Saturday, April 19, 2014

Interview with Kristin Hannah, Author of Fly Away + Giveaway! (US only)

I'd like to welcome the masterful Kristin Hannah to the blog today to celebrate the publication of the long-awaited sequel to her New York Times bestseller Firefly LaneFly Away, out on the 23rd from St. Martin's Press.

I reviewed Firefly Lane last July and was thoroughly moved by the sincerity and real-world sentiments. Kristin definitely has a way of making you get attached to her characters.

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Kristin! It's absolutely an honor to have you here! Let's get this interview started.


Will you please share a brief bio with us?

I was born in September 1960 in Southern California and grew up at the beach, making sand castles and playing in the surf. When I was eight years old, my father drove us to Western Washington where we called home.

After working in a trendy advertising agency, I decided to go to law school. "But you're going to be a writer" are the prophetic words I will never forget from my mother. I was in my third-and final-year of law school and my mom was in the hospital, facing the end of her long battle with cancer. I was shocked to discover that she believed I would become a writer. For the next few months, we collaborated on the worst, most clichéd historical romance ever written.

After my mom's death, I packed up all those bits and pieces of paper we'd collected and put them in a box in the back of my closet. I got married and continued practicing law.

Then I found out I was pregnant, but was on bed rest for five months. By the time I'd read every book in the house and started asking my husband for cereal boxes to read, I knew I was a goner. That's when my darling husband reminded me of the book I'd started with my mom. I pulled out the boxes of research material, dusted them off and began writing. By the time my son was born, I'd finished a first draft and found an obsession.

The rejections came, of course, and they stung for a while, but each one really just spurred me to try harder, work more. In 1990, I got "the call," and in that moment, I went from a young mother with a cooler-than-average hobby to a professional writer, and I've never looked back. In all the years between then and now, I have never lost my love of, or my enthusiasm for, telling stories. I am truly blessed to be a wife, a mother, and a writer.

Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hits shelves next week!

As teenagers in the seventies, Tully Hart and Kate Mularky were inseparable. Tully, with her make-up and her halter tops, was the coolest girl in school. Kate, with her glasses and her high water jeans, was the geeky outsider. But chance and circumstance brought them together and through the decades they were devoted to each other. This was the story of Tully and Kate which began on a quiet street called Firefly Lane. Best friends forever.

But sometimes stories end, and we have to find a way to begin again.

Now, years later, Tully is a woman trying to deal with the loss of her best friend. She wants to fulfill her promise to Kate—to be there for Kate’s children, but it’s a promise she has no idea how to carry out. What does brash, lonely, ambitious Tully know about being part of a family?

Kate's daughter, sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan, is as lost in her grief as Tully is... until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.

Tully's mother, Dorothy Hart, is an unstable woman who abandoned her child too many times in the past and ultimately broke her heart. Now, when Tully is in danger of losing everything and is more vulnerable and alone than she’s been since she put those rough childhood years behind her, Dorothy returns once more, desperate for another chance to be a good mother. But can she be trusted this time? To help her daughter, Dorothy must face her darkest fears and reveal the terrible secret in her past—only then can she become the mother her wounded daughter needs.

A tragedy will bring these three women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way and they will need each other—and maybe a miracle—to transform their lives...

When it was first published, you described Fly Away's predecessor, Firefly Lane, as the book that hit closest to home for you. What is it about the story of Kate and Tully that continues to be so meaningful to you?

Of all the books I’ve written, Firefly Lane has the most of me on every page. I grew up in the town where the novel is set; I lived in the house that was described. I was very much of that era. I went to the University of Washington, and got the same degree as Kate and Tully did. The world of Firefly Lane is very much my world. Also, I lost my own mom to breast cancer. That’s a very personal story that I wanted to tell. Writing Firefly Lane was my way of looking back on the loss of my mom and understanding it as a woman. Additionally, I wanted to give readers some information about what to look for with breast cancer that maybe they didn’t know. So the book has a really important and personal message for me, too.

You have a lot of fans, readers who feel they know the people who populate your novel. How do you create such memorable characters? Do you know them before you write about them? Do you hear their voices? Talk to us about your literary imagination. How do you bring your characters and stories to life?


You really just set out, as a writer, to write the truest, most honest character that you can come up with. For me, that tends to begin with back story. I believe that we are the sum of our experiences in life; this tends to be true for fictional characters as well. It’s very important that I know about their childhood, the defining moments in their lives, their losses, what their hopes and dreams are—all of these are important details for creating an honest character.


As for their voices: Well, I don’t hear their voices. I think I’d need some kind of medication if that were the case! But I do begin, after a lot of research and a lot of writing, to discover them. It’s like an archaeologist uncovering the spine of a dinosaur in the sand; slowly, bit by bit, the bigger truth is revealed. That’s how I discover characters, by writing about them. Before I begin, I create lots of biological information. But the magic really happens when I start writing the scenes from a character’s viewpoint. I am often surprised by the voices they give themselves, and the way their dialogue happens—how they speak and what they have to say. Also, I see who the characters are by their sense of humor. When I find what a character thinks is funny is when I actually begin to know them.

Some voices come to me very naturally and some voices are very difficult. Kate, for example, is the character most like me: She came to me very easily. Tully’s was the most difficult voice that I needed to get right because she is the farthest from me—absolutely my opposite in almost every way. And teenagers are difficult. I really wanted to get the nuances right—both in the teenage mindset and voice and dialogue. Marah had some moments when I really had to dig deep and find out who she was. Johnny, surprisingly, always came pretty easily for me—I’m not sure why!


Do you ever miss your characters after you’ve finished writing about them?

It takes me between a year and two years to write a novel, with fourteen months being about average. Over the course of it, I do a lot of prep work—and a lot of drafts. So, by the time I get to the end of a novel, I really feel like I’ve created the best version of the story, and the best characters within that framework. Once I’ve done what I set out to do, I am ready to move on to something else.

Firefly Lane is the one exception. That’s why it’s the only follow-up novel I’ve ever done. Because I did keep Tully and Cloud, in particular, in my head. And I really wanted to know what happened to them after the loss of Kate.

They definitely stuck with me, and I find it so meaningful that you were compelled to write the sequel when that isn't your usual thing; it shows exactly how powerful characters—even fictional—can be. What do you hope readers will take away from Fly Away, or from any of your novels?

I guess I hope, first and foremost, that my books are the sort of books that once you start you can’t put down. I just love a book in which you’re dying to know what happens, and how the end comes about. So I hope that mine make them feel that way, and that they learn to care deeply about the characters. And I hope that my novels reaffirm the importance of family and motherhood and caring for each other. In the world right now, it’s so important that we put the positive emotions front and center. If there’s a lesson at the heart of Fly Away it is that you can’t run from your problems or your failures; and, sometimes, if you stand your ground and dare to forgive, life can turn on a dime. You can make a second chance for yourself and the people you love.

Where can you be found on the web?


Thank you for joining us today, Kristin! It was incredible getting insight on the book as well as on the first book. Congrats again on the new release, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away a print copy of Fly Away—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
Tell me about your inseparable best friend—what's your story? If you have a lot of close friends rather than one best friend, tell me about one of them who stands out to you!

Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I know who to contact when I randomly select winner. Don't make me track you down! No email = No entry!!!!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Kristin and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends May 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, rest of the world! Please check out the top of my sidebar where there is a list of currently running giveaways that are open internationally.
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!