A Special Sunday for Hand Me Down

I have some exciting news to share: Hand Me Down was featured in four major newspapers today! It’s not exactly world domination, but I’ll take it! Each paper said wonderful things and I’m so honored to have my name and photo in such reputable publications.

  • I talk about the truth behind the fiction in Hand Me Down and how writing helped me reach that truth in this Salt Lake Tribune interview: A Debut Novel Finds the Truth in Writing Fiction.
  • Al Pierleoni The Sacramento Bee gives the book a shout-out and talks to John Lescroart about the Maurice Prize in Fiction that he founded and Hand Me Down won.
  • There is a great review in the Deseret News that says, among many other great things, this:

“Hand Me Down” is a gritty tale of a determined young woman who really wants to make a better life for herself and protect the little sister she dearly loves. It is also a story of triumph over desperation and the ignorance of those who live in the world of selfishness.

  • And, finally, there was a review in the San Francisco Chronicle that featured a color photo and lots of nice comments. The full review should be available online by Monday.

What a great day for me and my book baby! The timing is perfect as I’m set to do an event in Sacramento on Tuesday and one in Salt lke City on Thursday. (See my Events page for more details.)

I’m super excited and also super nervous about these two hometown events. I lived in each of these places during formative years and I expect to see people who knew me before I decided I wanted to be a writer; who remember the awkward girl I used to be. People I let call me “Mel.” It should be tons of fun. I hope you’ll join us!

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Bursting at the Seams

I’ve been waiting to post here until I could take the time to write something poignant and meaningful, offer some deep reflections on the days before my book is born into the world for real. But, man, releasing a book requires hustle. So maybe—hopefully—that post is on its way, but this is not it.

In this post I want to tell you how full I feel. Stuffed, actually, bursting at the seams with news, with gratitude, with pride. I feel nervous, happy, scared, loved…this process has been a wild ride, that’s for sure. And it’s only going to get wilder.

More musings to come, but for now, let me share with you some of the latest news about Hand Me Down.

  • People Magazine gave the book 3.5/4 stars! They called it a “compelling read.” Look for the review it in the April 23rd issue, on sale today.
  • ML Johnson at the Associated Press wrote this wonderful review of Hand Me Down, which was then picked up by dozens of news outlets, including the Huffington Post and the Washington Post! “Melanie Thorne’s debut novel is raw with emotion.”
  • Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle included the first line of Hand Me Down in their book section of the paper and online. W’s mom called all excited to see that I’d shown up in her Sunday paper.
  • Cindy Wolfe Boynton at Book Page wrote a thoughtful review, Reality Sparks Affecting Debut” that made my day. She called the book “impossible to put down” and said, “Readers vividly see and experience right along with Liz, thanks to Thorne’s sharp storytelling.” It was included in this special edition of Book Page. Plus, she interviewed me for a piece that is going to run in the Salt Lake City Tribune.
  • Daily Candy featured my book in their “Spring Ink” section, “15 Books to Read While the Trees Blossom.” The other books in this list look really interesting, too!
  • Hand Me Down made it onto Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Fiction” list for April.
  • Confessions of a Vi3tbabe posted a great review this week. “A heartfelt story that I couldn’t put down…Hand Me Down is truly a moving and empowering story, one I think everyone should read.”
  • Candace’s Book Blog also posted a wonderful review. “This book was pretty fantastic. I thought it would be one I’d only read just a little at a time…but the second day I picked it up I ended up reading the whole thing. It sucked me in and I totally and completely ached for Liz and her horrible horrible situation.”
  • And finally, I got a tiny mention in the Press Democrat in an article about books set in Sonoma County along with fellow Dutton authors Sere Prince Halverson and Jennifer Chiaverini. And, this reporter may do a feature on just me a little later!

See, that was a lot of news! Not to mention the Goodreads reviews—mostly great—my launch event tomorrow night at Copperfield’s, my event with Pam Houston at the Booksmith in SF next week, my other upcoming events, my live interview on Capital Public Radio in Sacramento on May 1st, and a forthcoming Q&A in the East Bay Express. Phew!

I’m so happy for all the attention my labor of love is getting, and I really appreciate all the support from my friends and other authors and booksellers and people I don’t know who took the time to write something kind about my book. Thank you, thank you.

Hand Me Down’s Starred Kirkus Review!

Things have been crazy in my currently very narrow my-book-is-about-to-be-published world. I continue to be surprised by all of the things that go into launching a book, and by how much work it is. I’ve been told that for the next four months I will be consumed with the business of releasing my baby into the world and giving her the proper support so she can thrive. Just four weeks and two days until publication! (Not that I’m counting down or anything.)

I know it seems contradictory, but as I was writing Hand Me Down, I was hoping to someday publish it but not really processing the fact that publication would lead to people actually reading it. Now that they are and reviews are coming in, I’m constantly nervous. As I’ve mentioned, waiting for reviews is unpleasant. There’s so much subjectivity in reviewing, even if the initial reviews are good, there is always the chance that the next person will hate it.

So when a reviewer really gets the book, it’s a gift. It’s even better if that reviewer writes for Kirkus Reviews, the “world’s toughest book critics,” who have a reputation for being downright mean. And if that reviewer loves the book enough to give it a star, then for a few minutes or days the doubts and fears and what-if voices quiet down and you remember what it is to love to read and how amazing it is to connect to a book and why you started writing in the first place and, well, this author feels truly grateful.

See the star next to the title on the Kirkus Reviews website, but unless you subscribe, you can’t read the whole review there. Lucky for you, I can share it with you here for free!

First-time author Thorne wears her heart on her sleeve in this semi-autobiographical tale about a 14-year-old who juggles equal amounts of hope and despair in her chaotic daily life.

Liz and younger sister Jaime have learned they can only count on one another after their mom, Linda, marries a convicted sex offender. Terrance, who parades around the small apartment half-dressed and leers at Liz, makes it clear that if she complains he’ll take it out on her sister. But when Terrance’s parole officer receives a tip that the ex-con is in violation of parole by living with the two girls, their mom’s solution is to farm the girls out to other family members. Jaime moves in with their dad, a lying drunk who mercilessly beat Linda during their marriage, while Liz is farmed out to Terrance’s brother, Gary, and his wife. Liz worries she’s missing too much school and is haunted by the fear that their father will repeat history and drive drunk with Jaime in tow. Liz continues to narrate her journey with prose that vibrates with intelligence and passion. Although she is just beginning her freshman year of high school, Liz manages to carry around with her a heavy burden of responsibility for her sister. Thorne writes Liz as world-weary and mature in ways children should not have to be. From the mother who willingly throws over her children for the promise of marriage to a man who uses her, to the well-meaning Aunt Deborah, who offers Liz a home she cannot accept, Thorne populates her pages with characters who are fascinating and sharply drawn.

Failed by the adults in her life and forced to be the grown-up when she should be experiencing first dates and football games, Liz is a wise, wry, wonderful heroine.

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Hand Me Down’s First Reviews

Writers get used to being criticized in writing workshops. The point is to make the work better, so we critique, we review, we discuss, we suggest. We take the best advice and we revise. And we revise for days or months or years and we put the work out there again—to a new workshop group, a thesis committee, and eventually, an agent. We brainstorm with the agent, revise some more, get feedback on the revisions, and (can you guess?) revise even more. We send our work to publishers. Someone likes it, buys it, and then we brainstorm with an editor, revise, hear their thoughts, revise again. And then the work that we started back in grad school is becoming a real live book and will be entering the big bad world. And I’m terrified she’s going to get beat up.

It’s not that I can’t take criticism. I can. I mean, it’s not like I walk around yelling, “Criticize me!” but I handle constructive feedback well. I think the difference now is that the book is finished. I’m not turning in a chapter to be workshopped to friends and fellow writers, or a revision to an editor I trust. This is the finished product released for review without any intention of making it better. Final judgement.

This is what I thought about all weekend while I waited for the Publisher’s Weekly review of Hand Me Down that I was told would be in yesterday’s issue. It’s my first official industry review so I was understandably nervous and when I got the news, it was good! The magazine called me a “talented new writer” and said, Continue reading