Category Archives: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers

An Interesting Observation

I got to be the guest of honor at another Senior Book Club yesterday, out in Stratford, CT. I love these groups. The insight, the wisdom, the open and genuine comments, questions, and understandings. They make me know I did a good job writing people their age in The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses). I get them! And they get me.

One thing that has cropped up time and again is a certain character’s uncanny cleverness, her ability to think and act quickly, her calculation. It doesn’t seem believable, or even feasible that a woman of her age and experience could come up with the plans she does, in the time she does it in.

I find this infinitely interesting, and slightly disheartening.

When I create a character or situation–unless it’s fantasy–I make sure there’s at least one instance I know of to give credence to a character trait, or a circumstance. There’s an adage that goes something like, “No matter what you can think up, there’s been weirder/sadder/horrific…er.” In the case of this character, I’ve known young women as clever, as calculated, and as quick as my character. They exist, most certainly, and outside of literature and movies.

We have no issue believing in Hermione Granger’s brillaince, but she’s from a fantasy world. Lisbeth Salander (Dragon Tattoo), but she’s a psycho. How about Young Sherlock Holmes? Hmmm…why is it so hard to believe? Is it because she’s female? Beautiful? Young? Too otherwise ordinary? All of the above?

I painted my character (Tressa) as a sheltered southern belle who looked and acted–outwardly–as one would expect. But I showed her doing things outside of that facade. In her background, she went to college when women of her place in society typically did so only as a “husband major.” She not only got accepted into college, but into a major largely reserved for men. She went out in search of her brother the moment she came into her inheritance at twenty-one, against her family’s wishes–something she’d been planning and working towards since she was little more than a child. Before she ever stepped foot on the page, she manipulated her circumstances, and the people she was supposedly obedient to, without anyone being the wiser. By these things alone, her cleverness should have been evident. When she does all she does in the body of the book, it comes off–to some–as unbelievable that a young woman her age could not only think it all up, but pull it off.

There are other questions that always come up–What actually happened to Enzo? is a big one. The question of my clever, cunning Tressa is one, I suppose, that strikes me as a surprising thing to question at all.

It makes me wonder how many others thought the same thing, and why. To be clear, I never have an issue with any nits or picks a reader has–all opinions are valid, whether or not I agree. It’s their take on things, from their perspectives. When I get a question, or read a review that gives me better understanding into minds that don’t think the way mine does, I’m truly grateful. It’s all fodder folks! All fodder.

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Quixotic Drama

I rarely bring up Goodreads or Amazon reviews here on this page. It breaks an unspoken rule, and that fourth wall between writer and reader. Do you hear a but coming? Today, I found something amazing in the review section on Goodreads, and it struck me so completely I had to immortalize it here.

(Not the full review–just the pertinent part)

“What is real; to what extent do we live our fictions; what should be real? Wonderful characters whose souls are stirred by death and words and a past built upon more words and immortal youthful misdeeds. […]this is a book for the spirit and the mind. It is also a paean to the passing of an age of great authors who lived immortally, if not tragically. Kudos to DeFino. I call this category of fiction, Quixotic Drama.”

Quixotic* Drama. As Linus Van Pelt is prone to exclaim, “That’s it!”

This is exactly what I do in all my writing, whether fantasy, romance, fairy tale, or contemporary fiction. Quixotic drama. I have a name for it now. And you know what the old tales say about naming something–there is power there. Great power. I can already feel it thrumming in my fingertips.

In googling the term, I see it’s not quite unique to the world, though I don’t find it in reference to fiction. Whether a thing or simply new to me, it’s magical. The connection to Don Quixote, in all its facets, pretty much says it all.

Peanuts1

*quix·ot·ic
kwikˈsädik/
adjective
  1. exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.
    “a vast and perhaps quixotic project”
    synonyms: idealistic, romantic, visionary, utopian, extravagant, starry-eyed, unrealist unworldly.

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So I Can Find It Again

The author posted this on my Facebook timeline yesterday, but I wanted it here, where I can easily find it again. I wish I could put ALL my (good!) reviews here, but that would be obnoxious. Modesty may be for suckers, but obnoxious is as obnoxious does, right? 😉

Beyond The Cover Review

Having read fantasy and romance from DeFino, I wondered how a straight up fiction novel of hers would be. I know that DeFino dislikes being pigeon holed into genres since she sees so many books falling into more than one. Which is exactly the case with The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers. In fact, her straight up fiction book has both romance and fantasy neatly inserted within its pages.

Set in, yes, (you guessed it), Bar Harbor at, yes, (you’re right again), a retirement home for aging writers, DeFino quickly introduces a cast of diverse and thoroughly developed characters. Of the writers, there is Alfonse, a sort of elderly Dos Equis man, the most famous of the authors. Then, there is Olivia, his ex-lover and quick-witted marijuana smoker; Judi, the group stenographer who laments the realization of her increasing dementia, and Switch, the taciturn, good hearted spoil sport. On the employee side, there is Dr. Kintz, kind and flustered, as he tries to manage these aging autocrats as well as his trove of damaged employees. And, Cecibel, the physically marred orderly who becomes Alfonse’s muse; Sal, the massive black nurse who moonlights as Wispy Flicker, the drag queen; and, Fin, the convicted murderer. Yep, I have that right.

As his last hurrah, inspired by Cecibel, Alfonse begins writing his final novel. It becomes a group project as the authors each take their turns adding to the story. How it evolves and ends and how all these characters interact with one another is part of this story’s magic. And, true to her roots, DeFino works in bits of romance and fantasy. There is a dream like quality to the relationship between Alfonse and Cecibel which goes well beyond patient and caregiver. At first, I was a little unnerved by the sensuality between these two, but DeFino’s writing simply exposes love that exists in places we often fail to look. And, also, who’s to judge what’s appropriate when it comes to love better than the lovers themselves?

DeFino’s timing between the story unfolding at the retirement home and the one that the authors are writing is pitch perfect. Just as you’re about to reach the cathartic moments in each story, she switches you to the other such that you have to keep reading to find out what happened in the previous plot line.

DeFino’s “jump” to fiction is seamless because it really wasn’t a jump at all. She brings together the best of her different story telling techniques to yield a lovely book that addresses dark issues but leaves the reader feeling hopeful and filled with love.

The retirement home for aging writers is a figment of DeFino’s imagination but I can picture it perfectly and hope that maybe, at some point in the future, there might actually be such a place.

Published: 2018
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Elizabeth’s rating: 4 stars

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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The Maine Edge

The Maine Edge is an online news outlet, in their words: Successfully targeting a younger, professional and more savvy demographic than the traditional newspaper, while also catering to the need for a lifestyle, cultural and entertainment-based publication across all demographics in the greater Bangor market, The Maine Edge has redefined the role of what a newspaper can, and should be.

They did a feature on my book that, quite honestly, made me cry yesterday. Bad? No. It was that good. It’s the kind of review I’ll take out years from now to bask in the glory days, perhaps like Olivia or Alfonse did, in the Pen.

Posted here in its entirety:

Assisted Living for Authors: The Bare Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)

Assisted living for authors - 'The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)'

There’s a big difference between literary fame and literary greatness.

There are plenty of writers who are great without being famous and more than a few who are famous without being great. A very specific confluence of circumstances is required for an author to achieve both. But even the greatest, most famous writers come to the end of their story.

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)” (William Morrow, $15.99) takes a speculative look at what that ending might look like, creating a vividly detailed place where literary giants might spend their final days, swapping stories and generally accepting that the heady heights of their younger days are permanently behind them.

In the late 1990s, Cecibel is an orderly at the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly, a retirement home set up by literary legend Cornelius Traegar in an attempt to give his fellow wordsmiths a place uniquely their own in which to spend their twilight years. Despite the physical and emotional scarring, Cecibel is a beloved part of the community; the many writers and editors find her to be both a competent caregiver and fine company.

But Cecibel is thrown for a loop when a new resident arrives at the home (nicknamed “the Pen” for obvious reasons). Alfonse Carducci is a true giant in the world of letters, one of the most decorated authors of his generation and the most famous resident ever to move into the Pen. He’s also Cecibel’s all-time favorite writer – one to whom she has been devoted for most of her life.

Carducci is very much at the end of the line when he arrives, but being in the presence of old friends like Olivia Peppernell, a former peer (and lover) helps a little. Still, it’s the friendship that blooms between him and Cecibel that truly reinvigorates him. Yes, he is old and tired, but as he spends more and more time with the lovely, damaged orderly, the itch to create comes back.

And he’s not the only one.

Doors long thought forever closed begin to creak open once again, letting loose the words and emotions and stories – truthful and fictional (and sometimes both). Some are inspired to embrace a future they once believed did not include them, while others begin to consider letting go of pasts that haunt them. And at the center of it all is the unlikely friendship between a broken young woman and a sick and aging legend.

It’s interesting to consider what happens to writers when their stretch in the sun finally passes by. Even the greatest of the great will eventually fade into the shadows. “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers” offers a charming, compelling glimpse at what might happen to such luminaries.

The writers who populate the Pen display precisely the sort of quick and acerbic wit that you would expect to get from aging wordsmiths. These are people who defined and redefined literature for their generation – that power doesn’t just vanish when you reach a certain age. The jokes and jibes are well-crafted and genuine, creating a sense of reality that informs the dialogue.

The central figures – Cecibel and Alfonse – serve as dual focal points for the narrative, providing the polestars by which the story is navigated. The quiet complexity of Cecibel, the constant avoidance of certain uncomfortable truths … she’s fascinating. Meanwhile, Alfonse hides behind a façade of bombast and bluster, all the while uncomfortably coming to terms with the looming specter of his own mortality. His works might be immortal, but he himself is not.

(It’s at this point where the story-within-the-story needs to be addressed. Over the course of this novel, a new story begins to take shape; said story is shared with the reader intermittently throughout the course of the book. We can talk about how delightfully meta it is to have a work in progress being written by the writers who are characters in a book about writers – and it really is – but the truth is that what could have been a gimmicky device actually turns into an engaging tale in its own right. No need to discuss the specifics – who writes it, what it’s about, that sort of thing. Just know that it’s very good and a vital part of the larger narrative.)

DeFino has a wonderful ear, finding ways to craft dialogue that feels both true to the characters and true to life – a surprisingly difficult feat with which plenty of otherwise great writers struggle. She builds thoughtful, rich inner lives into her ensemble, as unafraid to point out her characters’ flaws as she is eager to celebrate their merits.

“The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)” is an ideal summer read, breezy enough to be consumed lightly while still providing narrative and character depth. To paraphrase an old adage, old writers never die – they just fade away. What Terri-Lynne DeFino has done is give us a look at a place to where those writers might fade.

~Allen Adams/The Maine Edge

 

Click here for the actual piece, if you are so inclined.

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As Seen In The Wild

Thanks, everyone who sent me a pic of The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) as seen in the wild. Keep them coming! I’ll add them to the slide show.

 

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Because I REALLY Needed This Today

As tomorrow (Chris D-day) approaches, emotion is precariously close to the surface. Every. Minute. Of. The. Day. The strangest things will set me off. Completely unrelated things. An oriole flying across the front yard. A commercial. My grandson explaining a game neither of us has any idea how to play.

And then, this morning, there was this:

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and their Muses) is a book set in the latter part of the nineties in a retirement home that is especially for famous writers, editors, publishers etc. The home was dreamt up by two writers, one who has passed and who one has finally come back to the mansion to live out the rest of his days among his contemporaries. In this story we follow a few of the writers, namely Alfonse Carducci and Olivia Peppernell, lovers in the past and good friends now and one of the orderlies named Cecibel who lives on the grounds and is dealing with issues of her own. She forms a camaraderie with them and serves as the muse that ignites their passion for writing again as they deal with the breakdown of their bodies in the aging process.

This book is probably a contender for being one of my favorite books of this year, for sure. I loved everything about it. I loved the writing style, which was elegant and just evoked the feeling I love to get when reading a great piece of literature. There are alternating perspectives all told in the third person and I loved following different bits of the story from each of the characters. UGH THE CHARACTERS…they were so good and I love them all to bits and I just want to gather all of them up and hug them to me forever. This story was beautiful and tragic, comfortable and romantic. These are literally all of the things I felt when I curled up in bed and read this book. It was a gloomy, rainy day out when I read it which was just absolutely perfect. After reading this book I was torn between reading one and writing one.

I really loved that this story was told through our main narrative but also includes the story that our characters are writing interspersed throughout. It was a wonderful thing to be able to experience that alongside of these characters. Ugh I loved this book if you can’t tell and I can’t wait to read it again. As someone who loves to write stories, I enjoyed every single moment where the lives of the aging writers was discussed and I loved reading about them writing. I could go on and on but I won’t, I’ll let you read this book and discover it’s magic yourself. If you love stories about writers and beautiful characters, read this book!! 5 stars from me!

Ms. Nose In A Book (reviewer)

Niagra Falls, Frankie Angel. (If you get the reference, you get a gold star!)

I don’t share all my reviews, but this one? I had to. And I wanted to put it here where I could go back and read it FOREVER!

download

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Boston Globe

For posterity’s sake…

Write up in The Boston Globe.

“The tall pines, rocky shores, and austere New England landscape of Bar Harbor, Maine, is the setting for Terri-Lynne DeFino’s summery new novel, “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)’’ (William Morrow), out this week. The book follows one-time literary legend bad-boy Alfonse Carducci as he makes a final home at a Bar Harbor retirement community populated by the aging literati. There he meets nurse Cecibel Bringer, whose face was badly damaged in an accident. She serves as an unexpected muse to the blocked Carducci, and he lets her regain a sense of the possibility of love. DeFino, who lives in rural New England, has written a beachy book in which the fictional world and the real one blend and blur, and about the ways in which age doesn’t limit our ability to connect, and the opportunities to be found when one stays open being inspired.”

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TLC Book Tour

Sorry to inundate with ME, ME, ME! But it is release day after all. And, really, this is–once again–so I can go back and bask. Or pull quotes from reviews. 🙂 Let’s hope they’re all good ones!

TLC Book Tour

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 12th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Wednesday, June 13th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Thursday, June 14th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Friday, June 15th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Saturday, June 16th: Instagram: @bookishconnoisseur

Sunday, June 17th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Monday, June 18th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 12th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 15th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, June 19th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, June 21st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 25th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, June 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, June 28th: Literary Quicksand

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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NJ.com

I posted this on Facebook last weekend, but I need to put it here so I can go back someday and bask in it.

NJ.com loved THE BAR HARBOR RETIREMENT HOME FOR FAMOUS WRITERS (And Their Muses.) Yay!

review here–>NJ.com

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Library Journal

A starred review. A STARRED REVIEW!!!

starred review starDeFino, Terri-Lynne. The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses). Morrow Paperbacks. Jun. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780062742674. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062742698. F
The premise and characters of DeFino’s (“Bitterly Suite” series) latest novel will draw in all those who quiver when spotting a bookish title. Literary figures who wowed the masses and whose books are included in college curricula are awaiting one last friend, the great Alfonse Carducci, to join their circle in the stately and quiet home dedicated to retired authors. Cecibel, a young female orderly with a damaged face, evokes an impulse to write again in the moribund Alfonse. As his renewed writing sparks Alfonse’s joy, a second writer is inspired to add a segment with equal pleasure. Soon other residents pick up their pens, and their happiness is restored as they reignite their talents.
Verdict A solid hit, perfect for book clubs and readers who love to read about writers, writing, and books; why we love them; and how they make life worth living.—Mary K. Bird-Guilliams, Chicago

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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