If I could have private conversations with all the authors of the books I’ve read, I would most certainly pepper them with questions. That happy day may never happen, but I’ve been lucky enough to have a few author interviews. To celebrate three years of blogging and my 600th post, here’s a look back at these conversations. Click on the author names to read the interviews and on the book titles to read my reviews.
Susanna says that “by far the experience that has had the broadest, deepest impact on my writing is my membership in families — as a daughter, sister, mother, wife — and the close attention I pay to domestic dynamics.”
Bill Dedman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and an investigative reporter for Newsday. Check out this fascinating story about the reclusive millionaire heiress, Huguette Clark, who chose to spend the last twenty years of her life in a NYC hospital. (Photo of Clark: nbcnews.com)
In this interview, Kristina says that “as a former actress and movie buff, I think I’ve always had a passion for storytelling.” I really enjoyed The Pieces We Keep when we read it for my book club. I’m getting ready to read Bridge of Scarlet Leaves.
Levy is a Writers Guild award-winner and a two-time Emmy nominee. He has written for many hit shows, including Seinfeld and Family Ties. Now he writes great historical mysteries about Mary Handley, Brooklyn’s first female detective. I’m currently reading Brooklyn on Fire for my Summer Reading Challenge.
Are you a reader who has met or interviewed any authors? What have been your favorites? Have you been interviewed as a writer? What has been your most memorable interview experience?
I’ve been a busy Book Club Mom lately and I have a big list of books in the queue. Here’s a look at what I’m reading now, and what’s ahead:
I’m in the middle of reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. In 1996, Bryson and his old school friend, Stephen Katz, began a hiking adventure on the Appalachian Trail, a 2,100-mile path in the eastern United States, running from Georgia to Maine, through forests and over mountains. Written in 1998, A Walk in the Woods is an entertaining story of how these unlikely hikers fared on the trail. It was made into a movie this year, and stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. I’m enjoying Bryson’s commentary and writing style very much and I’m looking forward to reading more. Bryson is a best-selling author of many humorous books on travel, the English language and science.
On the list:
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott – this is a historical novel about a woman who survived the sinking of the Titanic and the aftermath of the tragedy. My book club will be discussing this one next month.
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas – recommended to me by blogging friend Dawn from Mom Mom’s Apron. Publishers Weekly describes it as “A definitive portrait of American social dynamics in the twentieth century.”
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris – a historical novel set during the Japanese internment of World War II. My book club read and liked another book by McMorris, The Pieces We Keep (read my review here) so I’m looking forward to this one!
“The Oblong Box” by Edgar Allan Poe – recommended to me by Jeff at Stuff Jeff Reads. Jeff reviewed “The Oblong Box” on his blog and I found it for free on my Kindle. I always love a good short story so thanks to Jeff for the suggestion!
The Liberty Box by C.A. Gray, the first book of a young adult dystopian series, referred to me by Evil Cyclist’s Books. You can check out his review here. The Liberty Box is a new book series and was released on October 25.
Threaten to Undo Us by Rose Seiler Scott –Scott describes her historical novel: “As Hitler’s Third Reich crumbles and Stalin’s Army advances, German civilians in the Eastern territories are forced to flee for their lives…Liesel and her four young children hope they can make it from their home in Poland across the Oder River to safety…But all that awaits them is terror and uncertainty.”
I’ll be posting reviews as I work my way through this interesting list. What are you reading right now and what’s on your list?
I’m excited to post my interview with Kristina McMorris, author of The Pieces We Keep, a book I recently read and enjoyed very much. Kristina is hard at work on her next book and other writing projects and I thank her for taking the time for this interview!
BCM: I was very interested reading your biographical background because you have been involved in a great variety of projects and have many interests. Tell me which part of your life so far has had the greatest influence on you as a writer.
KM: Aside from my passion for the 1940s era, I would say my TV and film background have most influenced me as an author. Up until a handful of years ago, I’m ashamed to say, I wasn’t even a reader. (Believe me, I’ve done a lot of catching up since then!) But as a former actress and movie buff, I think I’ve always had a passion for storytelling—just in a different form.
BCM: You seem to have a lot of ideas and a natural ability to make a new project successful, and I believe part of that must stem from a personal enthusiasm for the things you do. Have you always been a multi-tasker?
KM: Always! Which is definitely why owning an event-planning company prior to my literary career was so appealing. To this day, whenever I simply sit and watch TV without doing anything else, my husband is pleasantly shocked.
BCM: As a professional wedding planner, you have no doubt witnessed many different love stories and their underlying relationships. Do you think this helped you with your first two books, which are love stories?
KM: Ha! I suppose it should have. But to be honest, when I think of weddings, what still comes to mind are cake deliveries and catering services and table settings. Oh, and let’s not forget those YMCA and Chicken Dances. Not the most romantic view, is it?
BCM: Letters from Home was inspired by letters written by your grandparents during World War II, a time period you have focused on in your other books, including The Pieces We Keep. Do you think you will continue to write about characters during this time?
KM: I’m sure I will. Every time I come across another incredible yet little known account from WWII, I find myself wanting to share it with others. Currently, however, I’m writing a book set during the ‘30s, so I’m straying a bit from the usual, but not all that far!
BCM: In a recent interview, you described how you learned about your grandmother’s letters. Upon seeing them, you were surprised that she had never shared them with anyone because she did not think of them as anything extraordinary. You commented that people sacrificed all kinds of things during World War II, but did not think of themselves as special. They were just doing what they had to do to. Did you grandmother enjoy and appreciate the recognition of her personal story?
KM: My grandmother has been wonderfully supportive and generous in sharing her stories and beautiful letters with me. I feel so blessed that she’s still alive today, allowing us to celebrate together. Like the majority of her generation, she lives very humbly, but I know she’s delighted that I now have so many chances to pass along tales of my late grandfather to others.
BCM: In a recent interview you briefly described how Letters from Home became a book, and the process you went through with rewrites and editing. Tell me about some of the challenges and roadblocks you met along the way as a first-time author.
KM: Not being a reader definitely posed a challenge when I first started out. (I know, it’s ridiculous that I thought I could write anyway!) As a result, there were so many aspects of writing fiction I needed to learn through crash coursing. Also, setting a story during WWII really wasn’t the easiest path right out of the gate. The amount of research it required was tremendous, but thankfully by the time I realized as much, it was too late to turn back.
BCM: Your second book, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is a love story about an American woman married to the son of Japanese immigrants, and is set in Los Angeles, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Was writing this book an easier experience? As in Letters from Home, were you also able to draw from your family history? In what way was knowledge of your Japanese heritage helpful?
KM: I certainly drew from my own personal experiences while writing my second book. Having grown up in a house mixed with both American and Japanese cultures, at times not knowing exactly where I fit in, I was able to share this unique viewpoint through my characters’ journeys.
BCM: The Pieces We Keep is more of a mystery than a love story, as well as a story of your character, Audra’s adjustment to life-changing events. Did you use a different writing process for this book?
KM: This was, without a doubt, my most challenging novel to write. The mystery elements and parallel timelines, essentially interweaving two books into one, often made my head spin. I had originally hoped to write one entire storyline straight through, then go back and fill in the historical chapters. But I soon realized there was no way I could write the novel without alternating back and forth, just as the reader would experience the story.
BCM: As a relatively new writer, how did you educate yourself on the process of character and plot development? In The Pieces We Keep, which takes two stories and ties them together, could you see ahead of time where the plot was going?
KM: Again, I truly relied on my love and understanding of cinematic storytelling. For each of my books, I see a movie play out in my mind, and I do my best to translate it into a novel. When it came to Pieces, I had written a very detailed synopsis for my editor before I ever wrote a single word of the manuscript. And yet, once I was two-thirds through the book, it dawned on me that a much greater plot twist than I had ever envisioned belonged in the book.
BCM: Some people like books that end with all the details tied together and questions answered. Other people like there to be a little bit of the unknown left hanging. You do just that in The Pieces We Keep, not fully explaining the mystery behind young Jack’s dreams. I prefer this kind of ending because I think it makes for a greater discussion. Did you ever consider ending the book differently, giving some kind of logical or scientific reason behind his dreams?
KM: I had certainly considered it, but not for long. To me, the major point of the book was to encourage readers to decide for themselves what they believe—about the characters, the questions raised in the story, and even the readers’ own beliefs when it comes to life and death.
BCM: What do you think is the hardest part of being a writer? The process of writing, or the marketing aspect? As someone who has worked in public affairs and is comfortable in front of people and the camera, do you think this has helped you? Does having this confidence make it easier to concentrate on the writing?
KM: For the most part I actually love the marketing aspect. I was raised in an entrepreneurial family, so the writing process is definitely more challenging for me than the promotional side. And, as you guessed, my background in TV and public relations helps as well; but I would say it makes it harder at times to focus on the writing, since I prefer the excitement of marketing any day to writing a first draft. Fortunately, I love to revise and polish and play with sentences once they’re on the page—which is what keeps me going, book after book.
BCM: How do you spend your typical day? Do you write every day?
KM: During the school year, I treat writing like a normal job in that I aim to write Monday through Friday while the kids are at school. Summer poses more of a challenge because I’m still working on deadline, but also don’t want to miss spending quality time with our family. I’m already realizing how fast it’s all going!
BCM: Tell me about your latest book, what it’s about and where it takes place.
KM: I’m so excited about the upcoming release of an anthology I spearheaded, titled Grand Central. It releases on July 1st from Penguin Random House, and features original novellas by ten bestselling historical fiction authors. Set at Grand Central Terminal on the same day after WWII, our stories are all separate yet, much like the film Love Actually, interweave with each other in various ways.
BCM: Any other projects in the works?
KM: I’m currently working on a novel titled The Edge of Lost, which involves Alcatraz during the 1930’s and, like my other books, was inspired by a true story. I can’t wait to share more!
BCM: I want to thank you again, Kristina, for taking the time for this interview. I wish you great success in the future!
KM: Thanks so much for your support, Barbara, and for having me here today!
A Winter Wonderland (novella by Kristina “The Christmas Collector”) – 2012
The Pieces We Keep – 2013
A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, McMorris holds a B.S. in International Marketing from Pepperdine University. For her diverse achievements, she has been named one of Portland’s “Forty Under 40” by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently working on her next novel.
My next interview will be with Kristina McMorris, author of The Pieces We Keep. I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to talking with her about her many interests, her writing style, how she develops her ideas and plots and what she’s working on now.
When young Jack is overcome with anxiety on an airplane, Audra is concerned. When night terrors interrupt her son’s sleep, she is worried. But when Audra sees the disturbing and violent pictures Jack has drawn at school, she realizes she has a big problem.
Jack might be acting this way because of his father’s sudden death two years earlier. Their lives have been full of changes, including a possible new job in Philadelphia for Audra, far from their home in Portland, Oregon. But there’s no logical explanation for Jack’s night terrors and his sleep connection to World War II, German spies and crashing airplanes.
This is part of the story that unfolds in The Pieces We Keep; a very clever and entertaining story that is, by my own definition, a combination of modern and historical fiction, with a supernatural piece that tries to answer questions of life, death and spirituality.
The other part is a love story that begins in London, at the outset of World War II. Vivian and Isaak are drawn to each other, but Isaak has a secret. When the war breaks out, Vivian must return to America. Isaak plans to join her, but first he must make sure his German family is safe.
I very much enjoyed reading this book, which alternates between modern-day Portland and the years surrounding World War II, in London and New York. It’s a plot-driven story, full of suspense and cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter, teasers that make you want to keep reading. Questions about truth and the meaning of names and phrases also keep the story moving. McMorris definitely has a knack for story-telling and her use of details that resurface with greater meaning is one of the best things about The Pieces We Keep.
I liked certain characters, especially Gene. He’s the kind of guy you cheer for in books, full of goodness. I think his reaction to betrayal is the best part of the story, especially the scene with Vivian in the apartment. (I’m purposely being vague here for to keep out the spoilers!). Other characters, such as Vivian and Audra, are not as reachable, but I think this works because it is a story about events and ideas, not so much character development.
McMorris’s characters try to understand why death can be tragic and random. They struggle to find the connections between the past and the present, ties that will promise closure and a good feeling about the present. There’s a feeling of all her characters reaching the same positive conclusion, which makes for a nice ending.
I prefer endings that aren’t too perfect, and there’s enough left up in the air here to satisfy me. McMorris leaves the reader to interpret Jack’s dreams, their source and their full meaning, a mystery to the end.
This is a fun and engaging read, with some open questions about present and past!
Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying – but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.
As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound – and perhaps, at last, to heal.
In addition to being a best-selling author and recipient of more than twenty national literary awards, McMorris has a wide range of other talents and interests. These experiences have no doubt given her imagination a lot of material for her books. Here are some of her other accomplishments:
hosted an award-winning children’s television program at age nine.
is a film actress.
owned a wedding and event planning company.
hosted the TV show Weddings Portland Style.
is a professional emcee.
is a contributing writer for Portland Bride and Groom magazine.
used to work as a public relations executive.
compiled her grandmother’s recipes for a self-published cookbook.
is a guest speaker and workshop presenter.
Books by Kristina McMorris:
Letters from Home – 2011 Bridge of Scarlet Leaves – 2012 A Winter Wonderland (novella by Kristina “The Christmas Collector”) – 2012 The Pieces We Keep – 2013
Thanks for visiting. Check back next week for my review!