by Patricia Leavy
Constellations follows Tess Lee and Jack Miller after three years of marriage as they navigate the meaning of love and family over a series of holidays. Tess is a wildly successful and world-famous novelist. Her inspirational books explore our innermost struggles and the human need to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Jack is a former federal agent. After spending decades immersed in a violent world, a residue remains. Both healing from past trauma, together they have finally built the life they wish to live. What will happen to their blissful union when Jack’s childhood family resurfaces? When Tess and Jack visit the Millers for Christmas, how will insecurity, a sense of missed opportunities, and the need for redemption test their relationship? When a terrible accident threatens everything in an instant, will they learn the true meaning of unconditional love? Their loved ones are along for the ride: Omar, Tess’s sarcastic best friend who calls her Butterfly; the female president of the United States, with whom Tess talks politics and bakes cookies; Joe, Jack’s friend from the Bureau who understands the sacrifices he’s made; Bobby and Gina, their younger friends who never fail to lighten the mood; and the Miller family. Constellations is a novel about family – those into which we’re born and those we create – the human desire to belong and feel connected, the true nature of intimacy, and the power of love to heal and redeem. Written as unfolding action, Constellations is a poignant novel that moves fluidly between melancholy, humor, and joy.
That afternoon, the kitchen in the Miller house was bustling with noise. Tess, Julie, and Mikey were making Christmas ornaments with the boys at the table. Mary was washing dishes and John was drying them. Jack came into the room holding his cell phone. “Tess, Omar is on the phone for you. He couldn’t reach you on yours.”
She looked up, glitter on her face. “I turned the ringer off when we got here. Is everything okay?”
“He said it’s a work thing,” Jack replied.
“Well, I’m a little busy. Can I call him back?” she asked.
“He said it’s urgent but he’ll make it quick.”
“My hands are a mess. Please set the phone on the table and put it on speaker.” She looked at the boys and said, “I’m sorry, this will only take a minute.”
Mary turned off the faucet so Tess would have quiet for her call, and Julie put a finger to her lips to hush the boys.
“Hi, Omar. You’re on speakerphone. I have glue all over my hands,” she said.
“Of course you do,” Omar said with a laugh.
“I’m making Christmas ornaments with my nephews.”
“Butterfly, Crystal and I have been trying to get in touch with you since yesterday. I need your final approval on the streaming deal for the limited series.”
“I turned my phone off. I told you, no work until after the holidays.”
“I know and I’m sorry, but they want the write-off on the books for this calendar year. Everyone will be out of the office from tomorrow until after the new year, so we have to get it done today. I know this donation is important to you. I can sign the paperwork; I just need the green light.”
She sighed. “Fine.”
“You were right,” Omar said. “We were able to get them up to three point four million, and they’ll make the donations directly. Is it a deal?”
“Yes, that’s fine,” Tess replied.
“I also need to confirm that you want to donate one hundred percent. Barry’s still hoping you’ll have a change of heart and keep some of it, but you know how accountants are.”
“Well, he can keep hoping. Have them donate the whole thing.”
“You still want half to go to veterans and half to that children’s wish organization?” Omar asked.
“Yes,” Tess replied. “Is that it?”
“I’m afraid there’s one last question, and I’m bracing myself for your response. Don’t kill the messenger, Butterfly, but your publisher wanted me to ask if you’d reconsider your insistence on keeping the donation anonymous. They’d love to get some publicity out of it. Eliza Elkington could do a profile in her magazine, or you could do a TV spot with Diane.”
“Absolutely not. That offends me to the core. You can tell Claire that if I see anything in the media about this, even so much as a whisper, I’ll assume they leaked the story and I’ll be publishing my next book with someone else.”
“I’m sorry, I had to ask.”
“Please wish everyone happy holidays and tell Claire I hope her son has recovered well from his injury. Are we done?”
“Yes, Butterfly. I’m sorry to disturb you. I hope you and Jack are having a good trip.”
“I love you to pieces, but if you call me about work again, you’re fired.”
“From your business or your life?”
Omar laughed. “If it’s any consolation, Butterfly, you’re doing a good thing that will help a lot of people.”
“Nice attempt at redemption. I’ll talk to you when we’re back in DC. Give my love to Clay.”
She gestured at Jack to hang up. There was complete silence in the room. Mikey and Julie looked up at Jack, their mouths agape. John and Mary looked at each other with shocked expressions and then back at Jack and Tess.
Noticing everyone staring, Tess softly said, “I’m sorry for the interruption.”
John cleared his throat. “Tess, I’m a vet.”
Tess smiled kindly. “I know. Jack told me. Your service was what inspired him to enlist. Since leaving his full-time job with the Bureau, he’s done a lot of wonderful volunteer work to support vets.”
John looked at Jack and then at Mary.
“What John’s trying to say is that was a very generous thing you did,” Mary said.
Tess smiled and turned to the boys. “So, I think the snowflake needs more silver glitter. What do you think? Maybe we can convince your Uncle Jack to sit down and help.” She picked up an ornament and began sprinkling sparkling flakes on it. Jack sat down next to her and squeezed her thigh. Mikey looked at him and smiled. Jack craned his neck to look at his parents, and they smiled too. Mary turned the faucet on and went back to washing the dishes. Jack leaned over and kissed Tess on the cheek. “Here,” she said, handing him a star ornament. “Why don’t you start with this one?”
About the Author
Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., is a bestselling author. She was formerly Associate Professor of Sociology, Chair of Sociology and Criminology, and Founding Director of Gender Studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. She has published over thirty books, earning commercial and critical success in both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been translated into many languages. She is also series creator and editor for ten book series with Oxford University Press, Guilford Press, and Brill/Sense, including the ground-breaking Social Fictions series. Patricia has received dozens of accolades for her books. Recently, her novel Film won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Inspirational Fiction, her 3-novel set Candy Floss Collection won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Anthologies, and her novel Spark won the 2019 American Fiction Award for Inspirational Fiction and the 2019 Living Now Book Award for Adventure Fiction. She has also received career awards from the New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the National Art Education Association. In 2016 Mogul, a global women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and SUNY-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.” She has residences in Maine and Massachusetts where she lives with her husband, daughter (when she’s not away at college), and her dog. Patricia loves writing, reading, watching films, and traveling.
Q&A With the Author
Are you a Plotter (one who plans or plots out every detail of the writing process) or Pantser (one who writes by the seat of his/her pants)?
I’ve definitely become a pantser. My novel Shooting Stars, the first book that follows the love story of Tess Lee and Jack Miller, came to me in a burst as a complete story. I could see and hears all the characters clear as day. In the past I had used outlines and written in chronological order. With Shooting Stars, I viewed it as a compilation of scenes, and that’s how I wrote it – completely out of order. In fact, the last chapter in the book was the first one I wrote, then I skipped around in the middle, and I finished by writing the first chapter. There was no plan or formula. I just sat at my computer and wrote. I loved both the process and result so much, that I’ve been doing the same thing ever since with all my novels, including Constellations—just sitting down and writing scenes, getting lost in the story worlds and characters, and then stitching it all together.
What advice do you have for a new writer?
Develop a relationship with your work that’s independent of others. It’s lovely when people enjoy our work and it can be hurtful when they don’t. Getting too caught up in any of that is dangerous. It can stifle creativity and damage our psyches. Try to make peace with your work and how you feel about the story and characters before you release it into the world.
What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
I love writing dialogue and so my novels are usually dialogue-driven. I know my characters’ voices and personalities well, as if they were my dear friends, and so it’s fun writing scenes between them. Whether it’s a heartfelt moment or a scene in which characters are relaying hilarious stories, I love getting lost in their conversations. It comes naturally to me as if I’m merely translating conversations I can hear. I use dialogue to move the plot forward.
What is your favorite part of this story?
The epilogue. Tess reads an excerpt from her novel that I think is beautiful and ties together the themes of the book. It contains my favorite line I’ve ever written. When I sent the manuscript to early readers, many said the epilogue brought them to tears and lingered with them. Honestly though, I really love the whole story. There’s a lot of love, warmth, and coziness in this story and it embraced me in a big hug. It was a joy to write and it’s my personal favorite of my own books. The world has been especially challenging and sometimes we just need a feel-good escape with heart.
Which Character was the most fun to write about? Why?
It’s a tossup. I really love writing Omar, Tess’s best friend. He’s wickedly funny, sarcastic, and a great storyteller. He and Tess have been the best of friends and considered each other family for over twenty years. He’s the kind of friend everyone wants and it’s always great fun to write him. I also really loved writing Jack in this book. He’s classically masculine in a lot of ways, but he’s also extremely tender and loving. In Constellations, he reconnects with his childhood family with whom he’s been estranged for fifteen years. Through that situation, he grew as a person and that was rewarding for me as a writer.
Which Character was the hardest to write about? Why?
John, Jack’s father. Jack and his dad have been estranged for fifteen years and it’s tense when they reconnect. So many people have issues like that with family members, even if they’re not totally estranged. A lot of people can relate to challenges with family and a sense of missed opportunities or misunderstandings that take on a life of their own. The reconnection between Jack and his dad was challenging because I wanted to do my best to “get it right.”
Patricia Leavy will be awarding a signed set of 3 novels: Shooting Stars, Twinkle, and Constellations to two (US only) randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.
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