How I Came To Sparkle Again - Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway!


I haven’t been reading as much as I like to lately. Life has gotten busy, which usually happens this time of the year. I have to remember to slow down and enjoy the holidays. One of my favorite ways to do that, besides spending time with my family, is to curl up on the couch by the Christmas tree with a fire going in the fireplace….reading a good book.

Before the mad rush to Thanksgiving started, I did get my hands on a great, newly released book and devoured it quickly. How I Came To Sparkle Again, by author Kaya McLaren who wrote Church Of The Dog and On The Divinity of Second Chances was released on October 2, 2012, and is getting great reviews from folks like best-selling authors Kristin Hannah, Susan Wiggs and Nancy Thayer. I can see why.

For me, good books are just like a yummy feast…they are food for my soul. This one has a lot to offer readers in terms of reframing a negative situation and starting over. There are a lot of hope-filled messages to pick up on in between the lines of an entertaining story.

Here’s the skinny:

Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado.  But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows:  Sparkle. 

Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love.  The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.” 

Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore.  She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle. 

So yeah, each of Sparkle’s main characters are going through quite a bit. Which may make you believe that the book is heavy. But it’s not. The relationships that develop between all three make for a pretty uplifting story and while it doesn’t have the suspense of a page-turning “who dunnit”, I found myself turning them quickly until I came to the end.

If you are a skier or fan of Colorado (like me!), you are going to love the setting of this book. I wanted to jump in the story on several occasions and soak in the beautiful, winter atmosphere.

I had the fabulous opportunity to ask author Kaya McLaren some questions about the book. If after you read through her answers you want to dive into the book yourself, you’ll be happy to hear this - I have two books to give away to Still Living The Dream readers just in time for the holidays!

Kaya McLaren, author of How I Came To Sparkle Again

Author Interview

1. Where did you find the inspiration for the main character, Jill?

I was living and teaching on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, and by the spring of my first year, I’d pull into the driveway of the school each morning and cry because I didn’t know if I could make it through one more day with the really tough class I had that year. And then I rediscovered skiing. The next year, I got a season pass to Wolf Creek. There, a group of young guys took me under their wing and helped me be a better skier. They were such unlikely angels, but man, they pulled me out of a deep funk and brought me back to life. They absolutely were my angels. So I really wanted to write something that was a tribute to them- something that showed what good friends on snow could do for a girl’s spirit. Woven into that, I had a friend who was an OB/GYN nurse who had a miscarriage, and another friend whose parents were missionaries in Africa and would send out mass emails implying that she wasn’t going to be with them in heaven.

2. Why did you choose a skiing community in Colorado as a setting in the book?

One thing I love about skiing fast is that it forces me to be fully present in any given moment. If my mind wanders, I eat it. Bad. Really bad. So for people like me with really busy minds, doing something at really high speeds can force us to meditate and give us extended moments of peace. I think, too, that mountain communities have always been my home, and yet they are rarely the setting of books. It’s foreign to a lot of people. I wanted to write about my world. It’s full of really great characters- strong, adventurous, courageous people, crazy funny people… people who are stuck in an early moment of their life, and people who are growing.

3. You seem to be deeply moved by the environment. Why are Jill’s surroundings (the snow, change of seasons, small town) so crucial to her healing?

Life is full of cycles- good times and bad times, sickness and health, courage and fear, love and loss, rain and sun, the cycle of the seasons. Nothing lasts. Nature heals me over and over. This world we construct in our culture where we are so important is a little much. When I walk away from it and into nature, I’m reminded of my place in the grand scheme, and how small and temporary I really am. It puts everything else into perspective. Nature is the answer to most of my questions.

4. Tell me about the unique dynamic between Jill and Lisa and the Kennel boys. Is there any hope for guys like Eric and Hans to find love and a lasting relationship?

Occasionally it happens! I see it. It shocks me every time, but yes, it happens. All of the guys I skied with at Wolf Creek are married now. I did not see that coming. But you know, there are people who are damaged in different ways and their capacity to love may be different or take different forms. Who are we to say that lasting relationships are success and a semi-solitary life skiing with friends is not?

5. I found the descriptions and character views of “kidney love” versus “luv” so interesting. How did you come up with this perspective on male/female relationships? Have you experienced “kidney love”?!

I love really easily. Rather, I “luv” really easily. But generosity is more difficult for me. I have non-sexual, non-romantic kidney love for soul sisters and family members. None of the men in my life were around long enough to reach that point. Kidney love takes time.

6. Jill experienced a lot of loss and troubled relationships. Why was her struggle with her parents and the Mormon religion an important part of her story?

I think religious upbringing absolutely affects a person’s self-worth. And it could have been countless other denominations or religions. It’s about judgment and acceptance. When things go south, judgment never heals. Only love does. And love is accepting. I picked Mormon parents because I could easily model them after my friend’s parents and get the details right. If my friend had had Baptist parents, I would have picked that. I think it’s an interesting impasse we reach with people we love who think we are going to hell or who think we are brainwashed, or who think they have the answers. It’s heartbreaking. And the things they feel entitled to say in our lowest moments can be atrocious. When everything is going wrong in my friend’s life, a little part of her does question whether this is all happening because she left the church. I was surprised to hear that. I wasn’t raised with religion, so it fascinates me. Sometimes I wish I had the rituals and the community that comes with it, but my capacity for that kind of faith is limited. All the characters and their different approaches to faith are part of me though. Faith or the lack of it absolutely shapes our perceptions of what happens to us and what the opportunities are in any given situation. I think it can affect our resilience, as well as our understanding of what is within the realm of our control and what is not. I don’t know how to tell a story without dealing with a character’s faith. I try to be equal-opportunity about it, because I perceive that faith really works well for a lot of people. I think I’m usually pretty neutrally fascinated about it… unless someone crosses the line and starts talking about gay people going to hell. Many of my friends and family are gay and I assure you, they are good people and absolutely not going to hell.

7. I loved renaissance man and supporting character, Uncle Howard. Did you have an Uncle Howard in your life that this character was based on?

No. I am Uncle Howard. I am the one who over-thinks things, who leads a pretty solitary existence, who offers people books and unsolicited advice that they don’t understand (because advice wasn’t what was needed- after all judgment is an inherent piece of advice). I’m currently reading Siddhartha again because I was curious whether I’d get something entirely different out of it thirty years later. So far, nope. Maybe that means I haven’t grown as much as I thought I had.

8. Things wrapped up pretty neatly for most of the Sparkle characters. Did you consider taking a different approach to the book’s ending? Do you believe in happy endings?

In my original ending, Jill ends up single in her own house. Eric is her friend with benefits who does occasional home repair for her, and Mike is like her platonic husband with whom she has this unconventional family experience. That seemed more realistic to me. I really wanted her to end up single and happy like me. Yes, that’s what I wanted to do- write a book that told the world that you could be a happy, single woman like me. But it was strongly suggested to me that this would not be a satisfying ending to readers, and you know, there really wasn’t much plot in being a single, happy woman. And so now I have a book that says you need to have a man to have a happy ending. It made me really, really uncomfortable at first and I had to make my peace with it. I realized a couple things. First, that I perceived wanting that kind of a happy ending as ridiculous weakness. And only two days ago my friend and fellow author, River Jordan, said to me, “Well, when you’ve had your heart broken a lot, it CAN feel like weakness.” Epiphany. And I realized that everyone wants to be appreciated for who they uniquely are, and comforted, held, and loved, and everyone wants some sizzle in their life, so what is the problem with this ending? There’s no problem. All of that is part of the human experience. And if you read to escape (not everyone does and that’s okay), you want things wrapped up much more neatly than they are in your own life. So there you have it. It’s candy. Enjoy.

9. All your books contain a common theme….second chances. Did you get a second chance that changed your life?

Oh, no, that’s not it. I just think life is a series of mistakes and second chances.

A Giveaway!

How I Came To Sparkle Again is available to purchase at Barnes and Noble, but how about the chance to win a copy of your own?! All you have to do is leave a comment below about what you love about the holidays. Two winners will each receive a copy of the book to enjoy over the holiday season (Christmas tree, couch, cozy slippers and fire in the fireplace must be all provided by you!!) Two winners will be selected at random on 12/2/12 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Life’s about second chances, right? How about five more chances to win?! You know the drill, leave a separate comment for each that you do below.

  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like author Kaya McLaren on Facebook
  5. Tweet this: “I want to win a copy of the book How I Came To Sparkle Again @jpatrickcomm”
I received a copy of the book for review purposes only. I did not receive compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 



  1. 1
    Karen says:

    I love the cooler weather, the feeling of compassion and the generosity of my fellow man. That’s what I love about the holidays.

  2. 2
    Leslie says:

    Sounds like a great read!

  3. 3
    Khan says:

    Sounds like a good read

  4. 4
    Khan says:

    Following you on fb

  5. 5
    Khan says:

    Following you on twitter

  6. 6
    Khan says:


  7. 7
    Nikki says:

    I love spending time with family during the holidays. We always spent Christmas Eve at my great-grandparents house while I was growing up. There would be 30 - 40 family members in that little house. We’d eat, sing, open gifts and just spend time together. I miss those special nights.

  8. 8
    Nikki says:

    I follow you on Pinterest

  9. 9
    Nikki says:

    I follow you on twitter

  10. 10
    Nikki says:

    I liked Still Living The Dream on Facebook.

  11. 11
    Nikki says:

    I liked Kaya McLaren on Facebook

  12. 12
    Nikki says:

    I tweeted

  13. 13
    Amber Adams says:

    I love the love and warmth that comes from everyone during the holidays. Family, friends, and strangers all seem to be more caring, more compassionate. From leaving that extra tip at Starbucks, to helping Grandma scrape her windows at Target, I love how everyone becomes concerned.

  14. 14
    Amber Adams says:

    following you on facebook

  15. 15
    Amber Adams says:

    Liked author Kaya on Facebook

  16. 16
    Bobbie says:

    I love the christmas lights. Anything that sparkles just draws me. (see what I did there?)

  17. 17
    Caroline says:

    Following you on Twitter.

  18. 18
    Caroline says:

    Just tweeted about the giveaway. Link to the Tweet: .

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  19. 19
    Caroline says:

    Following you on Pinterest.

  20. 20
    Caroline says:

    Liked your blog on Facebook.

  21. 21
    Caroline says:

    Liked McLaren on Facebook.

  22. 22
    Caroline says:

    What I love the most about the holidays is really the coziness of it all. I love a fire going in the fireplace, getting to bundle up in thick sweaters, and having an excuse to drink mug after mug of hot chocolate. :)

  23. 23
    Jennifer says:

    What I love most about the holidays is the personal traditions. My mother gives my kiddo an exceptionally cool Advent calendar every year, and she also gives my brother a calendar… one which has all our birthdays and major holidays on it… because HE CAN’T REMEMBER ON HIS OWN… And that is a traditional source of amusement. 😉

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