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Q&A with JESS RILEY author of ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE @jessrileywrites

Please welcome JESS RILEY to BookHounds!

1. What is the first book you remember reading by yourself as a child?
I want to say it was Miss Twiggley’s Tree. One cool thing was that my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Malwitz made everyone in his advanced reading group tackle the full Lord of the Rings trilogy. Each student was assigned a character, and we read aloud for an hour a day, taking turns to speak our character’s lines. I was Aragorn. It took us most of the school year, and when we finished the entire series, Mr. Malwitz was so overcome with emotion he had to leave the classroom for a minute. Which freaked us all out.
2. What are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Twelve, by Justin Cronin, in between praying that George R.R. Martin doesn’t drop dead before he releases book six in the Song of Fire and Ice series. Maybe I should send him some kale?

3. How does your garden grow?
OMG. I am a HUGE gardener. After Christmas, I count down the days ’til the first garden catalogs arrive and I can start seedlings under lights. We live on a 60’x60’ city lot, but I plant every square inch with perennials, bulbs, roses, annuals, tomatoes, herbs, and shrubs. It basically takes 48 seconds to mow our lawn. And every summer I do a little “Monarch Ranching,” which is one of those weird hobbies you start by accident. Essentially, I grow a ton of milkweed and then raise Monarch caterpillars from egg to butterfly in mesh cages in my laundry room. Last year I released 45 butterflies.
My husband is such a good sport. 

4. What is the last thing you Googled?

Okay, before I admit to this, you should know I bottle-fed a trio of orphaned baby raccoons when I was eleven, and two years ago I rescued a baby rabbit from a cat, wrapped it in a blanket and drove it an hour to a rehab center, donating $100 to its care and recovery. So. This is embarrassing and strange, but the last thing I Googled was “Dead Raccoon Get Well Balloon.” It’s a photo of a dead raccoon on the side of the road, and someone had tied a Get Well balloon to its paw. I saw it on Facebook recently, and it sent me into this cycle of “Awww!” (sad face), followed by laughing out loud. I was going to put it on my blog for some reason, but in the end I decided it was in poor taste. But still funny. And sad. And then funny again.

5. What makes you cringe?

There are so many, many things that make me cringe (denim-on-denim, the use of the phrase “it is what it is,” certain smells in Walmart); but I’m going to interpret this literally. Any time I witness a painful-looking or moderately disgusting injury, the backs of my legs, knee-to-butt, turn into tingly jelly. It gets so bad I even fall down (like if I walk into the room while my husband is watching Tosh.0 and I don’t have time to shield my eyes). I could NEVER be a nurse, unless I did it in a seated position the whole time.

About the Author

Wisconsin native Jess Riley spent much of her childhood being punished for lying and passing notes during class, both of which qualified her for a future as a novelist. She won her first short story contest in high school for a tale told through the point of view of a seven-year-old black boy living in Cabrini Green because as a middle-class white teenager, she knew a lot about that kind of life.
Jess has been a waitress, a blue cheese packager, and a grant writer. She worked at a toy store during the Tickle Me Elmo craze and lived to tell about it. She's also worked at a medium-security men's prison, which was much less stressful. She shares a drafty old house in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with her husband and a neurotic dog that despises public radio.
Her debut novel, DRIVING SIDEWAYS, was released by Random House in 2008. Selected as a Target Breakout Book, it returned to press four times within three months of release. Jess drank lots of wine to celebrate. ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE is her second novel. For more about Jess and her books, visit or find her on Facebook:

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Book Description

 October 30, 2012

"WANTED: a whole new family to share holidays with. Please have a good heart and be a thoughtful, polite person. No sociopaths, no pedophiles, no fans of the Kardashians. We're not weirdos, I promise. I love old Steve Martin movies, new Steve Martin banjo tunes, Indian food, and reruns of Bob Ross painting happy little trees. So if you're looking for something other than the typical family dysfunction this Christmas, drop us a line."

After losing her beloved mother to cancer, 37-year-old Jaime Collins must confront the ugly fact that she and her siblings don't actually like one another. At all. Fueled by grief and an epic argument at Thanksgiving dinner, Jaime decides to 'divorce' her siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family for Christmas. 

What happens next is a heartwarming, funny, and surprising journey to forgiveness and healing. Is blood really thicker than water? And how far do we have to go to find our way back home again?

Dedicated to anyone who has ever wanted to unfriend a relative on Facebook, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE is about family: those you make ... and those you make peace with.

From the Author

I wrote All the Lonely People two years ago, after I was hit pretty hard by the Story Question Stick: what would drive someone to post an ad for a new family, and what kind of people would answer it? In answer to the first part, things would have to be pretty sour with that family of origin ... and to the second: well, can you hear the Benny Hill theme music from here?

The sibling dynamic also fascinates me; and when one or both parents are gone, it seems like brothers and sisters face the real test of their relationship. (Speaking of which, my parents are both alive and well. My mother likes to joke about this book, though: "This is the one I die in, right?")

I hope that when you finish reading, you'll want to call your sister, hug your spouse, write a haiku, visit someone in a nursing home, adopt a three-legged dog. This is as close as I'll come to writing a Hallmark movie (on acid), and I hope it warms your heart, even a little.

Book Description

May 20, 2008

Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.

With her newfound vitality (and Larry’s kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas–and a memorable visit to thank Larry’s family for the second chance.

Yet Leigh’s itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up a seventeen-year-old hitchhiker, Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates’s Greatest Hits to the mix, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope, and discovery.

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