Lesley Kagen is here today with an author interview courtesy of the Tribute Books blog tour for her book, Good Graces. Thank you for being here today, Lesley! You can follow along with the tour here. Enjoy!
That's like asking me who my favorite child is! I love all my characters, but for different reasons. I have to admit a slight partiality to Troo and Mary Lane, though. I adore wisecracking kids.
You've mentioned that your first book, Whistling in the Book, and the new sequel, Good Graces, are somewhat autobiographical. How so?
It is true that it's best to write about what you know. I grew up in the same type of neighborhood the O'Malley sisters did. The kids on the block are almost exact replications of the ones I played Red Light, Green Light and Kick the Can with back in the Fifties. The family structure,--the mother and the three girls--is also the same as mine. I love Milwaukee and wanted to use a many of the iconic figures and places I could to conjure up a sense of place. While some elements of the plot are also based on my life, most of that I just made up.
Would you say that you write coming-of-age stories?
I think all stories are coming-of-age stories. They're just told at different stages of our lives.
The climax in Good Graces might be considered somewhat controversial.
I don't really think about whether or not everyone is going to like what I write. When you release a book, you leave yourself open to all sorts of opinions. Some will like the story, some will not. The same way some folks like pistachio ice cream and some don't. The enjoyment of a book is purely subjective.
How do you handle reviews?
Not being terribly mashochistic, I like the good ones and try to avoid the bad ones. I try to always keep in mind that readers will react in different ways. What I'm not fond of is people who feel that just because you're in the public eye it gives them a license to be mean. I wouldn't dream of giving a book that wasn't my cup of tea a terrible review. I was taught that if I didn't have something nice to say to not say anything at all. Think we could all use a little more of that, don't you? Kindness is important.
The Catholic Church also plays a big part in Good Graces. Do you think you portrayed it accurately?
I do. It might be hard for some readers to understand how influential the Church was in the good old days. It was all powerful. And in some ways, I think the Church abused that power.
Are kids better off now than they were in the Fifties?
In some ways. Communication between adults and children is so much better now. I don't remember ever having a meaningful conversation with my parents. Kids are valued more now. Back then, children were more like possessions. But in other ways, we were so much better off. The pace was different. You could lie around in your backyard and stare at clouds and nobody would get after you to do something "productive or "educational." Everything is so organized now. Kids have playdates and lessons of all kinds. We didn't. We barely had TV. We were our own entertainment. We'd have to dream up something to do everyday. And there was so much more freedom for kids. Parents weren't scared to let there kids out of the house. In fact, they encouraged it. The longer the better. (My mother always seemed slightly disappointed when my younger sister and I turned up for supper.)
Who is your biggest supporter?
My family. My husband, Pete, is my first reader. I give him pages every morning to go through. He jots down notes, but mostly draws stars on the last page. Both of my kids are in the mix, too. My daughter is a corporate attorney who is great with details, and my son is excellent with the humor and dialogue scenes. They are unrelentingly critical. (This is to get back at me for not buying them a spaceship when they were younger.)
Anything else you'd like to share?
I'd like to wish everyone a happy holiday! And to thank them for supporting my books. Hope everyone enjoys Good Graces.
Thank you for answering these questions, Lesley! Thank you for being here!
Lesley Kagen returns with the sequel to her national bestselling debut, Whistling in the Dark.
Whistling in the Dark captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee's summer of 1959. The novel became a New York Times bestseller and was named a Midwest Honor Award winner.
In Good Graces, it's one year later, and a heat wave has everyone in the close-knit Milwaukee neighborhood on edge. None more so than Sally O'Malley, who remains deeply traumatized by the sudden death of her daddy and her near escape from a murderer and molester the previous summer. Although outwardly she and her sister, Troo, are more secure, Sally's confidence in her own judgment and much of her faith have been whittled away. When a series of disquieting events unfold in the neighborhood-a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan, crimes that may involve the increasingly rebellious Troo-Sally is called upon to rise above her inner demons. She made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, a promise she can't break, even if her life depends on it. But when events reach a crisis point, will Sally have the courage and discernment to make the right choices? Or will her false assumptions lead her and those she loves into danger once again?
Lesley Kagen's gift for imbuing her child narrators with compelling authenticity shines as never before in Good Graces, a novel told with sensitivity, wit, and warmth.
Synopsis taken from goodreads.