February 7, 2017

Devonnaire Street Girls • The Careful Undressing of Love (+ Guest Post)

I have so much love and respect for Corey Ann Haydu and her work. She always manages to craft stories that are uniquely complicated and utterly compelling, and I've thoroughly enjoyed all of them so far. The Careful Undressing of Love, which came out last week, is no exception. It's a beautifully penned story of love, grief and community, and I was enthralled by it. Before you check out what I thought, however, I'm really excited to be able to welcome Corey to the blog today to chat about the inspiration for the Devonnaire Street Girls. Take it away, Corey!

I started dreaming about Devonairre Street and the Devonairre Girls when I first moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, in 2010. I was so inspired by my new neighborhood, the very south end of Park Slope. It wasn’t the bustling, trendy part of the neighborhood. South Slope was filled with families who had lived there for ages and had a slower pace. There were actual houses around the corner from me. People knew my name. Coming off of a nine year stint in Manhattan, this was a revelation. There was an older man a few buildings down who sat outside with a bongo drum and a radio and played along with whatever was playing. All day, every day. He was new to me, but to everyone else on the street, he was a staple. I wanted to write about that sort of familiar oddity. The kind of place that looks unusual from the outside but is so seeped in tradition that it would be hard to see it as anything but average from the inside. 

I borrowed bits and pieces of South Slope for Devonairre Street. There’s a gorgeous community garden there that seemed downright magical to me, and I reimagined that for Devonairre Street. I thought of the deli across the street from my place as the deli in the book, and the bakery was based on the place I got a chocolate croissant from every morning. A hole-in-the-wall that has since closed. Bistro was based loosely on an old haunt of mine in the East Village, Jules, and even the bar Lorna visits, Julia’s in Prospect Height is named such because my best friend Julia lives in Prospect Heights. I loosely based the bar itself not on her home, but on a bar/café that I love and wrote early drafts of the book in, 61 Local. 

As for the Devonairre Street Girls, they’re harder to pin down. Over time, over many drafts, the book became more of a group story and less of only Lorna’s story. Part of that decision was organic—just what happens as you write a book and discover new things. But part of the decision came after I was working on putting together a writing exercise for a class I was teaching. I was cutting evocative images out of fashion magazines to hand over as inspiration. But, as usual, I couldn’t resist keeping some for myself. The images I held on to were of four girls, hanging on to each other, huddled on a stoop, looking sort of like clones but also very individual. They were all staring off into the distance and the looks on their faces were a little bored and a little enraged and a little wistful and a little hopeful. I wanted to write those girls. The ones who had all that intimacy and closeness but also were all so solidly in their own heads. 

Some of my books borrow directly from the circumstances of my life. But THE CAREFUL UNDRESSING OF LOVE is different. It borrows from the locations of my life, and the themes of my life, but the story of the girls is entirely their own. I knew what their world looked like, but I had no idea what would happen to them. It made the writing of the book one of the most exciting, scary, and fulfilling experiences I’ve had creatively. Even now, sitting in a café I think Charlotte would like, eying a chocolate croissant on Lorna’s behalf, waiting for someone as handsome as Cruz or as charismatic as Delilah to come in, imagining how Isla would dance in today’s rain and stomp in the puddles, I miss the girls and their street.

As I loved the way the Devonnaire Street girls were written, it is absolutely fascinating to hear more about them. So grateful to Corey for sharing! Before you go and enter the fabulous tour-wide giveaway that's happening, here's my official review for The Careful Undressing of Love.

The Careful Undress of Love book cover
It is said that the Devonnaire Street girls are cursed, cursed to be the reason that the boys who love them die. Lorna Ryder, one of the current residents of Devonnaire Street, has always been content to pretend to play along and believe in the curse so she can stay on this street with her friends and the memories of the father she lost in a terrorist bombing. But when her best friend’s boyfriend dies, and another bombing happens in another city, the eyes of the city and the country are on this little street in Brooklyn and the price paid for challenging the curse. Now, everything Lorna has ever believed in thrown into question and she’s forced to confront it all to find her own truth.

I can always count on Corey Ann Haydu to write stories that are unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and The Careful Undressing of Love is no exception. Written in a style that combines dreamy contemplation with moments of utter clarity, Haydu once again succeeds in telling a damn good story about a girl who is simply trying to figure out how to deal with what life has thrown at her. This is a story about grief and about love, and how about one can twist the other into something completely unexpected. This is a story about communities and change, and how both can be good or bad depending on the scenario. This is a story about standing up for your truth and what you believe, and how difficult that can be in the face of so much external pressure. The nuances that Haydu laces into Lorna’s experiences – both internal and external – lend an extra hand to make this story and these characters feel even more complex, and more real, and I really just couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out how it would end. I am, as always, impressed by what Haydu has brought to the table with her latest novel, and would absolutely recommend checking it out.

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!) | Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

Corey Ann Haydu is the critically acclaimed author of several novels for young readers novels, including OCD Love Story, which earned her a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. Her books have been Junior Library Guild, Indie Next, and BCCB Blue Ribbon selections. Corey lives in Brooklyn with her dog, her fiancé, and a wide selection of cheese. Find her online: Twitter | Facebook | Website.

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of three (3) signed copies of A Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu (ARV: $17.99 each). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on January 30, 2017 and 12:00 AM on February 13, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 14, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

1/30 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Interview
1/31 – YA Book Central – Excerpt 
2/1 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Guest Post 
2/2 – Super Space Chick – Reasons to Read 
2/3 – Page Turners – Deleted Scene
2/6 – The Books Buzz – Review + Mood Board
2/7 – Alexa Loves Books – Guest Post
2/8 – Lost in Literature – Guest Post
2/9 – Pop! Goes the Reader – The Writing’s On the Wall
2/10 – Novel Novice – Review


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