ALICE BLISS Blog Tour Kickoff – Q & A with Laura Harrington and Giveaway
August 15th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Alice Bliss is the novel for our generation. Like Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Ann Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl are classics from past centuries, Alice Bliss is destined to be a classic of the twenty-first century.

“If a novel could have a heartbeat, Alice Bliss would have one. If an author could capture a slice of America’s soul, Laura Harrington succeeded in doing so!” Liza Wiemer

For Goodreads summary: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9816578-alice-bliss

WhoRuBlog is the first of fourteen blogs sharing interviews, reviews, guest posts, and giving away ALICE BLISS. Please see the the post below this one for the list of all participating blogs & dates.

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a copy of Alice Bliss – US only.

 So easy –

Post a comment below – 2 entries. Tweet and/or post on Facebook – 1 entry each (let me know). Twitter follower https://twitter.com/lizawiemer or Facebook follower  http://www.facebook.com/liza.wiemer – 1 extra entry each. Follow Laura Harrington on Twitter https://twitter.com/LaurHarrington or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/LauraHarringtonLH 1 extra entry each. GIVEAWAY ENDS: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 8PM CST, Winner is Christie K. (MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO WIN – LOOK AT POST BELOW THIS ONE!)

ALICE BLISS is a People Magazine “People Pick” with 4 out of 4 stars.

ALICE BLISS: “The Best Books of the Summer” Entertainment Weekly.

ALICE BLISS has been selected for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program.

ALICE BLISS: School Library Journal‘s “Best Books of 2011” in the category “Adult Books for Teens.”

ALICE BLISS Listeners’ Top Book Picks for Books of Summer on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook.

ALICE BLISS chosen “Book of the Week” by Stylist Magazine in the UK.

Massachusetts Library Association “Must Read” for 2012

Nominated for the 2012 Alex Award

ALICE BLISS is a Richard and Judy Summer Book Club Pick in the UK


Take Five Q & A with Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss

Q:  Alice faces some turbulent and passionate moments with two different young men. Although this IS NOT a love triangle story, there is still a question as to whether Alice might eventually choose John over Henry. What qualities in a young man do you think would suit Alice and do those fit John or Henry best?

A:  First of all, Liza, I have to compliment you on asking me some of the best questions I’ve ever been

Laura Harrington, award-winning playwright, MIT professor, and author of ALICE BLISS

asked about Alice Bliss. You’ve really made me think about and explore some of the deeper issues and ideas in the book.

You’ve asked a better question than simply “Henry or John,” but I think I need to explore each choice to answer which qualities might suit Alice best, if that’s even possible.

Alice has history with Henry. They really know each other on many levels: as children, as young adults; they have been present for many of the key moments in each other’s lives.  Henry is also an artist with many talents: he is a gifted pianist and also plays the clarinet.  He reads and thinks deeply, he has the makings of a fine student.  He has compassion, he has empathy, and he is honest about his own confusion, which is never easy. He is true to himself, even if that means being labeled negatively in high school.  And, to my mind, he has one of the absolute essential qualities: a sense of humor.

John is more of a mystery. And isn’t that part of the appeal?  John is two years older – more mystery, more appeal. He is drawn to Alice – why? What’s that initial spark? And can it be trusted? Is he drawn to her because of how she looks? Because she carries herself a bit differently? Because she’s a bit of an iconoclast?  (All external qualities.) We see that initial attraction deepen as they actually get to know each other and then bond over a missing parent.  And then he enlists, which on the one hand makes him honorable and very much like Matt; and on the other hand presents Alice with the potential of losing another loved one to the war.

Do we make our choices with our heads or our hearts? In the book, following the most wrenching, painful, impossible moment in her life, Alice chooses Henry. This is a strong choice and a true choice and a choice that will give her strength rather than add to her sense of vulnerability.  It is also a choice that reveals that she has a strong sense of herself. She risks true intimacy in this moment, which is so full of hope.

Q: Alice often has difficulty dealing with her mother Angie. Angie can be self-absorbed, careless, thoughtless, neglectful. Alice often is left to take care of her younger sister Ellie and it’s not easy. What is your best advice to young adults who might find themselves in a similar parent/child relationship?

A:  I think there are many young adults who are dealing with this situation; many young adults and children, too, who are coping with very adult problems and issues.  If one parent is missing, the remaining parent often needs to lean on the oldest child, whether the parent is missing due to illness, divorce, military deployment, or any other reason. My best advice is this – reach out to the other people around you for solace or support or help with a task or a job.  That list that Matt asks Alice to make with him before he leaves – who can you call on if you need someone – we all need a list like that.  It’s important to remember when you feel yourself hesitant to ask for help that most people like to be asked, most people want to help.

Q: What is one important life lesson you’ve learned that could be helpful for other young adults? Please explain.

A: My dad didn’t give me an actual compass, the way Matt does. But he sure gave me an internal compass.  What continues to amaze me is that he did it almost entirely without words, purely by example.  The life lesson is this: When I pay attention to that compass – you could call it your conscience or your inner voice or your deeper sense of knowing – I am never led astray.  When I ignore it, when I don’t listen to the small voice inside of me, I always regret it.  This is true in my personal and my professional life. 

Q:  You have fantastic minor characters. One in particular is Mrs. Piantowski, a woman with eight kids who bakes bread for Alice’s grandma’s café. What is it about Mrs. Piantowski that makes her have a minor, yet important role in Alice’s personal growth?

A:  I vividly remember getting a glimpse into other ways of living when I was a kid. I had one friend whose family was way outside of our small town norm. The father was a French horn player in the Symphony, which meant that he was around during the daytime, unlike every other father. And he practiced every day. Hearing that beautiful haunting horn was far beyond my usual experience.  There were six kids, I think, they all played an instrument and they dressed a little differently.  They ate food that seemed exotic to me; they seemed freer.  We had tremendous freedom to play at their house. Not so many rules. 

For Alice, Mrs. Piantowski is mysterious and different; different kind of house, family organization, rules. And she seems to be a different kind of mother. Plus, she’s a  baker! A lover of bread. The staff of life. What could be more essential, more nurturing than that? I think Alice is hungry for some of the more traditional nurturing you can get from your mom, at the same time she is pulling away from or rejecting those needs in herself that are now starting to feel childish. But it’s safe to observe those things, to experience those hungers at Mrs. Piantowski’s.  And I think holding baby Inga – both when she picks up bread – and then later in the book, when there’s a moment that is truly “full circle” – is a very special gift of comfort for Alice.

Q:  Gardening is an important part of Alice Bliss. What is it about gardening that you decided to make it an important metaphor and theme of the novel?

A:  I wrote Alice Bliss the year after my father died and my love and grief for my dad inform every page.  That’s my father’s garden in the book, his apple trees, his grape arbor. I hate to admit it, but I worked beside him grudgingly.  When I was Alice’s age, I had little patience for gardening or canning. or my father’s measured, meticulous way of going about every task. But the lessons I learned at his side – which were largely unspoken – continue to be a daily part of my life. 

Q:  Alice doesn’t seem to care what other people think about her, especially when it comes to appearance, activities, friends. But it’s not because she’s defiant. It’s because she possesses confidence in herself. She embraces her individuality. This is so contrary to a lot of young adults who want desperately to fit in. What can others learn from Alice about embracing individuality?

A:  What a brilliant question – because it is THE question most of us struggle with. Can I be my true self even if it means not fitting in?  And it’s a compelling question for all ages, I believe, as you can be faced with this issue at any point in your life.  I think I can answer your question about Alice embracing her individuality best by talking about where her sense of identity comes from.  If your sense of identity comes solely from your peers and your relationships at school, it can make you terribly vulnerable.  And it is tempting to jettison or undervalue the other relationships in your life when peers become paramount.  But it’s those other relationships and those other activities – inside and outside of the family – that allow Alice to feel free to be who she is.  In writing the book, I was trying to give Alice the tools to survive the losses that she’s faced with. Those tools are: connection to family, including extended family (Gram and Uncle Eddie), connection to her community (working at The Bird Sister’s Café, knowing Mrs. Minty, getting to know Mrs. Piantowski, the baker), connection at school (even though she’s unraveling academically and her best friend abandons her, she dares to try something new – track – and connects to a teammate and a coach).  But this question has made me realize that those tools will help Alice meet the challenges she is faced with AND help her be who she truly is. 


Laura Harrington is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, and MIT professor. Her debut novel, ALICE BLISS, was published by Pamela Dorman Books, Viking/Penguin.






17 Responses  
Michael writes:
August 15th, 2012 at 11:29 am

I’ve heard you talking about ALICE BLISS. Really would love to win a copy. Great Q & A. Thanks for the post.

Liza Wiemer writes:
August 15th, 2012 at 11:36 am

Well, you know me, I can’t help but share things I love, and I LOVE ALICE BLISS. I’m so impressed by Laura. She’s just incredibly kind and gifted. I really hope English high school teachers will pick it up too, because it’s the perfect “modern classic novel” and students will really appreciate it. Good luck. 😀

Susie writes:
August 15th, 2012 at 11:49 am

Amazing post! Really insightful questions. I would love to get the book.

Betsy Kaplan writes:
August 15th, 2012 at 10:10 pm

ALICE BLISS sounds fantastic. I love the answers to these questions. So insightful and helpful for life in general. I’m a follower on Facebook! Thanks.

Lynn Wiese Sneyd writes:
August 16th, 2012 at 9:33 am

Okay, I want this book. *Smiling*
I follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Amy G. aka Kissed by Ink writes:
August 16th, 2012 at 10:44 am

Wonderful post! This is the first time I have seen this book, but now I just have to have it! I also think my older students would really enjoy reading about choices made by Alice and learn from her mistakes.
Twitter shared- https://twitter.com/kissedbyink/status/236124470270644224
Twitter follower:)

Thanks Liza!

Liza Wiemer writes:
August 16th, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Amy, you are so right. This is a perfect novel for older young adults. Many YA are turned off by the “required” reading at schools today because they can’t relate. I’ve had YA tell me this. They hate the books, so they seek short cuts and won’t read the novels, even though they’re supposed to. As a teacher, I think ALICE BLISS would speak to them and provide everything we would want to demonstrate for students: outstanding voice, setting, plot etc. I hope it happens. 😀

Christie K. writes:
August 16th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Really hoping to read and share this book with my students. Also shared on Facebook 🙂

Mrs. Heise writes:
August 16th, 2012 at 6:24 pm

You know I trust your recommendations, so I definitely want to read this one! And Laura sounds like a great advocate for students & teachers, too(2). I tweeted the link(1). I also, of course, follow you on twitter(1).

Audrey writes:
August 16th, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Very much looking forward to reading this novel- been looking for new books for a while!

Monica writes:
August 17th, 2012 at 11:42 am

I heard about this book a while back and this interview only makes me more anxious to read it! It sounds like this book does a fantastic job exploring the many faces of love, not just the romantic kind, and I think that’s really important for a YA audience to see. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity and I can’t wait to read!

J.R. Roper writes:
August 17th, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Looking forward to reading! Liza knows a great book when she reads one.

Qu Terry writes:
August 19th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Being a young adult, and from reading the Q&A I can see that Laura Harrington really did her research in figuring out some of the main everyday issues that teens deal with in their everyday life. Alicie Bliss seems like it will be a very relatable novel and it has joined my “To Read” list right after Narc of course. Thanks to Laura for writing such a captivating novel and Thanks to Liza for asking the great questions!

Sarah writes:
August 21st, 2012 at 9:24 am

I decided with all these amazing books and authors writing YA these days to start a “book club” with my high school daughter. This will be joining our list of “must reads” as sounds like a perfect book for a mother and daughter to share. Liza, your questions were incredibly thought provoking and loved reading author’s response. Thank you for sharing!!

Liza Wiemer writes:
August 21st, 2012 at 9:33 am

OMGosh Sarah, that is sooo cool! What a fantastic idea. And you are so right – ALICE BLISS is the PERFECT novel to read in a mother/daughter book club. So much to talk about!

To everyone – thank you! I deeply appreciate your thoughtful comments!

Claire writes:
August 21st, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Looks like a great book!

Alice Bliss, a YA novel in an adult disguise | Girls in the Stacks.com writes:
September 27th, 2012 at 2:41 am

[…] weeks ago I was approached by Liza at WhoRUBlog about a book tour for a particular book she could not praise enough. She said, “If a novel could […]

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