by Patricia Leavy
GENRE: Women’s Fiction/Romance
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?”
Welcome Patricia Leavy! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Thank you! I’m a full-time author, both fiction and nonfiction, but it was a winding path to get here. I’ve loved creative writing since I was little and always wanted to be a writer. The truth is, I wasn’t brave enough to put myself out there. As a writer, you constantly make yourself vulnerable and can face lots of rejection. I didn’t think I could handle it so I ended up getting a doctorate degree in sociology and becoming a professor. I started publishing nonfiction books early in my career. With a number of nonfiction books under my belt, ten years ago I finally had the courage to write my first novel. After that, I quit my teaching gig and became a full-time author. I’ve been writing novels back-to-back ever since and I’ve never looked back.
Is Constellations a single title, or part of a series?
It’s the third book in a series of five novels about Tess Lee and Jack Miller. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel, although readers may be more invested in the story and learn more about the characters if they read all the books. In the opening scene of Shooting Stars, Tess and Jack meet and their love story begins. She examines the scars on his body and says, “I’ve never seen anyone whose outsides match my insides.” They fall madly in love, something neither has experienced before. Each book in the series explores love and another topic. Shooting Stars looks at love and healing. Twinkle looks at love and doubt. Constellations looks at love, family, and intimacy. The remaining books are coming out later this year. Supernova looks at love and betrayal and is the darkest in the series. North Star looks at love, commitment, and letting go. Together, these novels are a love letter to love itself, in all its forms. They are about learning to balance darkness and light in our lives.
In just a few sentences, how would you describe Constellations?
It’s a love story that explores family – those into which we’re born and those we create—and how we’re intimate with different people in our lives in different ways. It takes place over a series of holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. It’s meant to be a feel-good read, so there are poignant moments but also lots of humor and lightheartedness.
This book centers on the epic love story between Tess and Jack. What kind of couple are they?
Sexy, affectionate, romantic. They’re madly in love. The novel opens with a sexy scene of them alone in an outdoor shower in their Hawaiian getaway house, showing one kind of intimacy they share. Later in the book, there’s another shower scene between them that shows a very different kind of intimacy. Contrasted, these scenes paint a picture of how deeply they truly love each other. This is a close, intimate couple. They adore each other and have each other’s backs. I think they have a truly beautiful relationship. They model what love looks like in action. There’s a grace or gentleness to how they treat each other. They see each other, and when one is struggling, the other is there with a loving touch. They’ve both experienced great loss and pain in their lives, but it only makes them appreciate what they have together that much more. There’s a saying that, “Hurt people hurt people,” but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, people in deep pain are able to love others in extraordinary ways, without widening the circle of trauma. By loving each other, they can even heal themselves.
Jack hasn’t seen his childhood family in fifteen years. How would you describe what happens when he and Tess travel to Pennsylvania for the Christmas holiday?
Unbeknownst to his family, Jack was an undercover field agent specializing in counterterrorism for most of his career. He let his family go for their own protection. When they reach out to invite Jack and Tess to Christmas, Tess convinces Jack to go. Things are awkward and tense both because of the strain between Jack and his father John, and also because the whole family is a bit starstruck around Tess, which makes Jack nervous and overprotective of her. Ultimately these are all good and loving people who want to reconnect, but a sense of missed opportunities looms large. Jack is dealing with a lot of complex feelings: guilt, shame, rejection, and a desire for redemption. Seeing her husband struggling, Tess does all she can to help Jack repair the broken bonds with his family. At the climax of their visit, there’s a crisis. Crises often quickly show the truth of our relationships—in this case it brings people together sensitizing them to the strong bonds they already share and allowing them a way to repair what has been damaged.
What do you hope readers will take away from Constellations?
We can build families of choice. True intimacy is possible when we love unconditionally, whether it comes in the form of sexual passion, the way we laugh with one another, or the way we take care of one another during our darkest or most vulnerable moments. Redemption is possible. If we reflect on missed opportunities, we can try harder and do better. Every relationship matters. Those we’ve loved are never really gone, even when they are no longer in our lives, and even when they return to stardust.
What does this book mean to you?
This book came to me like a bolt and held my hand. I hope it does the same for others. It’s very special to me; it’s my personal favorite of my own books, and the ending brings me to happy tears every time I read it. I rarely reread my own books, but when I want comfort and warmth, I read this one.
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time?
I’m an art junkie. Before the pandemic, I loved going to museums, art galleries, concerts, theater, and to see movies up on the silver screen. These days I’m spending more time doing at home-stuff, like cooking and reading.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
I once saw the Rolling Stones at a party at a restaurant in Boston. I mistook them for homeless people who had wandered in off the street. Seriously. It turned out, they were eating dinner at the Chef’s table in the kitchen and had wandered into the bar where the party was by mistake. It still gives me a giggle.
What is the one thing that you would tell an inspiring writer to do?
Develop a relationship with your work that isn’t dependent on anything external.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
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.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE:
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.