by Cara Sue Achterberg
on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1611882443 (ISBN13: 9781611882445)
Get Your Copy of Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads!
The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.
The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.
And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.
Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.
Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.
“Does facing the truth beat living a lie? In PRACTICING NORMAL, Cara Sue Achterberg has given us a smart story that is both a window and a mirror, about the extraordinary pain ― and the occasional gifts ― of an ordinary life.”
– Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN
“What does it really mean to have a normal life? Achterberg’s stunning new novel explores how a family can fracture just trying to survive, and how what makes us different is also what can make us most divine.”
– Caroline Leavitt, author of CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD and the New York Times bestsellers PICTURES OF YOU and IS THIS TOMORROW
“PRACTICING NORMAL takes a deep dive into the dysfunctional dynamics of a ‘picture perfect family.’ A compelling story about the beautiful humanity in the most ordinary of lives: from first love to a marriage on the downward slide to an unexpected family tragedy. Achterberg handles each thread with tender care and we can’t help but root for every member of the Turner family.”
– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of THE VANISHING YEAR
Check out my review HERE
Read an excerpt:
Q&A with Cara Sue Achterberg
Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Most of my stories grow out of my personal experience, or more specifically, an issue or idea that I’ve been wanting to explore. Occasionally, though current events can draw me in. The idea for my next novel focuses on a current issue. Practicing Normal, though, came from my heart. Perhaps, it grew out of the isolation I’ve always felt in the small rural community where I live. It’s very insular and I’ve often judged others and felt judged by the people who live around me. Practicing Normal explores the question of how well we know each other and pokes holes in our assumptions based on appearances, financial situations, and employment.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I always, always start at the beginning and see where the story takes me. I can’t imagine writing any other way. In fact, if I knew the answer or the ending, I doubt I could enjoy the writing or even find the motivation to write the story in the first place. Every story is a journey of discovery for me. I know that sounds new-agey, but that’s exactly what it is – I learn something about myself, the world, people. Once the story is set in motion, I can’t let go of it and I follow where it takes me. Sometimes that’s scary, especially when the word count creeps up and I don’t see any hint of an ending. Many times I’m surprised by where the story takes me and I marvel at how magical it feels. Practicing Normal spilled out of me quickly like I was watching a movie.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
My characters are absolutely based on people I know, and at the same time they are definitely not based on anyone I know. There’s no way around using what you know to devise characters. Is it done intentionally? At least for me – no. That would be too weird and basing a character on someone I know would take me (and possibly my readers) out of the story. That wouldn’t work.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
It’s very hard to have a writing routine when you have kids living at home, multiple foster dogs, a small farm with horses and chickens, and a distractable personality. But if I have a routine, it’s this: I read and journal early before breakfast. I work on ‘nonfiction’ (blog posts, research, social media, email, website) before lunch, and after lunch I turn to my fiction. I love the afternoons when no one is home and no animal is in need and I can lose myself in a story. The only idiosyncrasies I have about writing are that I need silence to write (no music, no people talking, no TV in the other room) and an enormous cup of tea. I favor black tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon.
Tell us why we should read this book.
Hmmm….this should be my elevator speech, right? You should read my book because it’s a good story. It will make you think about marriage and family and love and probably make you wonder what your neighbors are up to. But mostly, its characters will touch your heart, helping you to realize that there’s some good (and some bad) in all of us.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love so many authors that it’ll be hard to keep this list short. I’ve always loved John Irving, Joyce Maynard, Wally Lamb, and Anne Lamott, but I laugh outloud at Jonathon Tropper and love the worlds that Barbara Kingsolver creates. Michael Perry and Barbara Brown Taylor are two of the most talented writers I can think of who consistently make me think and wish I wrote better. I’ve recently discovered Kathryn Craft and Christopher Scotten, and can’t wait to read more from them. Sarah Gruen, Elizabeth Brundage, and T. Greenwood make me turn the page happily. I’ll forever love the writing of Connie May Fowler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Katrina Kennison, and Kate Braestrup because they were the voices that helped me begin to find my own. I have a lot of favorites. I could go on, but that’s enough for now.
What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading a fascinating nonfiction book call the The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin. She’s a journalist digging deep into the world of puppy mills and dog rescue and the big business of dogs. As far as fiction, my choices are many times dictated by my book club who have me currently reading, A Tale of the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, but the book I’m really enjoying right now is Kate Moretti’s Thought I Knew You.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve actually got two in the editing phase, plus my agent is currently shopping a memoir I wrote about my family and our first fifty foster dogs. One of my fiction manuscripts revolves around a mother and daughter in the aftermath of a texting and driving accident, while the other is a bit less dark and follows a quirky young waitress who goes on a honeymoon with a customer whose just been stood up at the alter.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I hate this question because it exposes how out of touch I am with the current movie scene. I guess I’m a cheapskate because I can’t bring myself to blow a hundred bucks on taking our family to the movies, so we wait for most everything to come out online. Add to that my complete inability to retain the names of movies stars and I’m at a loss. If I could freeze them in time, I’d cast Meg Ryan as Kate (because I love Meg and Kate) and Ellen Page (at the age she was in Juno) as Jenna. Everett is a bit tougher – maybe Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon or Robert Downy Jr, but not because any of them are ‘perfect’ just, once again, because I like them.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love to hang out with dogs – does that count? I also, very occasionally, ride horses. I run or hike most days and love to go wine-tasting at little wineries in Virginia. Any pretty day will find me poking around in my gardens.
Easy – steamed shrimp (which I rarely get to eat because my husband is allergic!), Caesar salad (with the dressing on the side), a loaf of crusty wheat bread, olive oil for dipping, and plenty of wine.
Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for liv- ing a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.
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