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Tessa is another reader who agreed to be interviewed. If her recommended books are a good indicator, I think we would get on wonderfully! Welcome to A Writer of History, Tessa.

Please tell us a little about yourself: for example, background, age range, country, general book reading habits. If you’re prepared to share your name or your first name, please do. My name is Tessa. On GoodReads my user name is Book Concierge.   I’m recently retired and in my mid 60s.  I was born and live in the USA.  I read voraciously across a wide variety of genres. Basically, if it has words, I’m willing to read it.  In the last three weeks I’ve read science fiction, historical fiction, classic, cozy mystery, young adult, literary fiction, detective mystery, and a children’s adventure book. However, my favorite genre is literary fiction; I like a book I can sink my teeth into, that makes me think, that engenders conversation and discussion at book club.  I belong to six (yes, 6) face-to-face book discussion groups (moderate two of them), as well as several groups on Goodreads.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? For me the power of fiction is its ability to transport me to a different time/place/circumstance, and yet allow me to connect with the characters in a way that makes me interested and invested in what happens to them. It fuels my imagination. And also makes me more compassionate, in that I can understand the similarities between myself and a character who may be of a different race, ethnic background, societal culture, religion, time period, etc.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I like character-driven works best, but am game for a great plot with many twists as well.  If there’s anything I steer clear of it’s probably paranormal and romance works.  I’ve read some, and will probably read others in the future, but they just aren’t my cup of tea.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’. Landscape that is practically a character … as in McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove  or  Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River.   Clear and vivid descriptions that have me practically smelling and tasting the food or environment … as in Gibb’s The Beauty of Humanity Movement  or The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones.  And period details will transport me as in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? I’m not quick to hand out 5-star ratings.  I read about 180-200 books a year and in the last 12 months (Nov 2017 to present) here are the ones I’ve given 5 stars to:

A Gentleman in Moscow– Amor Towles   –  love the character and the premise. His room is small, his world is not.

Inside the O’Briens– Lisa Genova  –  loved how Genova informed as well as entertained. I had great compassion for this family.

The Radium Girls– Kate Moore  (NONfiction) – informative, inspiring, and infuriating.

We Band of Angels– Elizabeth M Norman  (NONfiction) – informative and inspiring. Love reading about strong women!

A Thread of Grace– Mary Doria Russell – beautiful prose; an aspect of WW2 I hadn’t read about before; brought me to tears

To Kill a Mockingbird– Harper Lee (re-read) – a perennial favorite; I’ve read it at least 20 times and will never tire of it.

Someone Knows My Name– Lawrence Hill – historical information I was unaware of; characters I cared about and cheered for.

Exit West– Mohsin Hamid – such a unique concept, yet focused on the characters.

Educated: A Memoir– Tara Westover  (NONfiction) – inspiring and horrifying. Looking forward to book club next week!

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café– Fannie Flagg (re-read) – These characters fairly leap off the page.

Of Mice and Men– John Steinbeck (re-read) – a book that never fails to touch me for its depiction of love and loyalty. I think this was the 4thtime I’ve read this; as well as seeing at least two movie adaptations and watching a live performance of the play twice.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I only buy hardcover first editions, preferably when I can get them signed by the author.  I tend to buy literary fiction only.  Virtually every book I read comes from the library.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I am lucky to live in Milwaukee Wisconsin where there is an excellent independent bookseller who knows me, knows my tastes, recommends books to me, brings in authors, and generally feeds my addiction to hardcover first editions.

If you’re a book blogger or run a book site, please tell us a little about your focus and features. I don’t do this, though people tell me I should.

Many thanks, Tessa. I’m sure your thoughts will inspire others – both readers and authors. Have you read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah? I finished it recently and based on your comment on landscape as a character, I think you would enjoy it.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.