Thursday, December 8, 2011

Author Interview: Lesley Kagen (Good Graces) Tribute Books Tour

Q. You're new book, Good Graces, is a sequel to the very popular, NYT' bestseller, Whistling in the Dark.  What challenges did you face writing a sequel?
A. My own fears.  Sometimes sequels don't live up to readers' expectations and I hate letting people down.  I was also concerned that I'd be able to recapture the voice of the narrator, Sally O'Malley.  And the feel of the neighborhood. I wasn't sure how to write a sequel either.  How much back story should I include, etc.  Seems like everything has worked out rather well, though! 
Q. You didn't publish your first novel until you were 57 years old.  Why so late?
A. (Laugh)  I was busy being a mother, actress, and restaurateur. 
Q. Do you find that your other "occupations" help you as a writer?
A. Being a mother has taught me patience and endurance, which you need a ton of to be an author.  The publishing process is arduous.  There is a temptation all along the route to give up.  Being an actress gives me a good feel for dialogue and character development.  Also the pace of a story, which is so important.  Owning my own restaurant offered lessons each and every day in dealing with people. ( I've also heard a few great stories while buzzing around tables.)
Q. What part do you like best about writing?  The least?
A.  I feel grateful that I have the opportunity to make a living at what I love.  The part I like the least is the frustration I can feel sometimes when I can't express how I'm feeling.  Grrrr.
Q. What do you most about being an author?  The least?
A. I love meeting and corresponding with people who read my work.  I attend a ton of book clubs and so enjoy them.  These women know how to knock back the wine.  The part I like the least is dealing with people who feel that because you're in the public eye they have the right to treat you rudely.  Grrr.
Q. Would you consider Good Graces a "stand alone" novel?
A. Yup.  But I do think if you read Whistling in the Dark first it would contribute to your enjoyment of the story.
Q. You often write in the voice of a child.  Is that tough?
A. In some ways I find it easier than writing in an adult voice.  Not so much emotional armor to penetrate.  Kids speak their hearts.  (And I don't have to use as many big words:)
Q. Who inspires you?
A. My family. I had a tough childhood and the sun never sets without me giving thanks for my loving, gorgeous, brilliant children and grandson.  I'm pretty nuts about my husband, too. 
Q. Animals always seem to play a part in your books. Why?
A. I love dogs and horses.  I've never been without either one.  I horse showed throughout my childhood.  And my daughter is a brilliant competitor in the hunter/jumper field.  My dogs--my German Shepherd, Johnny, and my little poodle, Daisy--- are adorable and crack me up. 
Q. Anything else you'd like to add?
A. Just to wish everyone a happy holiday and the best New Year ever!  And to thank them for their support!


Lesley Kagen web site:

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Good Graces blog tour site:

Book Summary
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.

Lesley Kagen's Bio:

I was born in Milwaukee and spent my early years in a great working class neighborhood, much like the one where Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces are set.

I attended Marquette University for one year, fell in love, and followed my boyfriend to New York City. I lasted about six months. I was so intimidated, I spent most of my time running from my apartment to the grocery store and back to my apartment, which was located above a 24 Hour Soul Record Store. Hence, I have the dubious ability to recite every lyric to every James Brown tune ever recorded.

After returning to Milwaukee, I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin where I majored in Radio and Television. I fell into a job as a morning drive DJ on one of the country's first alternative radio stations—WZMF. I got to interview lots of very cool rock n' rollers like Frank Zappa, Hendrix and John Lennon.

In 1976, I moved to Los Angeles, where I began a ten year career working for Licorice Pizza record chain where I produced, wrote and voiced thousands of commercials as Lesley from Licorice Pizza. When I set out to expand my career, I ended up doing on-camera commercials, a couple of Movies-Of-The-Week, and a Laverne and Shirley.

I met my husband, Peter aka Sushi Man, in Malibu, which is pretty funny considering he was from Milwaukee as well. While we both loved living in California, after the birth of our kids, Casey and Riley, we felt this overwhelming need to return to the roost, so we moved back home in 1990.

Well, that's about it. Oh, wait. The writing. I adore it. I crave it. But it wasn't until Casey went off to college, and teenage Riley made it clear that any form of communication between us was to be restricted to—"With or without pepperoni"—that I found the opportunity to sit down and let 'er rip. I hope you love reading Whistling in the Dark, Land of a Hundred Wonders, Tomorrow River and Good Graces as much as I loved writing them.

Price: $25.95
ISBN: 9780525952381
Pages: 352
Release: September 2011

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Price: $12.99

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Tribute Books said...

Crystal, thanks for hosting Lesley today. Your questions were great and made for an interesting interview.

Lesley, I love how your first book was published when you were 57. In this day and age, when the media is constantly promoting "be a success by 25 or else," I like how you defied the odds and led a rich and rewarding life that adds depth and substance to your writing.

Lesley Kagen said...

Thanks so much for having me!

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