Monday, August 27, 2012


Joining me on Books by Banister today is a wonderful, new voice in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Em Barrett. Less than two months ago, Em released her debut novel, LEAVING GREEN ISLAND, and she's having great success with it (See all the glowing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!) Read on to find out more about Em's book and to learn some fun tidbits about the author herself.

1) Can you give us a brief overview of LEAVING GREEN ISLAND?

Leaving Green Island centers around Brecken Pereira, a young lawyer living in Chicago, and the events that unfold when she unexpectedly crosses paths with her first love, Reed Whalen, after years without contact. The story alternates between the present day – when their lives collide – and the summers of 1999 and 2000 when the two met on an exclusive summer island in northern Michigan. Following Reed's reappearance, Brecken is torn between her longing for the past and the life she has carefully built for herself since Reed vanished years before.

2) What's your favorite quality about your hero/heroine?

I love that my heroine – Brecken – has a very strong sense of self, even as a teenager. Of course, she has her moments of insecurity and self-doubt, but for the most part she doesn’t get caught up in trying to be like everyone else.

3) Your heroine's name, Brecken Pereira, is quite unusual!  How did you come up with it?  Have you ever known a Brecken?

Well, my parents claim that I begged them to change my name to Anastasia as a little girl, so I guess I’ve always had a thing for unusual names. J I haven’t really known a Brecken, but I’ve come across the name in passing a few times. I heard it shortly after I started writing Leaving Green Island, and it struck me as the perfect name for my heroine. Brecken’s dad is Brazilian, so I chose Pereira because it’s a common Brazilian last name. 

4) What made you want to write LEAVING GREEN ISLAND?

Since I was young, I have been an avid reader and enjoyed writing in various forms. I’m always in the market for fun and light reads that are still substantive and engaging, and sometimes I have trouble finding them. So, I thought I would go ahead and try to write one myself. Hopefully, I accomplished that, but I’ll have to leave that to the readers to decide!

5) How long did it take you to write this book?  What is your writing process like?

This is my first book, so I’m still figuring out my writing process! I found myself spending a lot of time just thinking about the story and the characters (and often talking through ideas with my husband) before I would sit down to actually write a particular portion of the book. I worked on Leaving Green Island whenever I had a chance in my free time and it took about eight months to complete the first draft. After that I had a few close friends read the book and give me feedback, and then I made changes and revisions based on their input. In all, the book took about ten months to finish.

6) What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on a sequel to Leaving Green Island! It’s written from the perspective of Brecken’s close friend, Nevada, and begins where Leaving Green Island leaves off.  Although Brecken is a character, the second book focuses more on her friends Nevada and Lizzy and where their lives take them.

7) What comes first for you -- character idea, plot idea?

Definitely characters.

8) How do you think of titles?

I like a title that has a little bit of intrigue to it, while also relating to a central theme of the book.  In this instance, Green Island was the place where Brecken and Reed fell in love, and it was also a haven of sorts where Brecken retreated to escape problems in her home life. It was kind of this heavenly place for her, and moving on from her Green Island relationship with Reed was very difficult.   In addition, something (and I want to be careful not to spoil anything here!) happens to one of the characters when leaving Green Island at the end of the summer, which changes the course of several characters’ lives, so "Leaving Green Island" has that secondary meaning as well.

9) Can you tell us how you ended up with the cover art for LEAVING GREEN ISLAND?  Did you design it yourself or hire a professional?

My best friend, Bridget Riehl, is a really talented artist, and she designed the cover for me. She isn’t a professional, but I keep telling her that she should be! I think the cover she created perfectly captures the feel of the book and it’s just my style - I absolutely love it.

10) What are your thoughts on love scenes in books?  Do you prefer to read/write sweet/romantic encounters between your hero and heroine or spicy ones?

I’m still getting used to writing love scenes, and I have to admit it was tough for me at times! The sweet and romantic scenes definitely came more easily. I spent a lot of time on Brecken and Reed’s first encounters, trying to create that magical anticipation of first love, especially an unexpected summer love.

11) Who are the authors who inspire you?

Oh my gosh, there are so many writers whom I admire and draw inspiration from that I could go on forever with this question! I love anyone with a magnetic and unique voice, as well as anyone who really stirs your emotions without using an overly sad plotline to do so. I so love Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer and Alice Sebold. For Leaving Green Island, I would say I was drawing on inspiration from Judy Blume and Emily Giffin, who are also two of my favorites. 

12) What genres do you like to read?  Do you stick to one or are you eclectic in your reading tastes?

Well, I’m eclectic to a certain degree, but I definitely favor contemporary fiction. Sometimes I want a book that really makes me think, and other times I am looking to a book for a little lighthearted escape. I do read the occasional biography (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand blew me away) or fantasy/paranormal book, but usually I’m a realistic fiction girl.

13) What was the last book you read that really WOWed you?

I just read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and it was an absolutely incredible book.  The writing itself, the handling of a taboo issue, the interplay of heartwrenching and humorous scenes – it was all amazing. Also, as a native of the Detroit-area myself, I loved all the history and detailed description of the city and its surrounding areas over the past century.

14) If you could be plopped down in the middle of any book, which one would it be?

Hmm… maybe Harry Potter? I mean, who doesn’t want to spend a little time at Hogwarts?

15) If you could invite any five people (living or dead) over for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

This is a tough one!  I’ll go with, first, Jimmy Hoffa, because I really want to know what actually happened to him. Second, Hilary Clinton, because she is so accomplished, classy, and seemingly confident despite going through a world of shit in the public eye, and I really admire her for that.  Third, Laura Hillenbrand, because she writes beautiful books, and she does so despite a debilitating illness, which is really inspiring to me. Fourth and fifth would be my two grandfathers, whom I wish I’d had more time with and would love to spend a few hours talking with as an adult.

Fast and Flirty 

Favorite scent?  Campfires
Favorite color?  Blue
Favorite food?  My mom’s pesto
Favorite word?  I have so many… ethereal, audacity, lilting, intoxicate, dalliance…
Favorite article of clothing?  Definitely one of my many hoodies
Dream vacation spot?
Favorite time period in history?  Well, I’m tempted to say the 1920’s, but, if I’m being honest, I’m pretty attached to air conditioning, hot running water and watching The Bachelor, so I guess my favorite time period is right now.
Favorite girl's night out drink?  Sazerac
Favorite date night activity? My husband and I have a baby girl, so any date night sounds pretty good these days!
Favorite song?  "If Not For You" - Bob Dylan
Celebrity hottie on your laminated listTaylor Kitsch
Novel hero crush?  Is it ok to say Reed Whalen?!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Em!  Best of luck with LEAVING GREEN ISLAND.  I look forward to hearing more about that sequel!

Book Blurb:

Leaving Green Island is more than simply a modern love story. It is a poignant yet lighthearted tale of friendship, family and the search for a place to belong in the complex world of today's twenty-something women. 

With a new job at a prestigious
Chicago law firm and an engagement ring on her finger, everything seems to be falling into place for Brecken Pereira these days. However, all this perfection quickly unravels when Reed Whalen, Brecken’s first love, unexpectedly resurfaces. The complicated history of the enigmatic Reed unfolds as the two summers that Brecken spent as a teenager on posh, exclusive Green Island in northern Michigan are interspersed with her relatable and humorous modern day trials and tribulations.

After Reed's reappearance, Brecken is torn between her longing for the past and the life she has carefully built for herself since Reed vanished years before. Her true-to-life and complex relationships with her two best friends provide the backbone that supports Brecken, both as the life she knows quickly dissolves around her and as she struggles to pick up the pieces. 

This unputdownable novel is certain to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who ever had a first love.


Where you can find Em Barrett:


  1. This book looks very special. I love the Jimmy Hoffa answer! Great interview!

  2. Congrats on your first novel."Leaving Green Island" sounds like a fun read! And I love the name Brecken - it's so unusual.

    Thanks for the great interview, ladies!

    P.S. I'll join you at Hogwarts with a Sazerac.

  3. Congratulations Em on your first novel! I am also quite fond of hoodies and dates with my hubby :) XOXO

  4. Congrats on the novel and all the great reviews. It sounds really good. Will have to add it to my TBR list.

    I read Middlesex last year and I agree - great book!

  5. Wonderful interview! Sounds like an intriguing read:)

  6. Congrats on the first novel, it sounds like it is right up my alley so needs to go on the TBR pile.

    That was a fun interview. Tracie, you always think of the best questions.

  7. Great interview Tracie! Em your book sounds very interesting, I will definitely check it out!