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Jill Shalvis on the Making of "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Merry Christmas BabyWild child Chloe Thompson can't believe how much things have changed. She still can't get enough of her sexy husband Sawyer, but he seems to prefer working to impending fatherhood. So tonight, a very pregnant Chloe is escaping her troubles at the town Christmas party.

Sheriff Sawyer Thompson hopes surprising Chloe at the party will give him a chance to set things right. But as the snow begins to fall and the wind rages, he wonders whether he can make it back in time. While mother nature conspires to keep Sawyer and Chloe apart, an unexpected arrival will require them to kiss and make up...and ring in the happiest holiday Lucky Harbor has ever seen. Here, Jill Shalvis talks about the inspiration behind writing Merry Christmas, Baby.

I love the holidays.  All the kids are home, and it’s usually snowing outside and warm inside from the baking of cookies – or in my case, the burning of the cookies…

Last year when this happened, our new fire alarm went off and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.  We have really high ceilings and there was no way to reach the smoke detector.  A neighbor called the police, and a sheriff came to the door.  He looked a little rumpled and a lot overworked, but he smiled when he saw the burnt cookies.

“My wife does that a lot,” he said with obvious warmth and love.

It reminded me that one of my favorite couples--sexy sheriff Sawyer Thompson and wildcard Chloe Traeger from my book Head Over Heels--would be celebrating this holiday too, and chances were that Chloe was doing something to both irritate Sawyer and yet turn him on at the same time.

The thought wouldn’t leave me alone. But how I could I do justice in a novella to a couple who had an undeniably explosive chemistry and whirlwind romance the first time around?  I also didn’t want to give them some silly misunderstanding or lightweight conflict and take away from their intense and fierce relationship, the one I’d painstakingly built in Head Over Heels.  I mean, to be honest, those two nearly drove me to drink the first time around.

Then it hit me, the idea for the story I could tell that would at once both heighten their relationship and yet change it forever.  Picture me cackling and rubbing my hands together in glee over my laptop as I spun the new web.  I’m not going to tell you what I did, or what Chloe and Sawyer have to go through, but suffice it to say I loved every minute of the writing of this story, Merry Christmas, Baby.   

Though I was so happy to revisit these characters, it was also a little bittersweet since this would be the last Lucky Harbor – for now.  I never say never, especially since readers tend to get upset when they realize this might be goodbye to Lucky Harbor.  So let’s just call it a goodbye for now, okay?  Can we all live with that?  And I promise to come back and visit it when the time is right.

Happy Reading,
Jill Shalvis

Top Five Toughest Interview Questions and How to Nail Them

Congratulations—you’ve snagged the big interview! You know the position is perfect for you, you’ve done your research on the company, and you’re feeling confident. But what will you do if you’re asked a curveball question you’re not expecting? Of all the tools in your professional arsenal, your ability to shine in that brief moment in time can make or break your chances of landing the job of your dreams. Interviewing is at least 50% preparation!

Ron Fry, author of "101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions," has hired hundreds of employees and interviewed thousands of candidates. Here are five of the toughest questions you could be asked in an interview and strategies for how to answer them.ToughestInterviewQuestions

“How long have you been looking for a job?”

Unless you’ve been fired or laid off, your answer should always be that you’ve just started looking. Rightly or wrongly, many interviewers presume that the longer you’ve been out there, the less desirable you are to hire.

If you have been out of work for a while, be prepared to explain why you haven’t received or accepted any offers yet. You’re just as choosy about finding the right job as the interviewer is about hiring the right candidate and it’s good you’ve been so selective—now you have a shot at landing the position you’re currently interviewing for.

“What is the biggest failure you’ve had in your career? What steps have you taken to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again?”

Before you start spilling your guts, remember that the interviewer is not a priest and you are not in a confessional! The best approach is to admit to one weakness or failure and then talk about the steps you are taking (or have taken) to make sure that you’ll never fail in quite that way again. Choose any deficiency that might be considered a plus in a slightly different light. For example, you have a tendency to take on too much yourself. You are trying to solve this problem by delegating better.

“If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?”

Interviewers use hypothetical questions like this to get candidates to think on their feet. Unless you’re shooting for a complete change of career, you should convince the interviewer that you wouldn’t change a thing. Position your regrets as missed opportunities that you’ve learned from. For instance: “My only regret is that I didn’t go in this direction sooner.”

“You’ve changed jobs quite frequently. How do we know you’ll stick around?”

The hiring process is expensive for companies and time-consuming for managers. In framing your reply, convince the interviewer you have staying power by painting the position or offer as your career’s “promised land.” You can confess that you had some difficulty defining your career goals, but now you’re quite sure of your direction, or let them know that you left previous positions only after you realized that moving on was the only way to increase your responsibilities and broaden your experience.

“Are you a risk-taker or do you prefer to play it safe?”

In most cases, the ideal candidate will be a little of both. Interviewers who ask this question are probing for intimations of innovation and creativity. Are you the shepherd or just one of the flock? But they also want to find out whether you might turn into a loose cannon who will ignore company policies and be all too ready to lead a fatal cavalry charge. Temper your answer to show that you’re always seeking out new strategies and ideas but are not insubordinate.


Author Bio:

Ron Fry has written more than 40 books, including the best-selling 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions and 101 Smart Questions to Ask on Your Interview. He is a frequent speaker and seminar leader on a variety of job-search and hiring topics and the founder and president of Career Press. He lives in New Jersey with his family.

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Wu, author of "The Roommates"

The RoommatesWe all know the horror stories--the passive-aggressives, the hoarders, the oversharers--but roommates can change your life for the better, too. For my new book, The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters, I wanted to find stories that embraced the great part of living with a stranger as well. Several people shocked me with their humanity and how well they dealt with extraordinary living situations--particularly these five roommates, who truly went above and beyond.

1.    The Teenage Cousin Who Came To Her Rescue:
When recent graduate Karen* moved in with her college freshman cousin, she wasn’t sure what their roommate relationship would be--was she supposed to keep him out of trouble? One day, Karen came home to her cousin and his friends, as well as their married next-door neighbor, hanging out in the living room. As she headed upstairs, she noticed the neighbor following her. “I saw his eyes darting around to the open door to my cousin’s room, and he started trying to push me in,” she recalls. Luckily, she managed to fight him off, and he ran out of the apartment. After realizing what had happened, Karen’s cousin followed the husband and beat him up, breaking his own hand in the process. When they moved in together, Karen thought she’d be a guardian of sorts--she never realized it was her teenage cousin who would come to her rescue.

2.    The Local Student Who Helped Her Navigate A Foreign Country:
Ricki studied abroad in Botswana, where she lived with local student Keletso in a dorm. The language barrier made it hard for the two to communicate, but over time, Keletso taught Ricki how to live in Botswana--showering with a bucket, the ritualistic hair braiding, and even how to survive an attack of locust-like flying ants. When Ricki’s homestay fell through later in the semester, Keletso opened up her home, and the two became family. “Living in Botswana was incredibly life-changing,” says Ricki. “I wouldn’t have been able to process what I was going through without Keletso’s quiet guidance.”

3.    The Suitemates Who Attended Therapy Together:
During college, Rose lived with five girls in an off-campus apartment, including Sandra, who they eventually found out had been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. After a violent episode, when one of Sandra’s personalities smashed several mugs in the sink and cut her hands in the process, the roommates, at Sandra’s suggestion, decided to go to therapy together to try to cope with and understand the disorder. Slowly, the roommates figured out Sandra’s triggers--dark movies, surprises, and even church, where abuse had occurred. “When I look back on it, it wasn’t a traumatizing experience,” says Rose. “The roommate therapy forced us to bond and support one another. I’m undoubtedly closer to them than any other group of roommates I ever had.”
4.    The Roommate Who Lent a Hand to First-Time Parents
When looking for a change of pace, Eva, despite warnings from friends, decided to move into a new apartment with Erin and Aaron, an engaged couple she met on Craigslist. Soon after the wedding, Erin and Aaron told Eva that they were pregnant, but she was welcome to continue living with them. They assured her they would do their best to keep the baby from disrupting her life. “I got to see the new-parent experience firsthand,” says Eva. “For the first six weeks, they were like zombies.” One Saturday morning, she found Aaron asleep with the baby next to him in her high chair, so Eva dragged the chair into her room to let Aaron take a nap. “They were so embarrassed, but I knew how sleep-deprived they were,” she says. When Eva moved out, she was sad to say goodbye to her roommates. After all, in their time living together, the baby’s crying only woke her up once or twice--and pretty much any roommate in New York will do that to you.

5.    The Friend Who Cooks, Cleans, And Runs Errands
After receiving his Ph.D., Nate wasn’t sure what to do with his life. His good friend, Ben, had just bought a large house with his fiancée, Becca, and offered one of the many extra rooms to him for free. “I was expected to chip in on cleaning, cooking, and other little things around the house,” says Nate, who turned into a full-fledged household manager: planning meals, walking the dogs, helping with home renovation, and consulting on Becca’s business. Though it wasn’t what he was expecting to be doing in his thirties, it’s an arrangement that has worked out. “I get to live with my friends and hang out with them all the time,” he says. “It’s much better than moving in with your parents--the default for this generation and time.”

*All names have been changed

How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

The Birth of Korean Cool reveals how a really uncool country became cool, and how a nation that once The Birth of Korean Coolbanned miniskirts, long hair on men, and rock ‘n’ roll could come to mass produce boy bands, soap operas, and one of the world’s most important smart phones. Here, the author, Euny Hong, gives a guide to modern Korean etiquette.

1. It is never considered rude to ask someone’s age—technically, instead ask, "What year were you born?" Without knowing which party is older, no one knows how to act or speak. One central tenet of etiquette in Korea is that you have to pay attention to who you are in relation to those around you: Man or woman? Older or younger? Professional rank? Etc. etc. You base all of your actions on hierarchy. If someone new enters the room, you have to recalibrate your behavior.

2. Food and drink are to be consumed whilst sitting or not at all, and indoors unless you are sitting on a picnic blanket. Do not carry around food or drink; not even a bottled water. And definitely not coffee. That would be like walking the streets with a pint of Guinness. And for crying out loud, don't bring beverages into the subway. You don't want to be the jerk who spills liquids on someone's Samsung Galaxy smartphone while they're live-streaming their morning TV programs.

3. Corollary to above: Under no circumstances should you bring your refreshment into someone else's home or office. I don't care if you still have a 3/4 cup full of iced latte; you have to toss it before you cross the threshold. By bringing your own insolent beverage, you have denied your hosts the chance to offer a refreshment. They will per custom offer you a coffee even though you have one; you are obligated to say yes and you will end up with two coffees. If you refuse, your hosts can’t have any coffee either.

4. Do not pour your own alcohol. If you want your glass topped off, hint at this by pouring alcohol into someone else’s glass, whether this person wants it or not. That person must then offer to pour some into your glass. A second and very important rule is that when you are pouring alcohol for someone, pour with your right hand and use your left hand to hold your sleeve. This will assure your drinking buddies that you will not stab them with your free hand.

5. If you are out drinking with friends or colleagues, it's not considered sporting to go home until everyone does. Nausea is in no way a good reason to go home. If you must vomit, go off and do it in the bathroom or alleyway, then return and repeat the self-poisoning/purge process. It is totally within bounds to ask a friend to help you barf.

6. If you are a student at a public K-12 school, never raise your hand in class. No good can come of it. If you have to use the bathroom, wait till after class. If you have a question, let it go. If the teacher is horribly wrong about something and you are trying to correct him/her…you are mistaken. Also, jackets are to be zipped/buttoned up or not worn at all.

7. Your pockets are no place for your hands.

Author Booklist: Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew Recommend

Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, creators of The Shadow Hero,  recommend their top Asian-American books.

51u6oy3jIpLFrom Gene Luen Yang:

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

Cartoonist powerhouse Derek Kirk Kim perfectly captures what it was like to be an Asian American twenty-something in the 90's.  I know.  I was there.

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

To be perfectly truthful, I don't remember much from most of the books I read.  But this book haunts me. There's a scene where the narrator picks on a quiet girl in the bathroom -- it's been years since I read it, but I can still feel it.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo

Yes, this is a teen romance.  Why would a 40-year-old man be recommending a teen romance?  Because David Yoo is hilarious.

Malinky Robot by Sonny Liew

OK.  So this isn't exactly Asian American, but Sonny cheated on his list so why can't I?  Honestly, I would recommend this book even if Sonny and I aren't friends.  Malinky Robot follows the adventures of Oliver and Atari, two street urchins living in a futuristic metropolis.  

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Another cheat.  Endo is Japanese, not Japanese American, and his book was originally written in his native tongue.  Even so, in this masterful novel about a European missionary travelling through a hostile 17th Century Japan, Endo explores the clash between Eastern and Western belief systems, a struggle central to the Asian American experience.


From Sonny Liew:

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
I've enjoyed all of Allen Say's books -- the art and language looks  simple of the surface, but they're wonderfully adept at capturing the passage of time; a sense of things lost, and found, if only for a moment again, in his stories. This account of his Grandfather's journey from Japan to the United States and back again reminds us of how we can be torn between all the places we've lived in -- that there might be no one true home, and our choices are dictated by our mortality as much as anything else.

Drawing From Memory by Allen Say
My favorite of Say's books, though, is Drawing From Memory, about his early apprenticeship under the Manga artist Noro Shinpei. Using artwork and photographs, he shows us the early fears, hopes, and dreams of a young artist in post-war Japan. It's pitch perfect from beginning to end.

The Ghost Bride: A Novel by Yangsze Choo
The writer spent her early years Malaysia but now lives in the United States. The novel itself is a supernatural tale set in 19th century Malacca. Yangsze and I have talked about adapting the book into a graphic novel -- something I raised after reading a draft of the story. It's a bit of Sandman-esque fantasy set in my home country of Malaysia, with a brave (in believable ways) female protagonist -- I think it'd make a great comic, but the book itself if of course well worth a read.

51hzCCavQOLSour Sweet by Timothy Mo
I read this years and years ago – it’s about Chinese immigrants making a go in London, and the cultural gap between generations. There were troubles with triads in there, too. In my own mind, Sour Sweet has become the prototypical immigrant novel. It's also been a while since I've read another book in the same genre -- a reluctance borne maybe of fear of repetition. Which is probably unfair to all those books out there, but somehow Sour Sweet already occupies that brain space, and there hasn't been room for more just yet.

Chan is Missing by Wayne Wang
Strictly speaking this clearly isn't a book of any sort -- but it's one of my favorite movies and an intriguing look at Chinese-American assimilation in the United States. There's a sort of Rashomon thing going on, with multiple accounts of the life of the missing Chan providing no easy answers, but rather a textured, complex view of a man. It's funny as well!

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
It's rather good, this.

The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck
Ok, by now this whole Asian American Lit category thing is halfway out the window, maybe we can pretend this counts too. I remember The Good Earth being a harrowing read -- all the hardships the protagonist goes through. I can't vouch for how accurate it is a depiction of the lives of Chinese villagers back in the day, but it certainly felt authentic,  a book that's lived long in the memory even as the details have faded.

Skim by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
I haven't had a chance to read their new book This One Summer (from First Second!) yet, but Skim was wonderfully drawn and written, an unexpected surprise when I picked it up on a whim from a local comics store. The beauty, aches, half-truths and half-lies of adolescence, all expertly and subtly captured.


Zita the Spacegirl is back!

In celebration of this week's release of "The Return of Zita the Spacegirl," check out Ben Hatke's exclusive original art below! Zita

Zita, the young girl from earth who finds herself hopping from world to world on a quest to get home, is the character through which I learned to be a storyteller. I started making Zita comics to entertain a very special girl (Anna, now my wife). I continued making Zita webcomics when I was inspired by Kazu Kibuishi's Copper. I wanted to teach myself to make better comics and distilling stories into one or two pages was the perfect method. Finally, it was time to write book-length stories and I sat down to tell the story of why this girl from earth was so far from home in the first place.

And so I'm thrilled to be sharing this last book in the Zita trilogy because it's kind of my senior thesis as a writer/illustrator -- not judged by a professor but by smiles and gasps of readers (both young and old, I hope) who turn the pages.

I hope I get an A.

Ben Hatke_Zita the Spacegirl original art

Comics, Wrestling and Telling the Story of Andre the Giant

Box Brown, the author of the new Andre the Giant graphic novel talks about the similarities between the art of comics and professional wrestling and his admiration for the subject of his new book. AndretheGiant

Comics and wrestling seem like a natural fit to me.  When, as an adult, you tell someone you’re interested in comics you have to be prepared to defend that.  I think there can be a lot of misconceptions about what comics are and what comics can be, like that they’re only for kids or perhaps a generation of older men still living in their parents’ basements.  As a comic artist (and reader) I know this just is not the case.  Comics is a medium capable of an infinite range of expressions—an art form.  I believe that pro-wrestling is an art form too.

Surely then, if pro-wrestling is an art form, it has had no greater master than Andre the Giant.  Andre had a condition known as acromegaly, which caused him to grow too large for his own good.  When he was told he wouldn’t live past the age of forty, he decided to live the life he had to the fullest.  Andre had a leg up in the pro-wrestling business, because he was a huge man who was naturally foreboding. But he didn’t rest on that.  He knew how to work a crowd the way great comedians and MCs do.  He knew how to play both a “babyface” (good guy) and “heel” (bad guy) to perfection.  He also worked constantly for many many years to develop his craft. 

In pro-wrestling when two wrestlers are developing a match they say they are telling a story in the ring.  So, in addition to all the storylines that go into a pro-wrestling television show, the two athletes in the ring are telling a story.  It’s a sequential story that has the qualities we look for in the greatest works of literature.  The hero sets out on a quest and is tested and beaten down and eventually he rises to the occasion to defeat and overcome his detractors.  Each story is different and can be a drama, tragedy or comedy.  Each wrestler has his own unique style and way to depict his character.  Is it that different from using a brush and ink (and Photoshop) to tell this type of story on the comic page? 

I think of Andre’s story as a tragic one.  He was disabled for a large part of his life and he died at only forty six years old.  He was mostly portrayed on TV and spoken of as a kind man with gentle heart.  But Andre was only human.  He had all the flaws and personal idiosyncrasies that we all have.  He was imperfect at times.  He spent a lot of time in pain.  I think he felt disconnected to this world that he didn’t quite fit in.  Every aspect of his life had to be special fitted for him, from his clothes to his cutlery to his cars.

Towards the end of Andre’s career he was in a lot of pain. People said he probably should have retired and he could have, financially, but instead he persevered.  I think this is what I admire most about him.  I think those moments when he was in the ring creating stories were extremely important to him and really made him happy.  I hope one day when I’m nearing the end I continue to persevere and create the way Andre did. 


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The Time of the Finite

Philippe Squarzoni, author of Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science asks, “How can we--each of us in our own sphere--handle the fundamental contradictions between our lifestyle and the needs of the environment?” ClimateChanged

In 2006, while I was working on my previous documentary graphic novel, I began to look into the issue of global warming. I realized that, probably like most of us, I didn’t know a lot about it, and I decided to explore it more seriously.

I grasped, then, the nature of the climate crisis, the gravity of the situation, and the enormity of the changes that would have to be put in place to escape the worst consequences of climate change. And it became clear to me that it could not be just a few pages devoted to it, but an entire book itself, to which I committed six years of work.

The IPCC reports, scientific books on the subject, and interviews with experts and journalists paint a rather bleak picture of our collective future. While the first part of my book details the causes and consequences of climate change, in the second part it addresses possible alternatives and the energy scenarios that will allow us to escape this as best as possible.

It’s both this growing understanding and the questions that are posed on an individual level that Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science recounts.

How can we—each of us in our own sphere—handle the fundamental contradictions between our lifestyle and the needs of the environment?

If the magnitude of the changes that must be made far exceed the capacity of our individual actions, then true change must be made on a much broader, structural level—these must be political decisions, where, unfortunately, inaction is the order of the day.

Each of the past three decades, the surface of the earth has been successively hotter, compared to all other decades since 1850. Greenhouse gas emissions are now higher than in the most pessimistic predictions.

We stand, in a way, in the intermediate period between two moments in history. A first one where the riches of nature were considered infinite, unlimited resources, a period of perpetual growth. This was the time of promise. But we must move now into a second period, where the constraints of the climate are imposed on us—the depletion of resources, the limits of the planet. This is the time of the finite.

In Montana, “brown season” is a name for a fifth season, a period of transition between winter and spring. A period of uncertainty, from which we must now move on.


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Two Things We Get Wrong About Social Mobility

Michael Goodwin, author of Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), in Words and Pictures, discusses the challenges with getting ahead in the world. 51rFM2e87lL

A recent study claims that social mobility in the U.S. hasn’t changed for the last several decades. (See “Upward Mobility Has Not Declined, Study Says” by David Leonhardt, New York Times, January 23, 2014.) The paper received a lot of attention; after all, most of us think it’s harder to get ahead than it used to be.

And we’re right. The paper looks at one type of social mobility, and not the important type.

Think of a ladder with a hundred rungs, with a person on each rung. The paper looks at our ability to climb the ladder—the chance that, say, someone born on rung 20 can climb to rung 80.

And it’s true that it’s no harder for a child born at the bottom to climb to the top than it was in the 1970s. (It’s not easy, compared to other countries, but it’s no harder.)

But that type of mobility isn’t what we should be looking at. After all, it’s a zero-sum game—you can’t climb up a rung without pushing someone else down.

By contrast, here’s what social mobility used to look like. Check out how real after-tax incomes increased just from 1941 to 1950 (in constant dollars):

Income rank

Change in After-Tax Income, 1941-1950

Bottom 20%


Next 20%


Middle 20%


Next 20%


Top 20%


Source: The Review of Economics and Statistics, Selma Goldsmith, et. al., Vol. 36, No. 1, The MIT Press, Feb., 1954.

So if you were on, say, the 40th rung, your income improved even if you stayed on that rung. An entire generation rose into the middle class, not because other people dropped out of it, but because more people could afford a middle-class lifestyle.

That’s the type of social mobility we want, and that’s what we’ve lost. Where the ladder used to lengthen, carrying us up even if we stayed on the same rung, now we’re lucky to stay even. All too often, people who stay on the same rung fall out of the middle class. (See “The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.” by Nelson D. Schwartz, New York Times, February 2, 2014.)

Why did this happen? Was it, as Time says (in “Time to Talk About Inequality” by Rana Foroohar, February 10, 2014), the unavoidable result of “the forces of globalization and technology?”

If that sounds odd to you, you’re right—we had technology and trade in the mid-20th century, and economic law hasn’t somehow completely reversed itself since then. And other countries share our technology, and trade in the same world, without squeezing their middle class out of existence.

What’s really changed is our politics. In the mid-20th century our economic policies were designed to expand the middle class. Since the 1980s, our policies—whatever their official justifications—have been designed to concentrate wealth at the very top. In both cases, the policies worked.

For instance, check out the income tax, circa 1948:


Income left over after federal income tax









$1 million


Source: Paul Samuelson, Economics, McGraw-Hill, 1948, p173.

To turn that into current dollars, add a zero—a 1948 dollar had roughly ten times the purchasing power of a 2013 dollar (see this CPI Inflation Calculator). So someone who made the equivalent of $10 million would get to keep only a little more than a million and a half.

In the government’s hands, that money became spending and jobs.

Today, billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries (see “Buffett says he's still paying lower tax rate than his secretary” by Chris Isidore @CNNMoney, March 4, 2013) and that’s if they pay taxes at all (see “Millionaires Don't Pay Taxes?” by Dennis Romero, LAWeekly, Mon, Aug 8, 2011). They sit on that money (see “How the rich save today” by Lora Shinn,, while the government can barely afford to stay open at all.

So we get two things wrong about social mobility. It is falling, and it’s not due to the impersonal operation of economic laws. If we want to return to the sort of mobility we used to have—where “getting ahead” didn’t mean leaving someone else behind—we should try returning to the sort of policies that favor the middle class.

Certainly, favoring the rich hasn’t helped anyone except the rich.

Guest Blogger: Barbara Taylor Bradford on “A Woman of Substance”

A Woman of SubstanceNew York Times best-selling romance author Barbara Taylor Bradford discusses her breakout first novel, A Woman of Substance, one of the top ten best-selling novels ever written with more than 32 million copies sold.

A Woman of Substance was my first novel.  I had attempted to write four others, and every time I stopped when I'd written about 90 or 100 pages. I simply didn't like them.

And then one day, unexpectedly, a young girl popped into my head as if from nowhere. I could see her clearly in my mind's eye. She was a girl of 12, and I knew she would grow up to be a beautiful young woman. Her hair was auburn and she had green eyes. But the important thing was that I sensed she was determined and clever and had a strong will.

That very moment, I took out my yellow pad and started to make notes. And soon I knew her very well indeed! Her name was Emma Harte. I understood she was driven and ambitious, and she was going to become and extraordinary woman. In fact, I wanted her to become a woman who would make it in a man's world of business when women were not doing that. I decided she would become a great tycoon.

Essentially, A Woman of Substance is the life story of a girl who started with nothing in life, who overcame hardships and adversity of every kind and triumphed in the end. I believe it’s an inspiring book because Emma achieves her dreams.

When I started to write the book, I knew I would finish this one. I had to because Doubleday in New York had bought it on a 12-page outline plus 90 pages – and they had done so within 48 hours of first reading those pages.

People have asked me why A Woman of Substance became so successful, and so quickly. I think there are many answers to this question. To begin with, Emma is a compelling character, as are her life long friends Blackie O'Neill and Paul McGill, the love of her life. And of course, the book has everything in it... drama, intrigue, money, passion, power and revenge – all of those great human emotions that make for a good story.

Eventually, A Woman of Substance was published in 90 countries and 40 languages. And I'm happy to tell you that it is still selling today. Woman all over the world told me that Emma Harte was their true role model, and that the book had changed their lives for the better. Some had started businesses. Others left bad relationships or abusive marriages. Many had gone to live in other cities. But they had all moved on and been successful. They thanked me for creating Emma Harte.

I had set out to simply tell a good story about a strong woman. I hadn't intended to send a message. But apparently, quite unconsciously I had. To sum it all up, all I know is that I wrote the kind of story I love to tell about an ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary in living her life a certain way and goes out to conquer the world.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s second and third book in The Emma Harte Saga, Hold the Dream and To Be the Best, are now available in ebook, along with Act of Will, Angel, Remember, The Women in His Life and Voice of the Heart.