Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 9 months ago

Friends & Fiction with Alafair Burke & Allison Pataki

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Welsome to another double-header episode! On the first half of the show, meet New York Times bestselling, Edgar-nominated author of 20 crime novels, Alafair Burke. Alafair’s books include The Ex, The Wife, and The Better Sister, and two series—one featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, and the other, Portland, Oregon, prosecutor Samantha Kincaid. Alafair joins us to discuss her latest thriller, FIND ME. Released a few weeks ago, it has met with rave reviews from Laura Dave, Chris Bohjalian, and Megan Abbott. On the second half of the show we’ll welcome New York Times bestselling author of adult fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, Allison Pataki. A former news writer and producer, Allison has written for outlets like The New York Times, ABC News, and USA Today, and has appeared on such shows as The TODAY Show and Good Morning America. She joins us to discuss her latest work of historical fiction, THE MAGNIFICENT LIVES OF MARJORIE POST, which is an epic reimagining of the remarkable life of American heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Coming out on Feb 15th, Pataki’s new novel has been met with raves by F&F faves Fiona Davis, Susan Meissner, and Kate Quinn.

Welcome to friends and fiction for New York Times best selling authors endless stories. Novelists Mary Kay Andrews Kristin Harmel, Christie Woodson Harvey and Patty Callaghan Henry are for longtime friends with more than seventy published books between them. Together, they host friends and fiction with author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing to highlight and support independent book stores. They discussed the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hello, hello, it is Wednesday night and that means it's time for friends and fiction. It's the happiest night of the week and we are so glad you're here. I'm Kristin Harmel, I'm Christy Woodson Harvey, I'm Patty Callahan, and this is your Wednesday night spot friends and for New York Times best selling authors endless stories, to support indie bookstores, authors and libraries. You may notice that we're a man down tonight. We have shared with you before that Mary Kay's daughter is sick and awaiting the local transplants. Mary Kay's time is not her own at the moment, and right now she's with Katie. So please join us in sending Mary Kay, Katie and their family all our love and prayers as they navigate this difficult territory. Yeah, we miss you, Mary Kay. Love to you, Katie, but we're Grad glad the rest of you are here because tonight we'll be talking with two fabulous authors, alafair Burke, the author of find me, and Alison Petechi, the author of the magnificent lives of Marjory Post. Fine fact that both of these authors have father's who've been in the public eye and it'll be interesting to talk to both of them about the influences around their development as writers and his readers. Yeah, that will be interesting. I'm excited to hear from them and, as you know, we continue to encourage you to support independent booksellers one and where you can, and one way to do that is to visit our own friends and fiction bookshop dot org page, where you can find alla fair and Allison's books and books by the four of us and our past guests, at a discount, of course. The bookshop dot org. A portion of each sale through the friends of fiction shop goes to support independent bookstores and it also helps to support this show. So if you enjoy watching, this is a great way to support our guests, independent bookstores and the Friends of fiction group all at the same time. Don't forget that our spring box is now available for order from our friends at Oxford Exchange, which is also a great independent bookstore. Order now and receive Christie's at the wedding veil in March, Mary K as the home wreckers in May, and just special friends and fiction notebook, complete with sticky flags for marking all your favorite pages. And we're sir, there are going to be a lot of favorite pages. Telling you, I know I can get those books, but I'm buying that box notebook I like. Oh, I want to at the end, you know, years and years and years and years later, I want to say I have every little Chatsky, all the swag. Yeah, you know, yes, that's what mad about the stickies. All right, we have entered the second month of our very first friends and fiction reading challenge. Each month of the year that will be a different reading prompt and we challenge you to not only complete all twelve months but also to keep track of what you've read so we can all talk about it on facebook page. One Way to do that is with our beautiful reading turtle, designed by US along with the Independent Book Store Oxford Exchange. It has this gorgeous friends and fiction blue linen cover and plenty of space to record your thoughts on what you're reading. Oh, Christen has hers very handy. Our friend and Nissa Armstrong will be sharing prompts and photos all month. So if you look under announcements you can time in with what you chose February, which is February. Can It's February? I don't know how that happens. It's February now. So the February challenge is memoir or non fiction. Yeah, and you know we're excited it. Tonight we're going to be talking a little bit with Alison about her memoir, which would be a perfect choice to read this month. But let's begin by welcoming our first guest for the evening, Alla Fair Brook. So all fair is the Edgar Award nominated author of twenty crime novels, including two powerhouse series featuring NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Tonight we'll talk about her latest novel, find me, published in more than twenty languages. All of fairs books...

...have been featured on best book lists from outlets including this today show, entertainment weekly people, Oh, the Boston Globe, The Washington Post and numerous other outlets. Awesome. Ala Fair received her bachelor of Arts and Psychology from Read College. She lives in New York and is a professor of law at Halfstra University of Law Sean. Do you think you could bring Alla Fair on please? Thank you, guys, for having me. Oh, thank you so much for Shi it's awesome to see you. It is the you all. We're so happy to see you and we're so excited to talk about finds me. I love a good twisty plot, and boy does this one's deliver. In fact, our friend Chris Boujalien, who has been on our show before, calls it a smart, suspenseful slow burn, saying that the tension is palpable on every page. Could you give our viewers the elevator pitch? This is my new book, Find Yes, Chris Dalien is the best we've Grado of his caliber. Seeing my praises feels pretty cool. So fine, the me and find me is a hope Miller who wants a fresh start after spending the last fifteen years and a small town New Jersey, and she moves out to East Hampton the kind of become more independent and start her life over again. And she suddenly goes missing. And when she goes missing, her best friend Lindsay, feels like something terrible has happened and goes looking for her. The thing that makes the search for hope a little unusual is part of why I hope wanted to get a fresh start away from the small town where she's been living is she turned up in that small town fifteen years ago as a stranger with no recollection of who she was or how she got to New Jersey. And the only thing she knew about herself was she was thrown from an overturned SUV in a terrible car accident and she recovered from her physical injuries. She survived the crash, but she never really figured out who she was and at some point just started to move forward with her life. And I think the book raises questions of how can you move forward with your life if you don't really know your past? Right had these issues of identity. But it also kind of complicates Lindsay search for her in the present because, you know, they're are some people who think maybe fifteen years ago everything wasn't quite right and maybe there's a reason why she's now moved on, maybe something's happened, you know. So it's kind of hard to look for her, to find her, without also digging into her past. So the title find me kind of works both ways, that she's missing in the present, but it's also a search into who she was to begin with. Hmm, I love that. Overlapping yet overlapping missing, like there's there's she's missing in more than one way. Right. Okay, so we know from your bio that as a lawyer, you worked for as a prosecutor. Right, yes, I did. Okay, and it's a liaison with the Portland Police Department. But I've read that your interest in crime dates back to your childhood fascination with a serial killer and of course there's an old serial murder aspect this novel. was that the original spark for the story? Can you kind of talk to us about that? Well, in terms of my my interest in crime, who knows? Why? We, you know, those of us whose thoughts live in the darkness, like why exactly are we like that? I have no idea, but I suspect US something to do. What I was really little, my parents moved from southern Florida, where I was born, to which it Tak Kansas, and I wasn't having it. Like I found out that there was no beach and Sandy Gibb lived in Key West, which was near where we lived, and he did not live anywhere near which you Tuk Kansas. So just these were two reason I would like I'm not going to have a beach and I won't be able to marry and to give so like the neighbors like like me. They'll probably let me stay like I really was, just like I'm not going, and my parents kind of like, Oh, you know which it all will be safer and you'll go to a nicer school and we'll have a better neighborhood and what? You'll have your own room, like you. They kind of like sold it to me as like you're going to have much more of a picket fence lifestyle than we had in sort of chaotic southern Florida at the time. And so I kind of went against my will and I swear we had just been there for like a few weeks when the local news announces that there's a serial killer killing women and children who calls himself Betk, which stood for buying, that guy who stood for buying torture and kill. And even as a fourth grader, I looked at my parents I'm like, good job choice, mom and dad. Really a lot we are...

...any dangerous Florida. Thanks a whole lot for moving to this really safe place. But to be more serious about it, though, the facts of it. I don't know how familiar are people with that that case, but it's pretty gruesome stuff. Like just even his moniker kind of tells the story of what he was into. But growing up there, everybody who grew up in which you talk Kansas, like in the s and in early s, you would immediately check the phone cord when you got home, backs when we all have landlines, because they thought he because he cut the phone line so you couldn't call for help. And we all have basement like bolts on our basement doors because they thought he got in through the basement like and like that's in your eight year old head as when it was a it was around that time you know, my mom was a school librarian and on the weekends we used to go to public library every Saturday for like my little stack of books and I started asking her for a little mystery stories like Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy drew and just insatiable desire, probably more crime stories, more mysteries and and I'm looking back on it, I always kind of wonder if it was that idea of like in these kinds of books, you know there's it can feel really chaotic and dangerous and upside down in the middle, but the reader kind of knows, like you know, like with a roller coaster, you're terrorized in the middle of it, but you do kind of know at the end, you know it's not the middle of the ridy love. It's when you coast into the end right and it's like yeah, then you get the end orphans. Like I think it's the I think writing a good crime novel and a good twisty mystery is it. It's when the pieces kind of come together and you have that resolution that's so satisfying. So I kind of wonder if as a kid that's that's why I got really into reading these little mysteries, but I also got fascinated in true crime too, so it's probably why I became up. You know what, I went to law school. I didn't know exactly what kind of law I wanted to practice. It's probably not a big surprise I went into criminal law. Well, I always think it's fascinating that if we look back, we were talking about this recently, the things we were fascinated with as children. Yes, if we really pay attention, they re emerge to do the things we do, whether it's reading, writing, fascination with crime, fascination with story, and I think that that those of us who love doing what we do, if we look back, we'll see these little hints in our childhood. So, and my case, I still listen to Annie Gip so that's great. That's great. So I stand by my choices. He's the best. I have the opposite experience. I was forced to move to south Florida, okay, when I was that age. So that's funny, and I tried to refuse to I tried to move in with the neighbors. But yeah, it turns out it the neighbors who tell you that they just love you and like their yeah, I love you just like you're my own. That's a big not true. Keep you, I'm not keep you, and the Pussky parents just wanted you to come. It's like me, a little less like children all the time, like Andie GIPPA, help me off. Yeah, exactly. Well, find me explores the nature of female friendships and the links that women will go to protect those relationships so well, and the relationship you touched on earlier between Lindsay and hope, her best friend with Amnesia, is particularly compelling. And I also wanted to know the publishers weekly set in the starred review that you're appealing characters match the meticulous spotting which I think also speak the strong dynamics between these women. So I can you talk a bit about these characters and their friendship? Yeah, I mean, to me the heart of the book really is the friendship between hope and Lindsay and it's the provides the heart of the story and I think, although so, their friendship is forged in highly unusual circumstances. I mentioned that hope was found thrown from this overturned SUV. It's Lindsay is the one who finds her. Lindsay is the police chiefs daughter and she thought her way back from having just graduated from college and she sees this car accident at the side of the road and stops and the pouring rain and sees this poor girl sprawled out on the side of the road and assume she's dead. But like manages to actually had to do medical research. I hate research, but I had to do medical research to figure out how you wit any of it. She manages to save her life and hope kind of comes to just enough to kind of reach for her hand that she's getting moved into the ambulance. That kind of add impulse. Lindsay jumps into the ambis with her and kind of just becomes her person. You know, when she's like is she going to...

...live? And then when she lives and she doesn't know who she is, she's the one who's like, I'll stay here until we find your family, and then when that doesn't happen, there kind of she's her person all of a sudden right that and so it's a very unusual origin story to their friendship, but I think a lot of women will find it a very universal story that I think many of us have. You know, these female friendships that are qualitatively different than our friend than our family relationships. Are Intimate relationships that where it's almost like outsiders to the group might kind of be like what is it with you two, or what is it with you and your girls, or and and so I think a lot of those of us who are lucky enough to have that kind of a, you know, sort of ride or die female friendship situation will will empathize with these characters. That the idea of people want Lindsay to just move on, and she's like, I'm not going to move on when you know this woman I care about is still missing. So it's it almost becomes an obsession for her. M Yeah, I know, I can definitely see that. And and you can see like there, you know how her family and friends would be like, what are you doing? You don't even really know this person. But where I have this connections like they do, and sometimes you do find that and it is really special. I'm laughing too, because you said you hate you hated doing the medical research. I'm doing legal research for my net up. You're coming on. I was like, HMM, I shouldn't tell too many people, but I do kind of I'm a handy source for people at times. Like I can say you sometime. You just said that. Yeah, like what did I just do? Because we race that. It's already out there. Now change that test change, have to change your numbers down alm too much away. have to ask about the twist at the end. Obviously don't tell us what it was, but was that planned or is that something that just happened? Kind of can't answer that question. I can give them more general answer, which is, I think, the most organic, like those big, a hot twists, sometimes like they feel most organic when it was kind of inevitable, like if you really know the characters well and you've been paying attention, it was kind of they're all along, and that doesn't mean and sometimes the like some of my better twists, I've known them all along, but some of my better twists have also just been like at my halfway point, I'll be like I see it now, like I now know these people well enough to know where they're going to take me. And because I kind of think of the process of writing a book, and you all know, tell me if you agree. I kind of I know the characters well enough and I know the story well enough that I feel comfortable starting like okay, I'm going to live with this project long enough that I know it will work without necessarily knowing what it will necessarily look like when I'm done. And I've kind of look at it as a process of getting to know the characters better and I to me, it's knowing them that kind of leads me to the plot, if that makes sense. It's not the for me. It's not the other way around. I don't know the plot first and then I throw characters into it. It's more I get to know the characters and then the plot kind of gets more layered from there. And then at some point do you do some outlining, like once she once the plot begins to come together, because your stories are so intricate, like there's, you know, there's just so many threads that weave together. I'm just curious how. Yeah, yeah, I have a I have a big white board that looks like a serial killer loves there, I guess, for someone hunting a serial killer, I should say right like you see those huge life worsement white boards. Basically are four kinds of ink. You know, I've kind of got one person storyline and greed and one versus the storyline of bread. It's kind of a stupid way to do it, but and then I do a what I normally do is the first draft. I think who was just about to finish their first draft, so that you, Christen, kind of think of it and of Christy all of my Su yeah, I think of that. is like it's almost like what's the equivalent of it? It's like you've moved all the moving boxes into the house, but like you have to still kind of like hang the pictures up and figure what goes. We're like I take a very open minded approach about what stays in, what comes out, what's built up, what gets moved. Like I basically just do a complete rewrite, which is probably an insane way to do it, but it it really doesn't take a lot unless you really messed it up, like you're not a racing them much like,...

...but you might like rearrange things, like I'll often tell you know, a chapter from someone else's point of view then the way I put it in the first draft, you know. So I just kind of as I self edit that first draft and then then it's usually pretty done that it's kind of a clean up from there. Yeah, but interesting and love hearing the different ways peak. Yeah, some people can't write without this huge skeleton, some pole just. Yeah, I was really nice to do that, but I always kind of have to find it as I go. Yeah, but you know, if there's no wrong way to do it, we talked about that a lot on here. I mean all of us have a very different process and I think it's whatever gets the story on the page, pulls the characters from your head and sends them in motion in a way that makes for a moving, engaging story. You know, however, that has to happen for you. So, yeah, I'm me at that, rearranging the stuff I've taken out of the moving boxes place in the in the every day I'll just say that. So Alla Fair. We mentioned to you, you know, that Mary Kay wasn't able to make it tonight because the very starry left us to ask you. I just had to say it because this is so in her voice. She said you've got major crime writing street crib. It's a very gay thing to say from you. She was really disappointed not to get to talk to you, but I love so along those lines, of course, you're the daughter of multi award winning, in New York Times best selling mystery writer James Lee Burke, and you've also co written books with the late Mary Higgins Clark, and can you tell us first of all how that partnership came about and what it meant to you in your your journey and your development as a writer? Yeah, I've been pretty lucky to have some pretty wonderful and talented elders in my professional life and personal live. So you know, several years ago Mary Higgins Clark, that I hope to pinch myself, was like, Oh yeah, I wrote six novels with the Queeness saying yeah. I was talking about like loving crime novels as a young person and hers were, you know, some of my original you know, the original stuff I got addicted to. So but she wrote a book called I've got you under my skin and one of the characters was a producer of a television true crime show and I think she and her editor saw the potential for US series spinoff from that book. But you know, she wrote a series and that's pretty much all you write, right, and she had lots of other books she wanted to write. So the idea was to pair her with a collaborator of somebody who would already kind of successfully done a series that could coauthor with her. So this is where the character, this character's point of view, doesn't know what happens next. So all I know is at some point I got a phone call about whether or not I will be interested in talking to her about potentially I'm doing a series together, and that's a very easy lunch invitations student. Like, let me think about minute. Yes, so we had a very nice lunch and mostly just talked about how we write, like Whoa we do in what order, and I think the thing that what made it feel for both of us like it would work is that we do character first, like we explore everything about the characters and kind of want find the plot through that. And so we decided, well, let's try to just write a couple chapters together and see how that works. And then we decided to write one book together and that became, you know, the second of the third book, because on the fourth and the fifth. So I love that series. I don't know people have read it, but it's called the under suspicion series and it kind of flushes out that world of this television and show that investigates coal cases and I love it's like one of those I love series that have the side characters or people you kind of come to love to like. I love that, hope the full cast, a big ensemble cast of characters both in her personal life and her professional life. And I'm sure, as people know, Mary passed away late January of two thousand and twenty. We were almost done with our six book in that series. So, you know, after an appropriate amount of time we decided to finish. It's a finishing it without her was kind of bitter sweet, but an honor that books called peace of my heart. But that was a great experience to work with her and to get to know her family and it's just a wonderful writer but also just a wonderful person and I also think, I think people realize that. I mean she built a huge franchise. You know, starting out she was a single mother. She's a widow, a very young widow with five kids, and she would wake up before they went to school, she would...

...write and then, you know, get them their breakfast and take them to school, and she did that all on our own. She went back to college because she wanted her children to realize that education was important. It's just stellar and everything just just a model human being and I think that she really paved the way for women. I mean that she, you know, was the boss of her own career. She no one knew the her readers as well as she does. Like she knows what her readers want, knows how to deliver it, just such a professional and the stories that she wrote on now just like going off of it. Yeah, you know, I'm actually working right now to book I'm working on right now is actually a sequel to where are the children, which she and I had discussed before she passed. So I'm working on that now. And I don't think people realize if you go back and reread that book, it's to forty five years ago and that book has all of the pieces of modern psychological suspense of, you know, potentially unreliable narrator being gaslet, you know, a bad husband, faulty memories, you know, danger to children and like, I mean really a pretty dark book. And you know, you can see all of the DNA in that book of I think, modern psychological suspense. Wow, she's really ahead of her trailbay is our total trail. I'm yeah saying, wow, that's incredible, very missed. Um. Well, I'm so interest. I think we're also interested, and I'm sure our audiences to what was it like, sort of, you know, growing up in this household with a writer like how did that influence you and and do you think that it helped develop you into the writer that you are today? Yeah, I think so. It's not like I'd come home and my dad's giving me writing lessons or anything like that. You know, I think whatever you see your parents doing seems normal to you, right. So, like Dad's doing smack on the couch. You think that's the normal thing to clip for later. We model our parents and Fay goodness, he was not doing that. But what he did do that just seemed normal is he would go to his room and they you know, we didn't have a lot of space or things back in the day and you know, he had a desk that he made out of a door. Still remember it was like a door from the hardware store. A piece of wood, like on Cinder blocks was his desk and up in their room and he would go up there for hours on you know, a royal manual pipewriter. I could still hear the sounds of that typewriter. I love them and and right and I just seemed like a normal thing to do, and I didn't realize this. If somebody had asked me as a kid what my dad did for a living, I said he was a writer. I didn't realize it till years later. He was out of print. He wasn't published, like he published three. He published three really early novels like when I was super like a little kid, and then he got dropped by his agent. It was Publish her first, then William Morris Dune them and then he just he found a different agent, Philip Spitzer, and Philip I think it took him twelve years to get published again and but he just kept doing the work and kept sending it out. So I didn't know I was, you know, I was dumb kid, worried about serial killers and in again right. So I didn't actually know that he was unpublished or not. Curtis Story of person. So so I sis that's I think that for me, the biggest thing isn't it's not like I inherited the pros or, you know, the actual craft of writing. I do think, though, that it just seemed like a normal thing to do, because lots of people have an idea for something, but they don't act on it right like, like I have an idea that maybe I'm going to become a triaphltly, but I don't actually going do it. where? It seemed normal in my house that if you had an idea for something, that you would put it down on paper. And then my mother was a librarian, and so to when I mentioned that she would take me to the library or Saturday that was to get my dad writing time, right, it was just so the house would be quiet. So she really was the one. She kind of was creating two writers at once, right, she was making it possible for him to keep parents pursuing what might have felt like a pipe dream at the time. And then, you know, meanwhile it turned me into a reader and he can't be a writer if you're not a reader, of course. So, yeah, so a house full of books. Yeah, I love that. That also that you grew up with the idea that it it. You don't just snap your fingers in the book appears in the page. You have to put in the work and you keep trying, buying and trying and making yourself better. Like I think that's the best lesson that a writer can learn and that's what gives you...

...that career longevity right, like, yeah, I think to know them. Sleeper went twelve years without an editor or learned blow. Yeah, I wasn't high. I was in high school when he got I think an academic press, Louisiana State Universe, Lsu Press, published a collection of his short stories and then they published like a small novel and then he wrote a crime novel. Then he wrote the Neon rain and then he got that's who originally published it. I can remember who originally published it. Maybe a little brown, not sure, but in any of that, then he got a book contract, but it still didn't pay very much. And then, I think it was his third book in that series, got nominated for an Edgar. Maybe he won the Edgar, and then he got, you know, a big a bigger contract. I lost my fan financially. That was fun. But you're like now you get the content, started making money, finally started making money after I was in college. I'm like, Oh, no, terrible time, DADS, and yeah, you cheated. My life makes it look I stand by my decision out of fair I don't know what better note we could send you out on than that. And on no, even though I talked mostly about Mary and the end and but this is a really good read. I will say a big I love hearing her readers and the thing I keep hearing more about this book that maybe any other book I've written before is how many people are saying that they read it in one that's one sitting. So it's a quick, great look great. Well, thank you guys, so much for having me. Absolutely but you go out of fair. Where can we find you? Right on, you know, your website, your social all that written our all fair bookcoms, my website and then I'm on all of the socialm on twitter, facebook and instagram. Perfect. We all thank you so much for spending some time with us. So maybe got to know you. Thank you so much. You can enjoy the rest of the night. Thanks. Thank you. All right, everybody, stay with us because we have another guest coming up, as we said at the beginning of the show. So our second guest, Alison Petacky, is the New York Times best selling author of several novels for adults and children, as well as an acclaimed memoir, beauty and the broken places, about the devastating effects of her young husband's unexpected stroke. I know it's an incredible story. While she was pregnant with their first child's will ask her a little bit about that, but tonight we are going to be focusing on her latest the men magnificent lives of Marjorie Post. A former news writer and producer, Alison has written for the New York Times, the Huffington Post, USA Today and more. Alison graduated from Yale University with a major in English. She lives in New York with her family. Her novels have been translated into a meager twenty languages. She has appeared on the today show. Good Morning America, box and friends, Good Day New York, good day Chicago and morning Joe. And tonight we snagged her for friends and fiction. Sean, can you bring Alice Hannan to join us? And thank you so much, though. Thank you for having me. I Love I love listening to that. Thirty minutes is too and now it's a trick to be here. Thank you for having me, so glad. Yeah, Ala Fair was so interesting to hear from, but we know you're going to be so interesting too. It's just a night of found what a lucky night. I just say one thing. That's a tangent. That's completely probably unrelated, but it's was I was thinking about it the whole time I was listening to Al Fair. I am marryins Clark. I've been married Higgins Clark store. Oh, we love Dan love Mary H Clark. Right. So, when I was in news and I was a total misfit in the industry and I was miserable because I just really wanted to be writing books and I I wanted to write stories that I had, you know, more than two minutes to good into and then get out. And so, but I felt because I was I was in my young twenties at the time and I didn't really know anything about writing books. I was not published and I really didn't have much confidence and I felt like it was sort of this dirty secret that I would go home at night after work and I would write books or on weekends I would sneak out of my apartment and like not tell newone worth going and I'll go write books. And but of course the two people I told were my mother and father. And so we are at a dinner in New York City and it's a fundraiser and, to Alcare's point,...

Mary Higgins Clark was just the best person ever. So of course I think she was the honoree of the night because of her generosity. And all I wanted was I really wanted to just meet her and my parents had met her over the years. I just wanted to be introduced. So of course I go over with my mom, and my mom being my mom, it's like, well, Tell Mary Higgins Clark that you've written books and that you've got these manuscripts. Your confused and you're going to be a writer some day. I was mortified because, like one let that floor open up, but I'm like one did not tell Mary Higgins Clark that they are going to be a writer, and so I'm mortified. Mary's Clark could not have been kinder. She took my hand, it looked me in the eye and she said do it, write the books, and she told me what Alecare just said a little bit about her story. I was a single mom. I did it in the mornings. I made it work. You can make it work. She gave me her email address and years later, when I published my first book, she read an advanced copy and offered me my first blurb and only. It was like a formative experience in my life as a writer to just have her confidence and her faith and I truly had carried it in this Clark with and we stayed in touch over the years and she was so wonderful and always so supportive, and that we always I always shared up with just my gratitude continue the I'm also, you know, a big fan at the shrine of Mary Higgins Clark and I just had to share what a special I love that connect you. Oh my gosh, and when you think about how many young writers she might have touched that way like but you know, when you think about it, if she had that generosity of spirit with you, and obviously she played a big role in Alfair's career, that's amazing. I'm so happy that you shared that. Thank you, Alison. Would have gras the wonderful and then when I invited her to the Launch Party for my first book, saying you, thank you, she was in Florida. She wasn't around that. She goes, Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm out of town. Mary loves a party. She referred to herself as Mary and Sarson. Oh my gosh, I love that. Well, Gosh, I wish we could just talk about marry Higgins carkledecause I feel like there's so much more. It more to know about her. But, Alison, we would love for you also to tell us about the magnificent lives of Marjorie Post. Can you kind of give us an overview of the book which I think is coming out and about thinking in about two weeks right? Yeah, coming investing in just almost exactly two weeks. Thank you. So here it is a historical fiction. I will just hold it up. Two weeks and so this is my ninth book it but it's my sixth work of historical fiction. And six years ago, a friend of a friend who was a curator and an oral historian at Marjorie Mary weather posts final home, where much of her personal treasure is still catch to this day's a museum. She knew I love writing historical fiction and then I've written several books about these fabulous woman from history and she just she pulled me aside and she said what do you know about Marjorie Mary weather post? And I will be honest, at the time I was embarrassed to admit I did not know much about Marjorie Mary weather post. The name sounded vaguely familiar. Post serials, but I thought maybe it was the emily post manners book or maybe it was the Post newspaper. Anyway, this woman, this this wonderful late friend, said just look into the life of Marjorie Mary weather post. That is a woman whose story would make for fabulous fiction. And so I just began to do my research and I followed that, you know, the bread crumbs of her tips, and I went to the home hill would and I you, I don't know if you all feel this way, but sometimes when you're looking into the history and you're digging deep enough into the historical record, you just come across this stuff where it's just too good to be true. You could not make it up if you were even just writing straight up kitchen and that was how I fought this I did as I uncovered the, you know, juicy morsels of this woman's life. But Marjorie Mary weather post was a trailblazer, she was an icon, she was a woman living ahead of her time. She built Marago, she was a, you know, a boss lady in business. She changed the American way of life forever. She was the first ambassadors to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, hanging out with Malatov and all these Russian, you know, believable figures we've heard about. But I will just say I compare her to kind of like a forest gum of the twenty century, because she has and in front re seat, all of these historical moments, but with way better clothes and way better home. And even if you might not necessarily know a ton about her just from hearing the name, Marjorie Mary Weather Post, you've ever had a cup of orange juice, or if you've ever had breakfast that...

...contains cereal in it, or if you've ever if you own a refrigerator in your home, or if you've ever had a frozen vegetable, Marjorie Mary weather post has directly impacted your life, even if you might not necessarily know the roles. She's complained nestreating, fabulous, cool, Oh wow, fascinating, and writing him out like, sorry, finished, what were you saying out? And like Mary Higgins Clark, she had this largest, you know, this are just spirit and this magnanimous, just her legacy is stunning when you when you look at what she did with her talent and her time and her gifts, and it's still today. Well, I mean even like your title suggests. It feels like she had more than one life, like she just like you, when you start to list everything you did, you're like that, that's a bunch of sisters, surely like right, yes, ok, right. I talked about this with my editor pretty early on because I was saying, you know, I know you don't want this, but I could write, I can give you a thousand pages, I could write five different versions of this book, each one with its own individual whole art, and they would all be true and it would still be only scratching the surface, just personal a shed these four really dramatic, really different love stories and marriages, and that was really unique for her time, tore, because she lived, you know, over the course of the twenty century, in the early twenty century. But it was I will say that made it probably the most challenging book I've ever written, because there was so much ground to cover. It was also good and it was really, really challenging and I don't know that I've ever written about a woman that I was just so in awe of all she may ammord her life, and so I really wanted to monitor right. But there's a lot there. Well, I've written about real people also, and there's this kind of weight on your shoulder, like do I owe them something? Because I struggle to because I know that the reason I'm writing it is to honor them. That's really just used to. But how do you get that little devil off your shoulder that says you know, you owe them. I hope you're doing it right. You better honor her. How do you dive into the fiction and get that little voice off yourself? Quick Question. Absolutely, and especially because we're writing fiction. You know, we're not writing their biography, and so we we do have it. We have to imagine their emotions and their yeah, yeah, and there's truth to that. Even if it's not necessarily that we were there and we are writing exactly how something happened, we're we're getting at the emotional truths and this has been this has been unique for me, I will be honest, because a lot of the women I've written about have been dead for three hundred years and so there were not people still alive. We're present. You know, Ben mcdarnold, when I wrote the traders with his relatives will find me on facebook and they'll send me messages and say, Oh, we always knew peggy was involved. We always knew something, but there's a remove. Yeah, literally, I was on the phone this morning Marjorie, Mary weather post, fourth husband, heard May. It is this dramatic end to the marriage. I don't would give anything away, but it's just something that you don't see coming and it's shocking. It was shocking to her and it was shocking to society. and His name was heard May, and I was on the phone this morning with her. May, who is heard? May, her ex husband's grandson, and so good is. I have never had anything like this happened with my fiction books before because I've written about women who were dead, long dead, and so this is that little added element of pressure, wanting to get it right, wanting to give the reader a satisfying story, giving myself that permission that you said that this is a work of fiction, and you know there are the two tracks of the train. There is the train treck, there's the truth and the history and there's my story and that sometimes it's pretty close to parallel, that other types of story takes you in different directions, and so it was a real balancing act. Yep, fascinating. Yeah, it was talent. Wow, these ladies I've learned so much from about research and, you know, historical fiction, and I my book coming out in March, I did my first sort of real deep dive into two real women, Edith and Cornelia of Inder Belt, and I totally understand because you know they haven't been gone that terribly, terribly long. So you do feel sort of this pressure to get it right and like there's going to be someone alive. It's like, well, that's not how this happened, but you know, you sort of do your very dead level best to get the real story,...

...but you know, at the end of the day you are, yes, you're making these people up in a lot of ways, absolutely, yeah, but I don't, you know, and do like a real deep dive and doing research about these women. There were so many things that like really surprised me about them. So is there anything that stands out to you that really surprised you and you kind of started digging into this research about Marjorie? Oh my goodness, there were so many things. I talked about her. I just set up talking bullet points because there's so much there like that, like the ten fast facts about Marjorie marry weather post. But, for instance, she started with her father, coming from nothing in their Midwest Barn in Michigan, gluing the labels on his homemade serial company because he had been a patiently Dr Kellog's the sand, the sanitarium, and he had been cured and he had gone to Dr Kellig after and said, hey, you feed this stuff called Granola serial to your patients at the sand. I think there's really a market here. I think we should bring it mass market it to the American consumer. and Dr Kellig basically laughed him off the canvas and said I service I patients, but no American market places ever going to want see her this thing called cereal. So anyway, CEF you post, Marjorie's father, takes it upon himself to make it available to the public and make it affordable to those who can't go to Dr Kellogg's Santatarium, and Marjorie's his little protege and they just start at the two there they have this incredible relationship and so, but she was the daughter and this was the late eight hundred, early nineteen hundreds and there was no sun, and so cw post maybe would have left his empire to his son, could not do it, even though he was so ahead of his time. It was always known that her husband, at least in the early days, would likely be his air, even though he wanted it to be Marjorie, even though she had the smarts in the capability to do it. But so she ruled and led this, this growing empire, but from behind the scenes and she found creative ways to be in charge. And so one moment that really like jumped out at me that I loved. She's on her yacht with her second husband, e of Hutton. By the way, she and her husband, e of Hutton, were considered possibly the inspiration for Jay at, Gatsby and daisy because they were hanging out in that g twenty. They're hanging out on this yacht that is larger than the British Royal Family's yacht. It was the largest private owned yacht and the in the world. This was her that she built with her own money, and she is talking about this idea if they could only have frozen foods on the boat, to keep the food she didn't like the food that was available on the ship, and her husband, who was the business genius, who was the one running the company for her, even though she was, you know, in charge behind the scenes. He was saying, you know, no one likes this concept of frozen food. No woman is ever going to want to have to refrigerator in her home, no grocery stores that were going to want to deal with the trouble of refrigerating and freezing food. And she's saying, I'm telling you, I'm thinking about the woman here. I'm thinking about the mother, the tired housewife who wants to be able to feed her family affordable, healthy meals, make it easy, save her hours every day. And she had to just go against the boys. She had to go against the boys and finally unmend them, and she broke open the entire American way of life and made millions in the process for herself. But I just thought, this is a woman who fundamentally changed my day, every person Ala, and and yet we don't know her name. For that we don't necessarily know as much about her as we should. And so there were moments like that, routine like that I came across with the research of just Oh, you were there for that, you did that, you knew that person, you did that, and just wow, like wow, this was a woman who was shaping history and probably nowadays she would have been president, but in yeah, maybe were dealing with society, but that's so incredible and inspiring. You know, we were talking to Ala fare earlier about how, you know, her plots are very intricate and she was talking about, you know, how she weaves together the different story lines and kind of brings it all together. It sounds in a lot of ways like you were doing the same thing, but with this real life story. There was just so much to tell, as you were saying, you know, you could have written several books about this woman. How did you actually go about both writing about this real person and covering these long periods of time in a way that that fit into one narrative art? They did, I mean did you? Did you have a super detailed outline? Did you like to can you just kind of tell us a little bit about the nuts and bolts of how this story get put together, please? A Lot, a lot of crying. Yeah, there, there. Well, yeah, I would. I love how she made the analogy of your bringing all the boxes into the House and then once you've done that for yourself, you can begin to rearrange. I see that a...

...lot to that was a really act way of putting it. I sort of see it as I'm going through all historical records and the source material that is there and I need to wrangle and wrestle with that and get that down and that that is the bones of the story. I need to get that on the page so that I myself can make sense of that. And then once the bones are down, that is where the imagination and the process of actually creating the fiction takes over and allows me to then begin to put on the flesh over the top. And so, because I have this woman's life and it's very well documented, that really is might be getting middle an end. You know, this is not a suspense thriller that's going to reveal some plot twist. The history really gave me my bone bones. So then it's really just wrangling it and making it a story that is compelling and doesn't just read like hundreds of pages of INFO dumping, which was a real challenge and it was I'm somebody who really I give my self permission to write in many drafts because I really I need that process of just honing and fine tuning over and over again. And yet the challenge with this is that she lived a long life she lived into her s and I don't think she's Marjorie Mary weather post had a single hour of a single day where she was not ridiculously purposeful and efficient. You know, she was always just busy, and so that was inspiring but completely overwhelming, and so you have to give yourself permission. Like, you know, she built Marlago. She wanted to leave that as the Winter White House. She built a ton of fabulous homes. Like how many scenes can I have here where she's building another fatty it's home or collecting another piece of some royal person's jewelry? You know, I had to kind of pick and shoes and tea's out aspects of the story without, you know, just making it a thousand pages long, because I don't think anyone wants that. Concluded it. So it was. It was years of editing. I love my editor. It really that's a wonderful marriage there. I feel like the our relationship, and so she she helped me with that a lot and that's that is one of the reasons why I will say this is the hardest book I've ever written, but I'm also really proud of it because I just there's the history that I was handed like Manna. You know, allowed me, I think, gave me the best possible set up to tell the fiction and the story the way I wanted to tell it. It is that to let go of the things that you have. You want to tell everything. You have all these great things in your life, but this is so interesting, but like it's not a part of the story. And now he's really hard. Right, right, like, am I going to prioritize the fact that she's hanging out with F Scott Fitzgerald and Flow Sig felt and Jackie Kennedy and, you know, Malatob and FDR and Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill? It's like how am I going to get all these lunch and dinner dates down and, you know, all these parties, and so, yeah, we do. It's a kind of NIPP and talk. What a challenge, but I'm so glad you took it on. I mean this is such a just I think it's such a service that we will all know her story now. She's someone we should know and you're giving her to us not just as a historical figure, but as a historical figure who we can identify with and and care about and and feel engaged with and feel inspired by it. I think that's such a such a privilege of being a historical fiction writer. I think, and I think I know it's a privilege at all of us, all of us Brit historical fiction or at least occasionally do it. I think it's something we all take so seriously. So That's awesome that you've done this. So switching tracks quickly before we before we let you go, and they were actually going to have one more question for you at the ends. But I also wanted to ask about your memoir and and we mentioned earlier in the show that for our friends and fiction reading prompt this month we're encouraging people to read a memoir or a non fiction book, and I really want our viewers out there to consider your memoir and because it was such a beautiful one and, I think, such a I can't imagine the challenge of having gone through that but then having put it to words in a way that did something for the rest of the world and and let us into your personal story. So it can I just ask you quickly to tell us a little bit about about your beautiful memoir and they what we can expect from it. Thank you, yes, so I wrote beauty in the broken places. When my husband and I were expecting our first child and we were taking this flight show with our baby moves and be our last trip together. My husband, who is thirty at the time and in perfect health, and I was also thirty, and he's...

...a doctor, he was a lifelong athlete, he was not a smoker or not a big drinker. He just turned to me in the middle of our flight and he said, does my eye look weird? And I looked into his eye and the answer was yes, your eye looks very weird. The black of his pupil. He has green eyes, but the black was taking up the entire eye. People had dilated and it was just what was so weird to me was the asymmetry of it. And so me being a Hypochondriac, throughout the worst possible thing and I was just like, are you having a stroke? and Dave, being the doctor WHO's worked in the emergency room in Chicago and is not flappable, I expected him to just brush it off like he did everything when I would be, you know, nervous about medical things and you know you're being ridiculous, and he was like, I think I might be and two minutes later he closed his eyes and he lost consciousness and he went into a coma while. We were thirty Fivezero feet in the air and it took us a while because we were flying west, northwest, but eventually, when he was clearly not going to wake up on this airplane, we had to make an emergency medical evacuation. So we landed in Fargo, North Dakota, and my husband was rushed into the nearest er and I was told, after several hours of test, that my healthy, beautiful young husband, the father of the child that we were about to have together, had had a incredibly rare, a likely fatal, incredibly unlikely stroke and that I should get his parents out to Fargo immediately to say goodbye my and I thought, kills everywhere, needs to well. So, miraculously he woke up several days later. But when he woke up he was wiped clean. He was in a complete state of Amnesia and there's a totally new version of Dave that woke up and I was just while I was in the Fargo I see you that first night, wondering if he was going to make it through the night or not. I connected with Lee Woodruff, who is another writer that we all know and love, and she had written about her husband, Bob Woodruff's experience going over an IED in a rack and his experience with brain injury and they're excruciating process of healing and recovering as a family and she just she said some very insightful things, having sat in the room where I was sitting, you know, in her own experience. She just said right, you need to keep writing, you need to write your way through this. Writing will see you. And I remember them first night, not knowing whether or not Dave would wake up, I just took out my laptop and I just started a letter and I wrote dear Dave and I just explained to him what was going on because I was sitting there alone in this Fargo, I see you, with the baby going crazy in my stomach because of all the adrenaline and Cortisol and I couldn't talk to my husband and I didn't have anyone else there, and so I just started writing as if I could talk to Dave and I thought, wouldn't it be so amazing if, some day, you know, he can read this or our daughter can read this? If he doesn't survive, and so what happened was we went through this year of beautiful, brutal, painful rehabilitation for Dave, as a family, as a marriage, with our new daughter entering the scene in just a few months later. And I wrote Dave will let her every day for a year to Oh my goodness, sort of for him but also sort of for me. It was my way of processing and and it day. Couldn't remember anything for the longest time and so I just didn't count on myself to be able to really remember either. And and people who have been through brain injury said, you know you're not going to feel progress, you're not going to see progress. You know with some you know he can't swallow, can't drink, he can't go to the bathroom, like these are things where you're not going to see them change. But six, four months from now, if you are writing through the process, you will be able to go back and see truly how far you have come. And so writing was sort of an incredibly valuable thing for all of us. And after day was doing a lot better and our daughter was healthy and we were sort of making it through the woods. We wrote a piece together for the New York Times about our experience for stroke awareness and the response from that was so surprising to me and so overwhelming, and just hearing from people who have walked similar roads to that which we were walking. My editor came to me very, very delicately and very sensitively and just broach the topic of writing about it in a longer form and I really didn't like the idea at first because writing, I write fiction, writing is my happy place. Writings where I go and I love it. And and I didn't realize that this, you know, three hundred and sixty five page document I have on my computer that was started with dear Dave and the Fargo I see...

...you was also writing. You know, I hadn't I hadn't realized, I hadn't thought it. So took me some time, but eventually I just thought, you know, one of the ways I survived our year together was reading memoir and having that connection with other people who had been through and not only been through but survived, and so I just thought that was ultimately what kind of tip the scale for me. I was like, if this book can be useful to even one person, one wife who's coming home from those long days in the ICU alone, missing her husband and needing to just find solace in someone else's words. I can give that to one person, then it will be worth it. And it was incredibly also just Cathartic for me because it was like, this is the story I've been carrying for a year now. I'm going to share it and everyone else can see it and know it and can carry it with me. And it's just been so amazing because you know, your fiction people connect and they tell you about their experiences with your fiction, but it's totally different when you're writing about your own life and you're writing non fiction and then people are just connecting with you and opening up about their own experiences. It's been really just mindblowing as a writer. And you know, it's hard. It was hard. It's hard to talk about it. It was hard to write it. If through, yeah, yeah, but it's something will always have as a family and it's something that I'm still just, you know, so profoundly grateful to connect with readers over and how long is your daughter? How Long I sat in. My daughter is six. Okay, and and Dave made a really miraculous recovery. It was such a rare stroke that there was no case literature on how to rehabilitate a patient while was a stroke. And so the beauty of that was that we were able to just keep moving the goal post because there was no one to tell us this is what you can expect. You know, at first it was like can he survived? And then it was like can he wake up? And then it will be will you ever be able to swallow food again, and then will he ever be able to talk again, and then could he's maybe, you know, someday walk and do stairs and maybe something he could drive, and we just kept reaching for the next impossible thing and we just kept fighting and be leaving and and winning, you know, the getting to that moment. He worked so hard and we just we had the support of our amazing family and friend and so so we have three girls now. We had lily and then we were able to have two more, and so it's a part of our life story, but it's not the end of this life story. That's not the ends of you. You are such an inspiration. I mean, you know, we talked so much on here about the impacts the books can have, but you've chosen to make impacts in such Beau beutiful ways I mean with your historical fiction, but then with telling your your incredible true story to so thank you. Thank you for doing that and thank you for giving us the reminder to night of the fact that that's what books can do and that in the books are there to touch people and to connect to people and unite people in their journeys. So thank you for being a part of that. We are running a little bit long tonight, Alison, but we are going to skip our after shows. If you would not mind sticking around for just one more minute, we have a couple closing announcements. Then we have one more question for you. Do you have just two more minister, to stick around with us? Fantastic. Okay, very quickly, Patty. Do you want to dive into our announcements? Yeah, just a quick I'm just sitting here just over. Well, I know, I'm so mad you. I'm so I'm just you can't help when you hear a story like that outs and of thinking what if it was my story? Right, how would I react? And and writing that daily letter. I keep thinking, I wish I'd done that when the kids were young. Right. You think you're never going to forget, you think you're not going to forget and you do. I also have to say how much, Alison, I think we all needed to hear that tonight. You know, we're worried about Mary Kay and we're worried about Mary CA's daughter, like we're talking about earlier, and it's nice to hear these stories of hope and life and, you know, bright, beautiful things on the other side. So I think, I think all of us in the community who who care so much about Mary Kay, I think needed to hear that tonight too. We are sending her all of the light and love we can. We are okay. So just a quick reminder of our writer's black podcasts. You know how much I love them. We will always post links under announcement each time a new one goes out. A new episode launches each Friday and the last episode Ron and Nancy Johnson talked with Lilly Blackburn about diverse debuts and this week Ron and Mary K talked with Linda Keytron and the Litchfield luncheon author. She heads up the Lynch Litchfield. Oh my gosh, that's such a tone tire. They had to Lynch launch in series and they talked about people who are author allies like Linda. So...

...don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and while you're hitting subscription buttons, add the newsletter and our youtube so you never miss anything, because there's so much you don't want to miss any of it. And you can also find selected back episodes on the streaming platform called Loco plus, which also includes lots of brand new content from other independent creators. And if you are not hanging out with us yet and our friends and fiction official Book Club, you are missing out. This group, which is separate from our main group and run by our friends Lisa Harrison and Brenda Gardner, is now more than tenzero members strong. So join them on February fourth for happy hour with Ron Black and awesome author Nancy Johnson. I can't wait for that. That's gonna be all, I know. And make sure to join US also next week for our next episode of friends and fiction, next Wednesday, right here at seven, where we will welcome Marie Benedict and Fiona Davis, who I we know you all love, and bread at Janowitz will be joining us on the after show. So it's going to be another great, jampacked episode. It's going to be lots of fun and then on February ninth we are hosting Jane Allen, so we're really looking forward to that too. If you're everyone doing about our schedule, it's always on the friends and fiction website and on the header a graphic on our facebook page. All right, Miss Allison. One question Lee always love to ask and I always leave the show thinking I'm so glad we ask that, which is what were the values around reading and writing when you were growing up with your parents? Oh my goodness. So I was the third of four children and so I feel like I'm are. I know for a fact I was just left alone a lot and my own devices, and so one of I had two favorite places to sort of go and wander and one was into a book. Always there were always books. It was always something that we were encouraged, you know, going to the library and our house was jam you know, we always got read to every night at that was sort of sacrosanct in our house. And then the other place where I would go to and sort of become consumed was my own head and the stories, and I just have all these memories when I think about afternoons a child, after school, my memories are just walking around the backyard completely lost in these fictional world that I was creating, and then that turned into just writing these stories and just sort of making things up. Always still to this day, I can't go to sleep without being lost in my head in a story. That's just sort of where I go when I have when I have the chance, and so I would say they were they were foundational. I read something recently where there was this point where it was like, everything you can do as a parent, whether it's the ballet class or the Chinese lessons or the karate or the cooking class or the swimming class, none of it matters as much as reading to your children, and I just willing. I thought, thank you, mom and dad, because I think they felt that and pass that along, and now I feel that as a mother to so stories were seminal history in particular. We're a huge family of history dorks. It was always okay to talk and Geek out about history at the table. We loved great historical stories, and so they were just sort of one of the central pillars of our home and I hope, I hope it can recreate that with my own children. Alice, and it sounds like you are. It has been such a pleasure getting to know you tonight. We're sorry we catch you a little bit later than in attended, but we so appreciate the time. Before you go, can you just tell our viewers where they can find you? Yes, so I'm everywhere social media, just my name, Alison attack. You also and too elsecom is my website, and then Instagram, twitter, facebook and yeah, I look forward to hearing from y'all. Alison, it was so nice to chat with you. We are so excited for your new book that's coming out in just two weeks, which sounds so great, and we also hope that that our viewers will pick up your memoir as for that reading prompt in February. So thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself with us tonight and good luck with everything. Thank you, thank you, thanks, I listen all right, everybody out there, don't forget that you can find all of our back episodes on Youtube. Were live there every week, just like we are on facebook, and if you subscribe you will not miss a thing, plus you'll have access to special short clips. Be Sure to come back and next week, same time, same place, as we welcome Marie Benedict, Fiona Davis and Brenda Janowitz. See you next week to night ya tonight. Thank you for tuning in.

You can join us every week on facebook or Youtube, where our live show airs on Wednesday nights at seven PM eastern time. Also subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here.

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