Tuesday, September 1, 2009
house & home book review & author interview
As an English major in college I was required to read quite a bit but since earning my degree, working, and raising a family I sheepishly admit that I hadn’t read much more than a magazine article in many, many years. The fact that I “don’t read” had even become a recurring joke with family and friends.
When I was approached by TLC Book Tours to review Kathleen McCleary’s novel House and Home, I had to think it over. Would and could I make the time to read a book? I accepted, and selected a blog post date to serve as my own much-needed deadline.
For the first time in my life I brought a book to the beach and read chapter one. “Look at me reading!” I said to my friend. Day two was chapter two. Day three was chapter three, four and then on and on and on! It happened: I got hooked and could not put the book down. That evening there were breaks for dinner, and baths and bedtime for the boys, but once all was quiet, I read House and Home until it was finished.
There were moments reading when I GASPed, when things felt so real, when I sobbed. There were many things about the novel to which I could relate: loving my family (and house) unconditionally; being in my forties; being one who plans; appreciating dear friends.
House and Home is the story of a woman named Ellen, whose recent decisions have lead her to a very conflicted state. In her best intentions to ground her family she watches as her world begins to come undone and struggles with how best to fix it. The novel becomes a real page-turner as almost every chapter trails off with a suspenseful cliffhanger. I found the conclusion to be extremely satisfying and am happy to report that I now read books again.
Kathleen McCleary has written for Martha Stewart Living, Ladies Home Journal and HGTV, and her love of décor is evidenced through her easy details of furnishings and people which drew me in like a descriptive magazine piece. As a host in this virtual book tour I had the opportunity to contact Kathleen for an interview. She was so wonderful, warm and responsive. Let’s imagine this is my little talk show for a moment. Here goes …
Elyse: In the book you describe pieces of furniture with such detail. What is your decorating style and do you share main character Ellen’s love of antiques?
Kathleen McCleary: I do share Ellen's love of antiques. I have a mix of new pieces and antiques in my home, and the furniture I describe in Ellen's house and in the shop are pieces I've seen and coveted in stores or actually own. The carpenter's chest in the shop that she discusses with Jeffrey is actually a piece I used to own that I found at a tiny antique store in Crown Point, N.Y. It was so big and heavy I finally sold it. My decorating style could best be described as "eclectic." For instance, the brass chandelier in my dining room is a little too formal for my taste, so I hung a piece of folk art from North Carolina on it. I have a magnificent piece of original art over the fireplace, a painting of the Columbia River Gorge, that we bought before we left Oregon, and I have a colorful collage my daughter made in second grade framed and hanging on a wall in the same room.
Elyse: As a mom of two, was it difficult for you to find the time to write?
Kathleen McCleary: Yes! My girls were 7 and 10 when I started the book. I tried to write as much as I could when they were at school, and late at night once they were in bed. My husband was very supportive, so he helped me out a lot.
Elyse: I am always interested in the names of characters. How did you name some of yours?
Kathleen McCleary: The great thing about writing fiction is you get to do all the things you didn't get to do in your real life. I always loved the name "Louisa" but my husband didn't like it for either one of our daughters, so I was able to give that name to the daughter in the book. My grandmother's name was Johanna and my best friend in fourth grade was Joanna so that became the best friend in the book. And Sam and Ellen are just solid, down-to-earth, real-people names. I had the most fun naming Jordan and her kids (Lily, Daisy, and Stamen). The names all seemed to fit!
Elyse: "House and Home" is such a perfect title for this book. When in the writing process did you come up with the title?
Kathleen McCleary: I called the book "House" the entire time I was working on it, and my agent, Ann Rittenberg, came up with the title, "House and Home." It is perfect. I have a great agent!
Elyse: Here at my blog cottage, we swoon over yellow Capes like the one in your book. How did you determine what Ellen’s beloved house would look like?
Kathleen McCleary: The house was modeled on the first house I ever bought, in Portland. That house was a 1938 Cape Cod with beautiful dentil moulding (over the front door, and as part of the mantel over the fireplace). But again, because it was fiction I was able to add all the things to the house in my book that I would have loved for my house in real life but never had quite enough time or money for—hardwood floors, dormer windows, and gorgeous paint colors in every room.
Elyse: How did you celebrate having your first novel published? Any treats?
Kathleen McCleary: I threw a big party for the many friends, family, and neighbors who were wonderful supports through out the writing process. My across-the-street neighbor graciously offered to host the party, which was perfect because she lives in a giant purple Victorian house that was built in the 1890s and has been lovingly restored—a perfect "House and Home" kind of house. As for personal treats, I finally bought the porch furniture I'd been eyeing at Crate and Barrel, and we've been enjoying it ever since.
• For more information about House and Home and Kathleen, visit the following websites:
TLC Book Tours
Thanks so much! (This was very fun)