Breathe Into Love: Twinkle is Already the Must-Read Book of the Year

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

She's done it again!

One of our favorite writers, Patricia Leavy, has a new novel out that is, already, the must-read book of the year. Twinkle is a testament to the humanity in our lives—the joys of love, friendship, and laughter, as well as the challenges of trauma and life-changing events. I started reading it as a gift to myself in the new year, and wished that I had had it to hold in my heart during the last difficult year. 

Breathe Into Love: Twinkle is Already the Must-Read Book of the Year

You, too, will cherish this novel for all that it holds, for all that it teaches, and for all that it inspires. It’s THAT GOOD. Highly recommended.

We were lucky enough to catch up to Leavy, and dig into her backstory. Take a look:

Patricia Leavy with her new book, Twinkle. From Breathe Into Love: Twinkle is Already the Must-Read Book of the Year

Please tell us about your new novel, Twinkle...
At the core it’s a love story that explores the nature of doubt in our relationships—what doubt looks like and feels like, and how it manifests in our lives. Twinkle follows Tess Lee and Jack Miller after two years of marriage. 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 federal agent. After spending decades immersed in a violent world, a residue remains. As they both heal from past trauma, their epic love, fostered by their ability to truly see one another, has brought them true happiness. However, when an anonymous threat is made against Tess’s life, everything changes. Along with Tess and Jack, their friends are along for the ride. Twinkle is a novel about the nature of doubt, the struggle to feel worthy of love, the relationship of the small part to the greater whole, and the ways in which love –from lovers, friends, or the art we experience–can help us move from trauma to healing and redemption.

This is one of those rare novels that has both great humor and deeply emotional, raw scenes, with a big dose of suspense mixed in. How’d you manage that?
When I tackle challenging subject matter, I try to create a balance between the lighter and darker moments. I think of the light, airy, funny bits as the soufflé. These parts aren’t trivial though, because they create balance. These lighter parts allow me to take on some of the darker topics in the book, such as the re-traumatization Tess experiences when her childhood abuse resurfaces or the trauma Jack relives from his job as a federal agent and the death of his daughter, when they are both forced to deal with the threat against Tess’s life. This is heavy stuff, but ultimately, I wanted to write a book that moves between darkness and light. The funny bits, whether it’s outrageous sex talk at a black-tie gala, or the humorous conversations between Tess and her best friend Omar, allows the story to breathe. In the end, the message of the book is all about learning to breathe through the tough times, and, learning to move through darkness to light. I tried to mirror that theme with my approach to story-telling.

Twinkle is a follow-up to Shooting Stars, although it can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel. What inspired you to write this book?
When I wrote Shooting Stars, I fell in love with all the characters. Not only did I want to see more of their journey, but I saw great potential with them to explore the many dimensions of love. I’m using these characters to explore love, to write a love letter to love, one that will unfold over at least five books. Shooting Stars explored love and healing. Twinkle explores love and doubt. The next book, explores love and family/intimacy. And so on. When all five books are released, readers who keep up with them will see that really the whole serial is a grand love letter to love itself. That said, it was important to me to write each as a stand-alone novel so that readers can pick up any that may be of interest. 

Relationships are central to the narrative—both romantic and friendship. What is the story this novel tells about our intimate relationships?
At the core, this is a book centered on relationships—with lovers, with friends, and most of all the relationship we have with ourselves. The characters model incredible grace with how they treat one another, whether it’s through their shared laughter or tears. I hope the novel shows what quality relationships might look like and feel like. Love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s not something we have for one another, it’s something we do. I hope Twinkle shows what love looks like in action. The closeness the characters share is really beautiful and something that ultimately raises them up. This is something we can all strive for. 

There are both positive and negative examples of masculinity. Please talk about this.
Other than Tess, the protagonist, all the main characters in Twinkle are men. They each model different positive versions of masculinity, as an alternative to much of what we see in pop culture. These are good men, aspirational men. However, dark male forces lurk in the background, and we see the impact of that misogyny and violence on the characters. Jack, who is the ultimate good-guy, wrestles with his own dark side when Tess’s life is under threat and he feels responsible for protecting her. Through this experience, they have important conversations about gendered ideas society often holds about what it means to make someone feel safe, protected, and loved. Together, they reach new understandings. 

The novel set is in Washington DC, which is integral to the story. Please talk about this, including your choice to have a woman president of the United States. 
Jack is a federal agent, and so setting the novel in Washington DC seemed a natural fit. There’s a suspenseful twist in this book, when Tess’s life is threatened and federal agencies are involved in keeping her safe. DC was the perfect home. It also allowed me to weave some things into the narrative, such as the president. The president is a woman because we need to normalize the idea of women at the highest levels of our government and fiction is one way to do this. Whatever we can imagine, we can achieve.

I also wanted to create a special friendship between the president and Tess Lee, as two women, both successful, powerful, and famous. In Twinkle, the president hosts an international gala to celebrate arts and peace. At the gala, Tess meets the president. A world-famous novelist, extremely wealthy, who has relentlessly traveled the world most of her life, Tess and the president find they have quite a bit in common and forge a friendship that leads to some funny encounters later in the novel. After all, how many people hang out in the White House residence eating mac and cheese, baking cookies, and talking politics? Twinkle has some tough bits, dealing with past trauma, so balancing that with humor was important. The president was a conduit to some of those moments.

Although we don’t see the characters in Hawaii, the book begins and ends with discussion of romantic holidays Tess and Jack spend there. It’s clearly a special place to them. Why Hawaii?
When the novel opens, they’ve returned from celebrating their second wedding anniversary in a private house they rented in Maui. They had a magical time alone there and it becomes a signifier for several things: escaping their world of darkness and light to live in color, building the life they dream of, and letting go of expectations and learning to breathe. I won’t say how it all turns out because I don’t want to spoil anything, but Hawaii becomes their special place and is revisited in future titles in the serial. I chose Hawaii because it’s beautiful and it’s a fantasy escape for many people, even if only in their dreams. Many people honeymoon there for those very reasons. Tess and Jack can live that dream. Also, I wanted contrast with their daily city life in Washington DC, and the weight of their jobs. Hawaii was a perfect choice as somewhere colorful, full of outdoor life, and where they could have a romantic getaway, content in each other’s arms simply breathing the briny sea air.

As with all your fiction, Twinkle can be used in the classroom in a range of college courses? How can educators use this book to teach?
As a sociologist who loved to bring films and novels into my courses, I’m always thinking about how a novel I write might be used as a springboard for reflection in a range of social science courses and the like. Twinkle deals with issues surrounding intimate relationships, relational communication, self-esteem, abuse, healing, and gender. My hope is that professors in communication, sociology, social work, and other fields will consider it for their courses. Students often love reading fiction, and it can be used to stimulate reflection and discussion on subjects covered in a range of classes. I’ve included a further engagement section with discussion questions and a wide array of activities to facilitate use of the book in college courses.

What does Twinkle offer for the general reader?
It’s truly a novel that can be read by anyone. For some, the love story may be what’s most appealing. Tess and Jack have a beautiful relationship. The bonds of friendship in the book are equally strong. For others, the suspenseful part of the plot may be of interest. The novel includes scenes of police and federal agents trying to figure out who has made this credible threat against Tess’s life. In the end, there are positive messages that we are enough just as we are. That’s for everyone. I hope when people read it, they takeaway a message about breathing through the challenging times in our lives. 

What's up next for you? You said there will be more Tess Lee and Jack Miller novels (!!!).
Yes. There are five written in total, and we’re rolling one out at a time. I’ve also recently finished a different novel which is a love story set in Hollywood that explores the nature of passion in our lives—passion for love and work. Due to the pandemic, I’ve been writing far more than usual as a means of keeping busy while stuck in quarantine. I’m also more than halfway through two other novels: a love story that explores “the big” questions in our lives and a dark novel about betrayal in America. Right now, I’m just eager to release the remaining Tess Lee and Jack Miller novels. 

More information:

Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., is an independent sociologist and best-selling author. She has published more than 30 books, earning critical and commercial success in both nonfiction and fiction and her work has been translated into numerous languages. She is also the creator and editor for ten book series with Oxford University Press, Brill/Sense, and Guilford Press, the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, and a blogger for numerous outlets. She is most widely known for her work advancing arts-based research and pioneering the social fictions concept and book series. Patricia has received numerous book awards as well as career awards from New England Sociological Association, the American Creativity Association, the American Educational Research Association, the National Art Education Association, and the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. In 2016 Mogul, a women’s empowerment network, named her an “Influencer.” In 2018, she was honored by the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the State University of New York-New Paltz established the “Patricia Leavy Award for Art and Social Justice.” Her website is 

Buy Twinkle on Amazon 

But Twinkle from the Publisher (Brill)

Buy Shooting Stars on Amazon

Buy Shooting Stars from the Publisher (Brill)

More interviews with Dr. Leavy here on Wandering Educators:

Read This: Why Shooting Stars is One of the Most Important Books You’ll Ever Read

Read This: Inspiration, Joy, and Life in Patricia Leavy's SPARK

Write This: Author Patricia Leavy on Setting, Inspiration, and Teaching in her New Novel, Film

Blue: Identity, Self, and Possibility

Read this: Living a Big Life in Patricia Leavy’s Candy Floss Collection


All photos courtesy and copyright Patricia Leavy, PhD, used with permission