BOOKS BY MY FRIENDS: The Perfect Neighborhood by LIZ ALTERMAN


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The Perfect Neighborhood by Liz Alterman

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JH: Welcome to Books by My Friends, Liz! Thanks for stopping by to share your new release The Perfect Neighborhood with us.

JH: What’s the blurb for The Perfect Neighborhood?

LA: When actress and model Allison Langley leaves her former rockstar husband, Christopher, in the middle of the night, it’s all her Oak Hill neighbors can talk about. The gossip comes to an abrupt halt when five-year-old Billy Barnes goes missing on his walk home from kindergarten. Billy’s mother, Rachel, blames herself for being at work and letting her only child walk alone. Cassidy, Billy’s teenage babysitter, was also late to arrive on the afternoon he disappeared and blames herself for his disappearance. As the clock ticks down, police are unable to find any trace of Billy, forcing Rachel to ponder the enemies she’s made in their well-off suburb. Could it be one of her neighbors who stole her son? Would they abduct Billy to hurt her? How easy would it be to take a child while the parents or nannies are distracted? When another child goes missing, the town is put under a microscope as the police try to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Will they be able to find the two children, or will it be too late? What secrets lie at the heart of this tragedy, and how far will one go to keep those dangerous secrets buried?

JH: What inspired you to write The Perfect Neighborhood?

LA: The plot came to me in a dream. I mentioned it to my husband, who said, “That’ll never work!” Then I waited six months for a new story to come to me and nothing did. All the while, this idea was rattling around inside my mind, so when I finally sat down to see if I could make it work, I wrote 6,000 words. They were very fragmented and disjointed, but still! I said to myself, “Just write it!” So I did.

JH: I LUV plots that come to writers in their dreams! What one thing do you love most about writing?

LA: I love when your imagination (or subconscious) serves up an idea and you surprise yourself. Whether it’s a sentence you love or a character suddenly deciding to go in a new direction, those moments when writing seems magical or almost effortless are what keep me coming back.

JH: What’s next for you in the way of writing/publishing?

LA: I’m revising a new domestic suspense manuscript and, fingers crossed, it finds a good home, and readers enjoy it!

Liz Alterman is the author of the domestic suspense novel, The Perfect Neighborhood, the young adult thriller, He’ll Be Waiting, and the memoir Sad Sacked. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. She lives in New Jersey where she spends most days microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading.

JH: How can readers get in touch with you?

JH: Thanks, Liz! Please come back soon and update us on your next project.

All good things,


Note: Possible trigger warnings: infertility, infidelity.


Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity
Joy E. Held







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Female agency is old news if you know where to look (historical romance)


I don’t remember when I read my first romance novel, but I do remember writing my first play in which a romance figured prominently. I wrote a western about a young woman whose father had been killed by bandits, and the local town banker offered to marry her to “save the ranch.” Keep in mind, I was ten-years-old. What my heroine didn’t know was that the banker had paid the bandits to kill her father so the bank could foreclose on the very prosperous ranch.

A young cowboy traveling through town happened to witness the murder and told the heroine, then helped her prove to the sheriff what the unscrupulous banker had done. The cowboy was also the son of a wealthy mine owner from another town and had the money to save the ranch and marry the girl. The hero saved the day then.

In my current work-in-progress, things have changed. My heroine makes her own path, her own choices, and meets her own destiny with a handsome, strong, yet flawed hero at her side who meets and conquers his own demons along the way. They simultaneously prove to each other that they are worthy of the other’s respect and love by owning up to their mistakes, their past, and making conscious decisions to be different in the future in exchange for the love of the other. I don’t feel like this is a radical departure from the halls of historical romance.

Kaye Mitchell writing in The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction pokes me in tender places with her statement, “If mass-market romance fiction of the Mills and Boon/Harlequin variety has, in the last couple of decades, become more forward-looking and complex in its depiction of educated and ambitious heroines and its inclusion of more explicit sexual material, it has perhaps had to evolve in order to compete with its more ‘respectable’ offshoot, chick lit” (134). I don’t understand where the ‘respectable’ notion comes into play for chick-lit implying that educated, ambitious, and sexy heroines of past romance fiction aren’t respectable. There are hundreds of ‘educated and ambitious heroines’ in novels published well before Bridget or Samantha ever dreamed of meeting/marrying Mr. Right.

As a historical romance, my novel falls in between the rancher’s daughter and Bridget Jones because it has a female protagonist with a goal and a plan, but unlike the rancher’s daughter and Bridget, my heroine takes all the responsibility upon herself to make her dreams a reality. My wip recalls the early heroines of romance authors Connie Mason and Barbara Cartland while proposing that women have had dreams and goals since the beginning of time.

My heroine doesn’t believe (or comprehend) that she is dependent on men to realize her desires. What interferes is the environment. She is thrust into a harsh situation where it becomes obvious that she must become part of a team to survive the elements. This is where she evolves as a human being when she comes face to face with people and lifestyles different from what she is accustomed to. She adapts and finds a new inner strength that she didn’t know she had.

Mitchell disappoints me when the only time she mentions female empowerment is with, “In addition, although affirmative readings of these memoirs tend to highlight the emphasis on female pleasure and (sexual) agency, that is an emphasis that is often undermined by the content of the texts themselves” (136). Mitchell does a disservice to female agency through the ages by leaving out the fact that there is more to being a woman today and throughout history than place tab ‘A’ into slot ‘B’.

In my story, the heroine knows pleasure, intimacy, and personal satisfaction by applying what she has learned in her education and knows in her heart to help others prosper and live up to their potential thereby bolstering her own worth as an individual. Proving that it is not a flaw to be, in Mitchell’s terms, “gendered, desiring individuals in the world.” That definition is exactly how and why we complement each other.

All good things,




Mitchell, Kaye. “Gender and Sexuality in Popular Fiction.” Glover, David and Scott McCracken, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 122-140.


Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press Ltd., 2001.