Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Interview with Amy Impellizzeri/Book Review for Lemongrass Hope

My fans, I post this with the utmost sincerity. When I say that Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri is one of the best books I have ever read, I mean it. It gave me such a lasting book hangover I felt as if I needed to reread the book as soon as it was finished, which I never do.

It was an honor, a treat, and a complete pleasure interviewing Ms Impellizzeri, and getting an insight into her writing, her life as an author, and what the future holds for her and her books. She is one of the most amazing authors I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

I will recommend Lemongrass Hope to every single reader I know, and in writing this blog post and posting this interview, I hope that I have succeeded in making you want to pick it up and give it a read.

Here is what I had to say about Amy Impellizzeri's Lemongrass Hope:

Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri:

Kate will never forget him. That beautifully intelligent man who stole her heart, her mind, body, and soul. Ian. Ian, who had to leave Kate to do some research in Botswana to find a mysterious fruit that holds magical powers.

  They say that at the right time, in the right place, it can make you time travel.

  Kate never forgot Ian, even after she married her husband Rob and had her two boys. She never forgot him.

  Lemongrass Hope is one of the most exceptional books I have ever read. My love for it grew from, "This is a great book" to "This may be one of the best books I've been asked to review" to "Okay, this is one of the best books I've ever read."

  It is extraordinary. Mind-boggling, captivating, emotional, addicting, and positively heartrending.
  It's one of the best books I've ever, ever, ever read. Amy Impellizzeri is a beautiful writer, and her book is a treasure to behold. Ms Impellizzeri's words will captivate you and leave you breathless as you beg for more. And keep in mind I only read the uncorrected ARC (advance reader copy)... I can only imagine how breathtaking the final draft will be.
  I've written and re-written this book review a few times. Each time I begin a sentence, I have to rewrite it in fear of it not being good enough for this story. This book deserves all five star reviews, and it deserves a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. I could easily see this book becoming every book club's "Book of the Month," soon followed by a movie deal that I just know in my heart will not do this incredible novel justice. As I write this, a few weeks after I finished Lemongrass Hope, I still have not gotten over my extreme book hangover from Amy Impellizzeri's story. As soon as I finished the book and reread the first few chapters again (which I NEVER do in books), I was yearning to reread the entire thing ten times more. Ten times, fifty times, a hundred times, it doesn't matter. It wouldn't be enough.
  Reading this masterpiece a hundred times wouldn't be enough for me.
  Lemongrass Hope is stunning, extraordinary, and a true piece of artwork. A+

And now, an interview with the author herself, Amy Impellizzeri:

The Literary Connoisseur: Hello, Amy! Thank you for stopping by The Literary Connoisseur, and for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions about you, your writing, and your debut novel, Lemongrass Hope. If you're ready, let's begin!

Amy Impellizzeri: Thank you so much. I absolutely love your blog, so it’s an honor to be here!

The Literary Connoisseur: Let's start with a few questions about you first. Are you a reader as well as a writer? Whose work do you enjoy reading? 

Amy Impellizzeri: Yes! I am an avid reader. I have pretty eclectic taste in books, and I love books that stay with you. Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins and Jojo Moyes Me Before You come to mind immediately. But lately, I have been devouring debut novels from amazing writers like Amanda Mininger (Touch ), Karen Brown (The Longings of Wayward Girls), Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language of Flowers), and right now I am reading Julia Fierro’s Cutting Teeth

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have a favorite place to write? 

Amy Impellizzeri: My car! I’m not sure why it’s the place where ideas are always coming to me (probably because I have a busy life and 3 active kids and it’s the place where I spend most of my life!) But if you are behind me honking when the red light right turns green, I apologize in advance! 

The Literary Connoisseur: With Lemongrass Hope being your first ever novel, how does it feel to know that you are now an author? Are you excited? 

Amy Impellizzeri: It truly is so exciting to see my first novel in print. (Even though it’s still in ARC’s [Advance Review Copies] right now!) I got some wonderful news from writer, Sarah Pekkanen, when I first got my publishing contract. She told me that the feeling of getting your first novel published stays with you always and never goes away. I’m counting on her to be right! 

The Literary Connoisseur: You are already so popular, and you already have so many fans before you've even released your first book! How does that make you feel? 

Amy Impellizzeri: You are so sweet! I am very grateful to my few early readers - like you! - for getting the word out about Lemongrass Hope. Readers of my Blog have been wonderfully supportive as well. I am so, so anxious for everyone to read the book so we can all finally talk about it – instead of keeping its secrets! 

The Literary Connoisseur: What does your family think of your success? 

Amy Impellizzeri: Well my 8 year old asked if I could please get him a bodyguard for school, so clearly he has a completely misguided perception of what the book release will mean in reality! But truly, my kids are so excited and proud and that’s the best part of all of this. 

The Literary Connoisseur: How did you come up with the plot for Lemongrass Hope? 

Amy Impellizzeri: So, it actually all started with an idea which is really the end of the story - which I won’t give away! It came to me rather suddenly, after a surreal dream and wouldn’t let me go. I developed the story over the next three years, in stops and starts, between other projects. I’d leave it and then wonder, is there really something there? And every time I came back to it, I just knew there was. 

The Literary Connoisseur: How are you going to celebrate once it's out and being devoured by eager readers? 

Amy Impellizzeri: Well, if there’s something I love other than my family and writing – it’s throwing a good party! We’re going to throw a book release bash at a local winery the week Lemongrass Hope comes out. And then I’m going to continue celebrating by .... working on edits to my next book – a non-fiction book, called Lawyer Interrupted – and by starting to work in earnest on my next novel!

The Literary Connoisseur: What made you choose to write about Botswana and the Bahamas? Have you been to either? 

Amy Impellizzeri: I have not been to Botswana .... Yet! .... But I have been to the Bahamas and I think it’s a gorgeously romantic and mystical place – perfect for Lemongrass Hope. I’ll tell you a secret – Jack’s Bar is actually loosely based on a place in the Bahamas that I went with my family a few years ago – we ended up there quite by accident – a bar/restaurant on the beach that only the locals seemed to know about – and yes there were amazing and fresh conch fritters! 

The Literary Connoisseur: Have you tried the marula fruit yourself? (For those who don't know, the marula is VERY key in the plot of Lemongrass Hope.) 

Amy Impellizzeri: No. I’m dying to, though. Ever since I read about the marula tree, and its surrounding legends, I have been fascinated by it, and knew it would make a wonderful character in a book. The cover of the book is a real photo of a marula tree, taken by photographer, Lindsey Raughton, on a trip to South Africa in 2008. She and I have become “pen pals” in the course of securing rights to the photo and I have learned in the process of writing this book that the marula tree really is special. And I believe, mystical. 

The Literary Connoisseur: Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life? 

Amy Impellizzeri: Well, I try not to base my characters on my friends or family so people won’t be afraid to hang out with me and confide in me! But there is a scene in Lemongrass Hope that is plucked almost entirely from real life. The conversation Kate eavesdrops on between the two 20-something year olds discussing a green card marriage on the cruise ship is nearly verbatim from a real conversation I eavesdropped on vacation one summer. I’ll tell you another secret, though. The “real” boyfriend’s name was Elvis, not Spike. I didn’t think it would be believable that his name was actually Elvis, so I changed it. 

The Literary Connoisseur: Where would you like to see your success with Lemongrass Hope go? 

Amy Impellizzeri: You know, a good friend asked me that similar question soon after I got my publishing contract, and I told him the same thing I’ll tell you. It’s really not going to be measured for me in terms of books sold or dollars made. (Don’t tell my publisher I said that!) It’s really going to be measured by whether people I respect respond strongly to the book – and whether it stays with them. Whether book clubs pick it up and talk about it and whether it gives people a “book hangover” like you describe (thank you!) Of course, it would be a dream come true (and probably too much to ask!) for it to lead to a second published novel, and a third ....

The Literary Connoisseur: Have you received good feedback from your beta readers? 

Amy Impellizzeri: I’ve been so protective of this book and only a few early readers have read it so far. But. A truly wonderful compliment from early readers of Lemongrass Hope is that they often say it stays with them. Everyone will seize on different aspects, characters, or layers of this book (in fact, as I suspected, I’m learning that people will even interpret the ending very differently!) but I would love to think it’s a story that raises a lot of interesting questions that will keep you thinking long after you put it down. (Some say after they finish, they feel the need to immediately flip it over and start anew, and that is the BEST compliment of all!) 

The Literary Connoisseur: Who was your favorite character to write in Lemongrass Hope? 

Amy Impellizzeri: All of them! No really. I love these characters – having lived with them for so long. And I know that people will try to read a lot of me into Kate, and that makes sense, because she has bits of me in her. But I’ve written bits of me (sometimes by accident!) into almost all of the characters, including of course, Benton, the litigator trying to plan her exit strategy from a cutthroat midtown Manhattan law firm. But one character that I really relate to is, quite frankly, Ian Campton. I mean, he’s a writer, for heaven’s sake! Also, I’m a pretty hopeless (hopeful?) romantic. And I promise you that - before kids – had someone offered me the chance to go to Botswana to research marula booze, elephants and time travel – I would have jumped at the chance. Plus. I’m crazy good at blackjack. 

The Literary Connoisseur: Kate reads Life of Pi over and over again in the book... Is there any specific reason why you chose this book to incorporate in your own book? Is it a favorite of yours? Without spoilers, what does Life of Pi symbolize for you and for Kate? 

Amy Impellizzeri: Oh, Life of Pi. Sigh. It’s such a small and yet amazingly important part of the entire novel. Strangely enough – and this is not usually the case! – I saw the movie before I read the book. The movie had such a profound effect on me and the book even more so. I, like Kate, really respond to the seamless blending of the mysticism and realism in that story, and the reference to the “botched farewell” in Life of Pi literally breaks my heart and was just so perfect for the story development of Lemongrass Hope. When my editor and publisher both said “you know you can’t keep that Life of Pi excerpt in there unless you get permission” I refused to be daunted. I just knew that Life of Pi was going to I wrote to the publisher, secured the rights within a month or a two, and am absolutely thrilled that Life of Pi is such an integral part of Lemongrass Hope! 

The Literary Connoisseur: Are you currently working on any new projects? 

Amy Impellizzeri: Yes! I am currently working on my first non-fiction book, called Lawyer Interrupted. It is due to be published by the American Bar Association in 2015. It’s such a fun and special project – a synthesis of hundreds of hours of research and interviews with lawyers who have left the practice of law for all sorts of reasons, including internationally famous lego artist, Nathan Sawaya, and celebrity jewelry designer, Jill Donovan, founder of Rustic Cuff. I am also sketching out my next novel, and hope to really get that draft underway this fall after Lemongrass Hope hits shelves October 8! 

The Literary Connoisseur: Amy, thank you again for stopping by and answering some questions for me, for your fans, and for your future fans, who I know are just going to be chomping at the bit to read Lemongrass Hope by the time it comes out! Please continue writing, and we'll talk soon! 

About the Author:

Amy Impellizzeri is a reformed corporate litigator and author. After spending a decade at one of the top law firms in the country, Amy left in 2009 to advocate for working women, eventually landing at a VC-backed start-up company, Hybrid Her (named by ForbesWoman as a top website for women in 2010 and 2011), while writing her first novel, Lemongrass Hope, and her first non-fiction book, Lawyer Interrupted, which is scheduled to be published by the American Bar Association in 2015.
Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, The Glass Hammer, Divine Caroline, and ABA's Law Practice today, among more.
Amy currently lives in rural Pennsylvania where she works and plays and keeps up on all of the latest research confirming that large volumes of coffee are indeed good for you.

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