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Play For Me by Céline KeatingPlay For Me by Céline Keating

Publisher: She Writes Press (April 21, 2015)
Category: Contemporary Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Psychological
Tour date: Apr/May, 2017
ISBN: 978-1631529726
Available in Print & ebook, 217 pages

Play For Me

From the Award Winning Author:

It happens without warning: At a folk-rock show at her son’s college, Lily becomes transfixed by the guitarist’s unassuming onstage presence and beautiful playing―and with his final note, something within her breaks loose.

After the concert, Lily returns to her comfortable life―an Upper West Side apartment, a job as a videographer, and a kind if distracted husband―but she can’t stop thinking about the music, or about the duo’s guitarist, JJ. Unable to resist the pull of either one, she rashly offers to make a film about the band in order to gain a place with them on tour. But when Lily dares to step out from behind her camera, she falls deep into JJ’s world―upsetting the tenuous balance between him and his bandmate, and filling a chasm of need she didn’t know she had.

Captivating and provocative, Play for Me captures the thrill and heartbreak of deciding to leave behind what you love to follow what you desire.

Praise Play For Me by Céline Keating

“The author’s writing is exquisite and she was able to put together the story of a woman’s search for self and purpose, one with depth and complexity.”- Bookaholics Not-So-Anonymous Blog

“With a background as a music reviewer, Keating combines the soul-searching of Eat, Pray, Love with the rock ’n’ roll fable of Almost Famous to create a novel of midlife crisis with music at its core.”-Booklist

“Play for Me: “A best story of love, lust, and forgiveness.”- The Culturalist

“Play for Me is a serious, moving, and utterly delightful portrait of a woman wavering between the bonds of fidelity and the pull of desire. Céline Keating knows as much about the world of folk/rock music as she does about the workings of the heart.”- Hilma Wolitzer, author Summer Reading and An Available Man

Interview with the Author

What initially got you interested in writing?

I fell in love with books and I wanted to be a writer from an early age. The first book I remember wanting to emulate was The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I was about 10 years old, and began to write my own – very derivative – story. Little did I know, but imitation is the best way to learn the craft of writing fiction.

How did you decide to make the move into being a published author?

It took a lot of soul-searching and also encouragement from friends and family before I could “own” my ambition and go for it. I was fearful of taking the step of trying to get published and to dare to be an author. After working for a few years after college I went back to school earned a Masters in Creative Writing – both to hone my skills and to gain confidence. In the workshops I learned how to be open to and learn from criticism. I also learned how important revising is – the expression that writing is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration is really true. After I graduated I won a few fellowships and scholarships and began to look for an agent and to send out my work to literary magazines. I was able to publish short stories fairly easily, but despite the efforts of several agents, it took much longer for my novels to see print.

What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?

In my work I examine thorny ethical dilemmas that I hope fascinate my readers as much as they do me. Like all authors, I want to give readers an immersive experience, a world and characters they feel as real as their own lives. Most importantly, I want readers to be moved.  I want to offer a sense of possibility and optimism about what is possible in the world. For instance, my first novel, Layla, tells the story of a young girl who learns explosive secrets from her parents’ activist past. The novel explores the question of how far it’s ethical to go in pursuing a moral good. Play for Me explores what we owe ourselves versus what we owe those we love.  I hope readers will learn, along with my character Lily, that no matter what your stage in life, change and transformation are possible, and how important it is for all of us to fan our creative flames. In the novel I’m currently writing, I would love for readers to awaken to the beauty of the natural world and to see how imperiled it is and even to want to take action to save it.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

I really love to dive into the interiority of characters, to capture their innermost feelings and sensibilities. What I find most enjoyable of all is writing description of the natural world.  I have to rein myself in from going on and on!

On a craft level, I really enjoy the manipulation of language itself – like when I hit upon a metaphor or image that feels apt, or those moments when I surprise myself with how I’ve found to express something. It’s wonderful when a detail I make up, seemingly from nowhere, ends up being symbolic of something I’m trying to say. It’s very important to me to nail feelings and sensations.

What do you find most challenging about writing?

I monitor myself for when I’m feeling a bit bored, because that signals to me that I’m settling, and that the prose is flat. It’s challenging to keep pushing my writing, to force myself to go deep, and to keep experimenting with technique. It’s easy to write serviceable prose or to settle for what comes easiest.

What advice would you give to people want to enter the field?

The most important thing is to hold on to the joy in writing that drew you to it in the first place. Beyond that, I have a two pieces of advice for those who want to be authors, and they will sound contradictory. On the one hand, I would say, don’t dillydally, fight being too perfectionistic. Don’t take forever to start sending out your work. On the other hand, know that becoming a really good writer takes years and that getting published is extraordinarily difficult, so you have to make your work the best it can be. For longer works (novels and memoirs) I highly recommend that once you think you’re finished and you’ve revised your work several times, that you then get your work into the hands of a professional for an opinion and an edit.

What ways can readers connect with you?

Book clubs! That’s my favorite way to connect with readers.  I absolutely love meeting and talking with readers about their reactions to my work and others’. I’m happy to travel just about anywhere on the east coast or to Skype if the club is farther away. I also love hearing from readers via email. My website is On the home page there’s a sign up for my newsletter and also a place where readers can click to contact me directly.



Lily watched her son walk away, the loose, jaunty shamble of him, the brave uptilt of his head, and felt just as she had when she abandoned him to kindergarten what seemed such a short time ago. He turned to wave, auburn hair bright in the sun, and then was gone, vanished, as if he had walked through a portal into another dimension.

“Oh, sweetheart,” her husband said. Around them families bunched, kissing and parting in kaleidoscopic movement. Stephen touched her sleeve. She looked into his impish eyes and saw he felt none of her pain. In that moment she resented what she had always loved: his good cheer, his emotional maturity, his security in himself. Men!

But her son, walking into his future, he was a man now, too.

“Ready to eat?” Stephen clasped her hand.

What was there to say? A son leaving home, starting college, a mother grieving—a cliché. But it was her cliché. And what she felt was not so much bereft and sad and teary, though it was all that. What she felt was drained and ugly, as if she’d been turned instantly into an old woman—sagging breasts, spindly legs, crooked back—well, it would all happen soon enough, wouldn’t it?

Still. It was a storybook campus with beautiful, dove-gray stone buildings around a key lime–green quad. Colby would get a good liberal education here; he would be happy. But he would no longer sit with her at the kitchen table after school, unloading books and papers from his knapsack, as he told her about his day.

Stephen swung her hand back and forth as if to cajole her into better spirits. “That sophomore at orientation mentioned a restaurant.”

Lily’s stomach felt as if she had consumed the contents of her sock drawer.

“It will pass,” Stephen said, in that way he had, sometimes, of reading her mind.

They jostled through people crisscrossing like random molecules, behind a couple in matching khaki slacks, blue fleece pullovers, jaunty cotton hats, the kind of couple she and Stephen—independent, strong—knew they would never be. But right now she wished they were more entwined, alike. Right now she hated feeling so alone.

“My life is empty,” she said as they reached their car.

Stephen stopped short and guffawed.

“I’m serious.” She didn’t look at him as she unlocked the door and slid behind the wheel.

“You’re always complaining you’re too busy.”

Her mind scrolled through images: her office, meetings of the block association, lunches. She shook her head.

“You’ll feel better in a few days.”

They pulled up to a timber-frame building with fading purple trim that must once have been a private residence. A hostess, who didn’t make eye contact, seated them far from the bar, where body-pierced youths were making phenomenal amounts of noise. Would Colby come home at Thanksgiving with rings in his eyebrows and hair spiked like a rooster?

“In fact, you’ll feel better in a matter of minutes.”

He was not taking her seriously. In a matter of minutes, she was going to go from teary to cranky, and if this kept up she’d be picking a fight in the car. She’d make a wrong turn and they’d be lost in the Bronx, just like in Bonfire of the Vanities, yelling at each other. In fact, if she weren’t careful, they’d be filing for divorce by morning.

“They have croque-monsieurs,” he said and folded his arms. Case closed.

He knew her too well.

* * *

Lily had worked for MKT Productions ever since Colby was in day care. The MKT stood for Mike, Kevin, and Tom, the original owners, although only Tom was still involved. Soon everything would be totally digital, and MKT would make the transition to the new technologies, but for now they stored, edited, repaired, created, and shot footage on video. They were a small operation, which had its good and its bad sides. On the bad side, there were only eleven of them, which meant that there was a high probability at any given time that someone was getting on someone else’s nerves. On the good side, everyone got to do a little of everything, from the scut work to the creative. After seventeen years, Lily was no longer challenged by making institutional videos, but she didn’t consider leaving. She had long before given up the thought of looking for exciting work. In fact, she thought now, squished in the subway car, clutching her purse to her chest, she had long ago given up even wanting exciting work.

She emerged from the subway and stopped short, shielding her eyes from the piercing sunlight. Was it only motherhood that had caused her to go from seeking challenges to avoiding them? Stephen was a parent, yet he thrived in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. She, somewhere along a line she could no longer remember, had become a creature of order, even stasis.

This excerpt continues on Apr 24 at

About Céline Keating

Play For Me by Céline Keating
(c)Alexa Brandenberg2014-07

Céline Keating is the author of novels Layla (2011) and Play for Me (2015), which was a finalist in the International Book Awards, the Indie Excellence Awards, and the USA Book Awards. Céline is also the co-editor of On Montauk: A Literary Celebration (2016).

Her short fiction has been published in many literary magazines, including AppearancesEchoesEmry’s JournalMount HopeThe North Stone ReviewPrairie Schooner, and the Santa Clara Review. Céline’s short story “Home” received the first-place 2014 Hackney Award for Short Fiction. Céline is also a music journalist whose work has appeared in Minor7th.comGuitar World, and Acoustic Guitar magazines.


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Play For Me by Céline Keating



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