Tribute Books Tour:Q&A with Good Graces Author Lesley Kagen

Posted 1 December, 2011 by Molly(Cover To Cover Cafe) in Book Reviews / 3 Comments

Good Graces
September 2011
352 Pages

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.

The Q&A:

Q. With the holiday season upon us, do you put aside your writing in order to accomplish all that needs to get done?
A. Nope.  Even on Christmas morning, I write.  It’s important for me to stick to my schedule no matter what.  I need to stay in the flow of a story.   

Q.Tell us a little more about that.  What is your typical writing day like?
A. I’m an early riser, so at the crack of dawn, I put on my lucky writing jacket, haul myself downstairs, feed my dogs, brew my tea and head straight to the computer.  I’ll work for a goodfour or five hours before my brain begins to wilt.  Then it’s off to the shower, which is my transition from the imaginary world back to the real world, unless I have a fantastic idea.  After years of jumping out and running back downstairs to jot it down, I finally realized that it might be a smart idea to keep a small tape recorder on the towel rack.

Q. The holidays are a time that stories, both religious and secular, play such a large part in all of our lives. Have you ever written a story set during this time of year?
A. I haven’t gotten one down on paper yet, but I’ve been toying with an idea for the last couple of years.  I’m a huge fan of A Christmas Carol.  Think it’s one of the best plots ever conceived.  I’d love to be able to write a tale even half as good.

Q. What are some of your family’s holiday traditions?
A. (Laugh)  Well, we bake cookies and shop and all that fun stuff that everyone does, but we have this one thing we do…I shouldn’t tell you this, it makes me sound so irreverent, but my family, we take humor very seriously.  So we bundle up and drive around on Christmas Eve and poke fun at wacky decorations.  I mean, really.  What are some people thinking?  Purple and black are not Christmas colors, okay?   And lights that dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller are not fine either.

Q. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? 
A. I used to, but a few years ago I gave up and accepted that facts that I will always need to lose ten pounds, will probably never stop eating gooey desserts, and pounding away on a gym treadmill will always be low on my priority list.

Q.  Will you have a new book released in 2012?
A.  I hope so.  I’m just putting the finishing touches on a mother/daughter story that I’m really loving. 

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?  Specifically for writers who hope to be published some day?
A.  I’d like to remind them to never give up.  The road to publication is hard, and it’s often not the most talented who succeed, but those with the most perseverance.  They need to hang in there.  Believe in themselves, and not allow anyone to tell that they haven’t got what it takes. 
About the Author:
I was born in Milwaukee and spent my early years in a great working class neighborhood, much like the one whereWhistling 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 aLaverne 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.

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