Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kathleen McCleary's House And Home

Early this week, I devoured a book in about a day and a half. It was that good. Not only was it well-written with strong, sympathetic characters (even when they weren't doing sympathetic things), I just loved the subject matter. House and Home is about a woman who is being forced to leave the home she loved-- and all the emotions that go into a transition like that. Having just moved myself, leaving behind the home I felt so strongly about, I totally identified with the feelings and emotions that she dealt with. As Ellen (the main character) struggles to say goodbye (and schemes to get out of having to say goodbye), she also deals with the nuances of a friendship that is built on proximity (her next-door neighbor is also her best friend-- but will their friendship survive if they don't live next door any longer?), being separated from her husband, feelings for another man, and anger towards the woman who is buying her house and, in effect, stealing her life. Through it all, she must mother her two little girls, guiding them through their own feelings about leaving their home. To see a very neat video about the book, just visit Kathleen's website and click on "video."

I decided to write to Kathleen to tell her how much I loved the book and to ask her if she would do a little interview here. So, she graciously answered my questions and got them back to me lickety-split... and of course, that made me love her all the more!

Hi Kathleen, so great to have you here! Thanks so much for taking time to visit with us and talk about House and Home and being a writing mom, When did House and Home come out? What has the response been so far?

The book came out July 1. It's hard for me to gauge the response, but I've had some great publicity (it was mentioned in O at Home, Family Circle,USA Weekend and The New York Times) and even more, some really heartwarming letters from readers. I hope it sells well—I won't know much about that for several more months—but to hear readers say that the book has touched them in some way, or meant something to them, is really all that I could ask for!

I love the title! It is so fitting for the book-- it speaks to the theme of the book so perfectly, the dual nature of how some abodes are houses and some are true homes. Was that your original title or one that came out of a titling committee?
My original title as I was writing the book was just "House." My agent, Ann Rittenberg, came up with the idea "House and Home" which, as you say, is just perfect for the book. And I love that the first words in the book are "The house" and the last word in the book is "home." How cool is that?

Jodi Picoult says that her books always begin with the question "What if?" How did this book begin for you?
I guess you could say it began with "What if?" Four years ago my family moved across country, a move that was necessary for my husband's career,but wrenching for all of us. I felt so bereft at leaving the house we'd owned for 11 years—the only home our kids had ever known—that I did kind of idly wish that it would just disappear so I didn't have to think about another family living out their lives there. That sparked (so to speak) the idea for the novel.

Ha, ha, ha, very witty Kathleen (you will have to read the book to know why that's funny!) How old are your two girls? How have you balanced writing and motherhood/family through the years? Any great tips for the rest of us?

My daughters are 11 and 14 now. When I started the book, they were 7 and10. I balance work and motherhood the way all of us do, by the seat of my pants. I try to write for a couple hours each morning once the kids are off to school, and sometimes I squeeze in another hour at night. When I get frustrated by all the things that constantly seem to keep me from writing—the kids' soccer practices, dentist appointments, the furnace guy, etc.—I just try to remember that all these real-life experiences are simply more fodder for my fiction.

Thanks so much for sharing with us a bit! I loved your book and look forward to subsequent titles of yours... count me in as one of your confirmed, committed fans!
Thank you. To all the writers out there, stick with it! I was 48 when my novel came out this year and never believed it would happen.
Kathleen McCleary

Disclaimer: this is a review of a secular book. There is bad language interspersed in the book, as Ellen's next door neighbor curses a lot. Ellen (the main character) goes into how her friend uses bad language liberally and how she doesn't feel comfortable doing so. If this will bother you, don't get this book. I have said this before, but I will repeat it now: I believe that, to be a better writer, you should read good writing. This book is well-written. So, I read it. You make your own decisions as to whether it could be a stumbling block for you.
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Laurie Ann said...

Awesome review and interview. I haven't read secular fiction in a while now for personal reasons, but I could see me picking this one up after praying about it. It sounds good, and as far as language goes, could it be any worse than one of my fave's on TV, L&O? I don't think it'll be a stumbling block for me personally, but I'm glad you included the disclaimer. Will be praying about reading it (my only concern is will this fuel my desire for me secular fiction, LOL!)

Anonymous said...

I loved this book, too. Great interview with Kathleen, thanks!