Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to the author of Code Name Hélène, Ariel Lawhon.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Ariel Lawhon: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
BM: Favorite re-read?
AL: I don’t often re-read. I find it can ruin that first, immersive experience and my feelings about the book shift. So, instead, I’ll pull a book off my “keepers” shelf. Pet it affectionately. Give it a hug. And maybe flip open to a favorite passage that I’ve marked.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
BM: A book that blew your mind?
BM: Last book you read?
AL: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by (again) Stephen King.
BM: A book that made you cry?
AL: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I was ten-ish, I think, and until I finished that novel, I didn’t know that a book could literally break your heart. I will never forget those gut-wrenching sobs or that story or the way it made me feel.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
AL: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I’m glad I let this one languish on my shelf for a couple of years because I had the very unique experience of reading a pandemic novel in the middle of an actual pandemic. Very meta.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
AL: Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I loved them when I was young and I’ve introduced all four of my boys to the series. They laugh, I laugh. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
AL: Pretty much all the classics so I wouldn’t have to play catch-up as an adult.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
AL: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’ve bought copies for all of my children and most of their friends.
BM: Classic book you hate?
AL: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
AL: To Kill A Mockingbird. Listen, I know. I’m appalled at myself.
BM: What’s a book with a really great sex scene?
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
AL: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
AL: There are several but if I’m being forced to pick, I’ll go with The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
AL: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. Technically my grandmother made me read while I was visiting her one summer, but I was in high school at the time.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
AL: Am currently reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (amazing!), a soon-to-be-publishing novel called An Unlikely Spy by Rebecca Starford (also amazing), News of the World by Paulette Jiles, and about fifteen different books for research on several different projects I’m currently writing.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
AL: The Narnia series, always and forever.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
AL: I’d really love to see Louise Penny’s Three Pines series adapted for tv. I think maybe I heard that they in in the process of being made?? Can’t remember. But I’d also love to see Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series made. They’re such a blast to read!
Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, Indie Next, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and a deranged cat.
Ariel Lawhon’s Code Name Hélène is out now in paperback from Anchor Books