Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lesley Kagen talks about revisiting characters and Good Graces

Lesley Kagen is an actress, restaurateur and New York Times bestselling author.  Her newest novel, Good Graces, will be released on September 1st, and it's a fabulous book. I asked Lesley if she'd write something for my blog, and I'm honored to have her here. Thank you, Lesley! 

Right Where I’d Left Them

When my debut novel, Whistling in the Dark, was released, much to my shock and delight, readers feel in love with the two little sisters trying to make a go of it in Milwaukee during the summer of ‘59.  (With all the wonderful books out there it really is a minor miracle when one makes the New York Times bestseller list, which I will have engraved on my tombstone.)

Of course, I was not at all prepared for the aftermath a successful book would lay at my feet.  Interviews.  Book signings.  Fan mail so sweet it made a crusty broad weep. But the most surprising unexpected gift of all was the book clubs invitations.  Not having participated in one before, I had no idea how wonderful these woman gatherings would be!  They fed me, offered me alcoholic beverages. Sometimes we even managed to talk about the book. Younger women seemed intrigued by the old school setting, the seasoned gals adored the nostalgic time period.  Some wanted to know if it was difficult to write in a ten-year-old’s voice.  (Not really.)  Others wondered how much of the book was biographical.  (More than you’d think.)  But the one comment all the book clubbers had was, “We want to know what happens to the O’Malley sisters.  When will there be a sequel?” 

“Never,” I told them with much certainty.  I’d already moved to small town Kentucky where my second book Land of a Hundred Wonders is set and was enjoying the southern comforts so much that I decided to stay put for my next book as well.  

And then a funny thing happened.  Soon after I handed in the Tomorrow River manuscript to my editor, I found myself aching to do what I’d told the book clubbers I would never do.  Revisit Whistling in the Dark.  I was missing the characters.  The smell of the chocolate chip cookies that permeated the neighborhood.  Drive-ins.  The lingo.  So I packed my literary bags and headed back to Milwaukee.

I thought my biggest challenge in writing Good Graces would be to recapture the voice of ten-year-old narrator, Sally.  She’d been through the wringer the previous summer.  And Troo, that little vixen…would she have changed?  How had life treated the sisters while I’d been gone?

 I needn’t’ve worried.  Those girls were right where I’d left them.  On the corner of Vliet Street, listening to an aquamarine transistor radio, snapping their fingers to the beat.  “What’s the word, hummingbird?” they grinned and asked.    

Oh, man, it was good to be home.

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