Friday, September 29, 2017

Interview with Jane Goodrich, Author of The House at Lobster Cove + Giveaway (open internationally!)

I'd like to welcome Jane Goodrich to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The House at Lobster Cove from Benna Books, an Applewood Books imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jane! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Jane Goodrich is a native New Englander who writes from an island in Maine, in a room that sits above Kragsyde's famous arch. A lifelong love of the 19th century has inspired her work as a designer, builder, printer, and story-teller. 

The House at Lobster Cove is her first novel.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which was released in May:

He was Boston's largest taxpayer with little interest in civic affairs. He was listed yearly in the Blue Book and joined no clubs. He possessed a dining room overlooking Boston Common and never entertained.

If George Nixon Black was mentioned at all, it was almost as rumor. He came and went from the opera in a carriage pulled by horses that were the envy of his peers. If he were glimpsed on the street, it was almost always with one of his beloved dogs by his side. His magnificent seaside greenhouses boasted rare plants, his collection of antiques and paintings, seldom exhibited, were said to be extraordinary. When his own portrait was painted, just twice, he chose women artists. Each winter he quietly boarded a luxury European-bound steamship with a man eighteen years his junior. The two had lived together for years.

Black's life was exceptional for his time. After a youth marred by violence and uncertainty, and a life of great privilege contrasted with the awareness of the danger his lifestyle placed him in, his happiness is remarkable and his secrecy understandable.

In the end, it was his house that gave him away. While Black himself was probably content to slip unnoticed into history, Kragsyde, his house at Lobster Cove, was to have no such fate. Published many times when it was first designed, and adored by architects and scholars ever since, the marvelous and photogenic house has made it impossible for Black to disappear.

In The House at Lobster Cove, you will meet the elusive Boston bachelor who was a curious blend of humility and fierceness, and see behind the doors of Kragsyde, the house that sheltered and shaped him, and continued to tell his story long after both were gone.

What was the inspiration for The House at Lobster Cove?

Most people, when they pick up my book do not realize that the house at Lobster Cove was a real life home. Built in 1884 on Lobster Cove in Manchester, Massachusetts for the novel’s protagonist, George Nixon Black and torn down at his death in 1928, the house was named Kragsyde.

Long before I ever wrote a word about Mr. Black I was fascinated with Kragsyde, so much so that my husband and I built an exact replica of the house over a twenty year period doing all the work ourselves. It certainly must be singular for a novelist to live in the setting of her novel—but I do, with all the old ghosts around me.

The replica of Kragsyde. Photo courtesy of Bret Morgan.
Thus, the characters, places and events of The House At Lobster Cove are all true to life. They were all real people and their real names were used. The events actually happened. Only their dialogue and feelings are imagined.

What were your challenges in writing such a novel?  

I had to write and plot within the parameters of real lives, and could not deter from the paths and choices these real people made. Rather than imagining a character from scratch, I had to imagine them within the framework of their actual physical features, and actions. Plotting can be difficult because real life progresses nothing like life in novels. Real life is more dull.

I also had to try and be empathetic with each character and the point of view they seemed to hold during their life and times. I certainly found I “liked” some of the characters more than others, but it was important to imagine them within the context of their circumstances, and not as heroes or villains.

The research for the novel was extensive, it took ten years. Besides using primary sources which told me about the time period, I studied Mr. Black’s will and contacted as many descendants of his beneficiaries as I could find. It is from the stories and letters they provided me that I built the personalities of the characters I only knew from old photographs.

I gave myself a challenge in writing this first novel as well. I wanted to create as fine a work of literary fiction possible. I am a descriptive, poetic sort of writer, and am impatient with stories that have big loud events which carry them. I don’t like bombs going off, or worlds ending or space invaders. To me the smallest of gestures and events written lyrically are much more moving.

I agree! As a big fan of first lines, I'd love to hear yours. Can you provide some commentary on it?
The dog simply slipped off the cliff.
Yes, the first sentence was designed to draw the reader in, but also to give the message that even in a setting of wealth and beauty, sad things happen, and they can happen quickly. Mr. Black did have a dog which fell off the cliff at his home. Not as momentous as the world blowing up, but just as poignant, and something nearly every reader can really relate to. The novel is full of the sudden unexpected joys and sorrows we all experience. To me, that is the value of literature, to unite people in feeling, and provide clues to how we all live and thrive.

I think that's a wonderful technique, to be able to portray such a relatively small moment as extremely sad. Poor dog :( Can you talk a bit about your publishing journey?

It was as full of unexpected twists and events as my novel!

The very hour I sat down to begin writing a query for an agent, I received a call at my business to place an order for a product I sell. (I am a greeting card designer and publisher). The woman on the phone told me she was seeking a card we made with a quote about books because she was a literary agent and wanted to send them to friends and associates.

I immediately went into “elevator pitch” mode, told her I was writing a query at the moment she called, and asked if if she would read my manuscript. She was polite but very cool, but she did agree saying “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

She called me back within the week, told me she thought the novel was marvelous and I signed with her before the month was out. This is going to be easy- I thought.

She submitted my novel to three publishers and they rejected it. She called me to reassure me this was not unusual and not to worry, and then she suddenly died. A few days later, my dog died. It was a bad week.

I rapidly found out that it is perhaps worse being “half-agented” than not having an agent at all and another year passed before a friend of a friend put me in touch with the publisher of Applewood Books.

This time the stars were properly aligned and I had found my publisher. Applewood was also savvy enough to suggest that since I am a letterpress printer and have sold my own greeting cards to bookstores for over 30 years that I have a hand in designing and printing the book’s cover, which I did.

In the end, I have created more facets of my novel than I ever expected and the reader has a special volume. My thoughts have been in every word, and my hands have been on every cover.

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Jane! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away four print copies of The House at Lobster Cove—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is respond to Jane's question in the comments below:
Because of its fame, Kragsyde, the house at Lobster Cove ended up telling the story of the secretive man who owned it. What story would your house tell about you? What would be its secrets?
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. Jane and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at TLC Book Tours and Harlequin!
Giveaway ends October 13th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
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!