100th Book Review Contest Closed & Answers from Kathleen McCleary

September 11, 2008 at 10:00 am | Posted in Books | 2 Comments

he 100th Book Review Contest is now closed to new entries.  I’ll be working with the Randomizer to find out who the winners are.  I can’t wait!  They will be announced promptly at 1pm EST today.  Please come come back and join me for the celebration!

While you’re biting your fingernails to the quick in eager anticipation of the winner, I’ve got answers to your questions from Kathleen McCleary.  Yesterday afternoon I compiled the questions for her and sent them off.  She was delighted by the great questions. 🙂 Here are her responses:

Q: “What was your inspiration for writing this book?”

A: Four years ago I left Oregon and moved east to pursue a terrific job opportunity for my husband. I was so upset over leaving our house that I got the idea of writing a book about a woman who felt the same way.

Q: I would like to ask Kathleen how she feels about her own home (her favorite thing about it, etc) and whether that influenced her in writing a character that loved her home enough to want to burn it down.  and Q: I’d probably ask the author whether her own life experiences influenced the book in any way.

A: I did feel very strongly about my house in Portland. I have a beautiful home here in Virginia, but have to admit that I don’t have quite the same passion for it. My feelings about my house in Portland have much more to do with the life events that took place there—it was the first house we ever owned, we brought our babies home to that house, etc.

Q: “What surprised you the most about your story or characters while writing this book?”

A: My biggest surprise was when Jordan walked in to the coffee shop to say that Jeffrey had told her everything. I hadn’t planned that, and I felt almost as shocked as Ellen did when it happened.

Q: “What kind of research, if any, did you have to do for this book?”

A: I talked at length with a fire captain about house fires and how they start, how they spread, etc.

Q: What is your writing process? and How do you schedule your writing time? Do you plan certain hours of the day to write or is it more when the whim strikes you?

A: I try to write for 3-4 hours every morning, as soon as my kids get off to school.

Q: Are the antiques, coffee and tea topics in your book something you are interested in and know about or things that you had to research?

A: I worked in a coffee shop for a year, so that’s where I learned everything I know about coffee. I am personally a passionate tea drinker. And I do love to collect antiques, so I wrote about things I either have (such as Fiestaware) or long for (a corner cupboard).

Q: I was shocked for a moment when I read that Ellen would rather burn down her home than lose it to others. My home burned down when I was a teenager and it still comes back to me sometimes how horrible that was. That’s quite the metaphor for feelings. I wonder how she came up with that idea for her story?

A: I’m sorry about the fire in your past. I certainly didn’t intend to trivialize the very real horror of a house fire. I have close friends who lost their home and everything in it to a fire many years ago, and I know how life altering and tragic such an experience is. Ellen’s feelings about losing her house were obviously extreme—so extreme that she couldn’t figure out a way to handle those feelings other than with an extreme solution that clearly was no “solution” to her emotional turmoil at all.

Q: How much do you think faith is important in any relationship?

A: I’m not sure if you mean spiritual faith or faith in another person. I personally think you need both types of faith to sustain a relationship.

Q: Was House & Home at all personal for you? I often wonder if sometimes writing novels is like getting feelings out but just in a different way than writing in a journal does.

A: Yes, it was very personal. I often repeat a terrific quote I heard once about writing fiction (although I don’t know who said it): All the feelings are facts, it’s just the facts that are fiction.

Q: “Do you personally identify with any of your characters?”

A: Ellen certainly is like me in many ways, although I like to think I’m less control-oriented and neurotic than she is. And, as I mentioned on my Amazon blog, when I moved in to my house in Virginia, I immediately ripped out the entire yard and completely re-landscaped everything, so there’s a little bit of Jordan in me, too.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it something that you had completely planned out from the beginning, or did the story kind of develop itself?

A: As mentioned above, the main idea for the novel came from selling my own house. I actually didn’t plan out the story at all. I wrote the first chapter and then I wrote the scene in which the house actually burns down. I just had no idea how I was going to get from A to B, so it was a real process of discovery.

Q: What, do you think, connects us to houses/places. Sure, we lived there, but what makes that bond so strong?

A: The people we love and the experiences we have in those places give them their emotional impact.

Q: “We all have to give up things in life, what is the hardest thing you ever had to give up?”

A: Living in Oregon.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this contest and to everyone for their well wishes on my 100th review.  It really was a milestone for me.  I’ve been walking on air all week.



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  1. What an interesting interview! It was a really good idea to have us ask questions, I think you got a variety of great ones.

    *bites nails in anticipation*

  2. nice interview, I enjoyed reading it 🙂

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