Guest Author: Judy Larsen

Guest Author: Judy Larsen

Oh, boy. I have been running around in five directions at once for the past six weeks now, which is why you may have noticed my dwindled blog activity in recent times. In case you’re wondering when is a good time to catch me, I usually post on Tuesdays and Thursdays right now. But some Tuesdays are crazier than others, so today I’m going to let Judy Larsen talk for me.

(Note: No connection between Judy Larsen and the crazier. The crazier PRECEDED Judy Larsen and she is here to bring sanity. Not the other way around. Just in case that wasn’t clear.)

Judy is another Girlfriend from the GCC, and today she’s here to talk about her debut novel All the Numbers which received rave reviews from none other than Cassandra King, and you know I heart Cassandra King! Here’s a little bit about the book:


“Judy Merrill Larsen’s All the Numbers is sure to join Judy Guest’s novel Ordinary People, and Jacqueline Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean as one of the most talked-about books of its time. This powerful story of tragedy, grief, and redemptive love haunted me long after I read the final uplifting yet heartbreaking words.”

—Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife

“[A] compelling debut….Larsen depicts a mother’s year of grief and recovery with a

sure and honest voice.”


“How much do you love me?” Daniel asked his mother. “I love you all the numbers.”

Judy Merrill Larson, a Midwest mother of five and a high school English teacher makes her publishing debut with All the Numbers (A Readers Circle Trade Paperback; $13.95; July 25, 2006), an emotional novel that explores how one mother recovers after the sudden loss of her son.

Recently divorced and navigating the uncharted territory of single parenthood, Ellen Banks is a tough but loving teacher and a devoted mother to her two sons, Daniel and James. When they take their summer trip from their home in Madison, Wisconsin to their best friends’ lake house for weekend, she has no idea that her life is about to irrevocably change. While Ellen sits on a nearby dock, a teen on a jet ski shatters their perfect day when he hits James. Suddenly Ellen is faced with decisions that are every parent’s worst nightmare. Life support, organ donation. And then, a funeral. A grieving sibling who blames himself for the death of his brother. A distant ex-husband, friends and family who don’t know what to say or how to help, lawyers, judges and policemen—none who can make the hurt go away. Healing the empty space in Ellen’s heart and soul is almost too much to bear. But she is determined to see justice done for her son, and to heal the deep wounds in her family. All the Numbers culminates in a highly charged trial which, in an unexpected turn, leads Ellen and Daniel to a new beginning.

Judy Merrill Larsen teaches high school English in St. Louis, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and their five children. She says that the novel came about because of her fascination with how ordinary people recover from extraordinary events and how love makes us vulnerable, and how very isolating yet very human, the desire for revenge can be. Whether she has seen something in the news or in fiction, she has always wondered about the lives of people in the aftermath. The choices they make. The holes they fall into and then how—or if—they claw themselves out. From the medical details to the intricacies of Wisconsin law, and courtroom procedures, Larson says the research was as challenging as the writing. As she says of her main character, none of us is a super hero, but we can all choose to be heroes in our own lives. Ellen Banks, in All the Numbers, ultimately makes just that choice, by choosing to live on.” Larsen holds a Master’s Degree from Washington University. She is currently working on her second novel.

Of course, I wanted to know a little bit more about Judy, so here is my SCINTILLATING interview with her.

Laura: In your bio, you say none of us is a superhero (even though I AM the Chocolate Witch and that is pretty close), but if you could be one, which super hero or super villain would you like to be and why? Or are you one already, and you just said that in your bio to throw us all off and protect your secret identity?

Judy: Well, it’d be cool if everyone else in my family thought of me as Wonder Woman (as opposed to Laundry Woman or Nag Woman), but I think the superhero I’d most like to be hasn’t been created yet–it’d be “Eats-whatever-she-wants-and-drinks-lots-of-good-wine-but-stays-slim-Woman” If I could do that I’d happily zip around the world saving people and putting out fire.

Laura: It sounds as if your dream is to be Super French Mother-in-law! Or perhaps we will just call you Parisienne for short. So, speaking of eating whatever we want, we are very gourmands on this blog. What food would you like to try but have never yet had the courage and/or gotten the chance? What food have you tried/been forced to eat and deeply regret, perhaps even been scarred for life by?

Judy: I love to eat and cook. And I’m pretty open about trying stuff. But, I’ve never been able to get up the courage to eat snails. As far as scarring, I’d say mushrooms and black olives. Mushrooms are a fungus, for God’s sake and I got really, really sick on black olives when I was five–it probably had something to with my friend and me cooking them in the sun for 3 hours before we ate them, but the scars are there nonetheless.

Laura: It is really funny how everyone always mentions snails. REALLY FUNNY. As in, I AM NOT LAUGHING. Plus, if you think eating them is bad, you should try making them, from the original snail. So what are the six degrees (or less) of separation between your novel and Paris?

Judy: Great question. 1.) I vowed I would write my first novel AND go to Europe before I turned 40. 2.) On my 39th birthday I went to a workshop on how to write your first novel. 3.) 6 weeks later I went to Europe, spending 4 glorious days in Paris and 3 in Arles.

4.) I came home and wrote my first draft.

Or, even better–1.) My main character has a crush on Gregory Peck. 2.) Gregory Peck’s second wife, Veronique, is French–I’m sure they both spent time in Paris.

Laura: I admit, I lean more toward the young Cary Grant, but Gregory Peck is not too shabby as crushes go. Not too shabby at all. Smart main character. And good for you for living up to your dreams! Thanks for coming on, Judy! Merci beaucoup!

  • Yay! Someone else who recognizes black olives for the bits of evil they really are. (Ok, she didn’t actually say that. But I read between the lines…)

    I have a really hard time reading books where a child dies. I will work myself up for attempting this one.

    October 2, 2007 at 12:54 pm
  • Sounds like a fabulous book that I’d love to read even though I heart black olives and mushrooms. I’ve tried snails. Not impressed.

    October 3, 2007 at 11:25 am

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