth. Both sentiments I encountered a great deal over the course of submitting BOTH SIDES NOW. It’s no great secret that book had a very long road to publication, most of the rejections consisting of “This is beautifully written but…” and from there you could insert variations on a theme of “It’s difficult to believe something like this could actually happen.”

Sometimes the “this” had to do with the idea that the spouses of cancer patients could fall into a comrades-under-fire affair (ironically, a story element I got from an actual news article), but just as often, the “this” referred to the fact that a marriage could very nearly fall apart, stretched to the breaking point by a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments. I think we, as a society, have these romanticized ideals of what it’s like to Deal With A Deadly Disease—a trend I suspect may have begun with publication of Erich Segal’s LOVE STORY (and we won’t even talk about the movie version—oy!). There’s this idea that the sufferer must, you know, suffer bravely, yet quietly and elegantly, and the spouse/caretaker must Gracefully Bear Up Under Pressure.

Yeah…not so much.

When I wrote BOTH SIDES NOW, I wanted to not only write Nick and Libby’s stories as the so-called “healthy ones” in their respective marriages, but I also wanted to show snapshots of how two very different relationships dealt with the intrusion of this horrific disease and how it has a way of utterly upending everything you know. To that end, I read—a lot. I spoke to a lot of people, especially nurses, about what they saw and experienced. And in the end, I tried to craft a story that wasn’t particularly glamorous or sexy, but that was human.

And yet, I got “This is kind of unbelievable…” responses.

Then days like today roll around, where I’m lazily perusing headlines as I have my second cup of coffee (See: Writers Are Such Ghouls, Part…)  and very nearly do a comical spit-take over a decidedly not comical moment. Because today, I saw this headline:

Amy Robach and Andrew Shue: Cancer Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage

Amy Robach is a Good Morning America anchor who, a few years ago, underwent a mammogram screening on-air as part of GMA’S October Pink Initiative. Because of that screening, she discovered she had breast cancer, underwent a bilateral mastectomy, and several debilitating rounds of chemotherapy. At the same time, she was newly married to actor Andrew Shue. To say that all hell would broke loose would apparently be putting it mildly. (See: Headline above.)5105h7hlSTL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Now Amy has written a memoir called BETTER in which she describes her experience with breast cancer, from the decision to undergo her first mammogram in such a public fashion to how it affected her children and yes, her marriage. How it very nearly fell apart and how they painstakingly put it back together.

For me, it was like bringing everything full circle. I was inspired to write BOTH SIDES NOW in part because many years ago I read an article about a young woman who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year after her wedding. The strain on her marriage was such that she offered her husband an alternative—she gave him permission to have an affair if necessary, to find physical and emotional comfort with someone else while she worked on putting herself back together. He didn’t take her up on the offer, but their story stayed with me. And served as the spark of “What if…?” that serves as inspiration for so many writers.

Then I got told how unbelievable it was. Until I found the editor who found it believable.

I’ve had readers tell me it’s kind of unbelievable. I’ve also had readers tell me it’s most assuredly believable.

And then I saw that headline. And had Amy Robach and Andrew Shue tell me, even if indirectly, that it’s definitely believable. And real. And human.

That’s all I ever really wanted to do, you know. Write a human story.

Regardless of any future outcome, I’m content knowing that on that level, I succeeded.

(And yes, I’ll be reading BETTER in the very near future.)

So—there’s a thing…

Once upon a time, I wrote a book. I loved this book. I loved this book so very, very much. And for a long time, it seemed as if I was the only one. Then I found an agent who loved this book. And for a long time, we were the only two who loved this book. But my agent, she never gave up on me or this book and at long last, we found an editor who also loved this book. And now, this book, that I once called Breathe, has a home and a release date and…. *drum roll*

A new title and cover.

Ladies and gents, I give you, Both Sides Now.

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Cover copy:

For fans of Elizabeth Berg’s TALK BEFORE SLEEP and the novels of Jodi Picoult comes the provocative new novel from Barbara Ferrer.

In grief, they find each other. Through loss, they find love.

They meet in a hospital corridor. Libby is there for Ethan, her mentor, her best friend, her husband. He’s dying, and she’s struggling to survive. Nick is there for Katharine, his reason for living, the love of his life, his wife. She’s dying, and he holds on all the tighter as she slips away from him.

They can’t do this alone. But maybe they don’t have to.

From that chance meeting grows a fast friendship, one of gallows humor, of life in South Florida, of shared experiences in their marriages―the fights, the quirks, the love. Libby and Nick become for each other what no one else can: the person who understands, who hears with the same ears, who sees with the same eyes. In stunning prose, Barbara Ferrer maps the sacred terrain of Libby and Nick’s connection as it develops from one of necessity, to one of possibility.

Deep and powerful, this nuanced, elegiac portrait of two marriages, of sickness and survival, and of the healing power of human connection will resonate with readers for years, and showcases Ferrer in all of her brilliant insightfulness.

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