Q. What's your favorite holiday?
A. Gosh, I am such a festive girl it's tough to chose. I adore Halloween! And Thanksgiving is such a cozy time. And who can resist the smell of a Christmas tree? This year, I think Christmas might win out. I have an 18 month old grandson who is gonna find out exactly how nice he is Christmas morning!
Q. Do you write with music? Why or why not?
A. I don't. I'm an everything-has-got-to-be-still kind of writer. I love the sound of the weather beating against the window that sits over my writing desk, though. And a crackling fire does wonders for my writing.
Q.What are your comfort books, books that you can read again and again, that foster and rekindle your desire to write?
A. Once I've read a book, if it impacts me, I don't go back and read it again. I absorb it.
Q.What do you see as the influences on your your writing?
A. My crappy childhood, for one. Trying to understand some of the pain I experienced during my younger years is great motivation. Also everyday life influences me. The plight of people. And their bravery in seemingly insurmountable situations inspires me. Especially children's courage.
Q.Can you share a little of your current work with us?
A. I'm just finished a mother/daughter tale set in the horse world. Many of my stories are told through the eyes of a child, in this one we get a mother's take.
Q.Is their anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
A. Finding balance. The right amount of narration vs. dialogue. The correct amount of humor vs. drama. There is so much to keep in mind when creating a story.
Q.What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
A. Engagement with the reader. A story needs to feel approachable. And authentic. I also appreciate a nice twist of events. And pacing is key. I want a story to move along at a nice clip.
Q.What were your feeling when you first saw the cover of your first novel?
A. (Laugh) I wasn't bowled over. The girls on the cover, Sally and Troo, were both blond on the first cover. It's a key plot point within the story that Troo be a redhead. It took time to convince my publisher to see it as important, but I eventually did. When that book, that cover, arrived at my home, I burst into tears.
Q.What tools do you feel are a must-have for writers?
A. It's so important to read. To learn from other writers. To see how they craft their stories.
Q. Anything else you'd like to add?
A. Just a holiday hug to all!
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.
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 a Laverne 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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