December 9, 2011

Guest Author Lesley Kagen

How I wish that genies in bottles were real and I would come across one, don't you?  I know one of my wishes would be to have the ability to read every single book I wanted to, including the one written by today's guest.  But, unfortunately, that isn't the case.  However, Nicole from Tribute Books, is stopping by today to introduce us to this author and I have already put her book on my tbr list.  Please help me welcome Ms. Lesley Kagen!!

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 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. 
You can visit Lesley at her website, Facebook, Book Blogs Tour, and Good Graces blog.


Q. Tell us a little about Good Graces.
A.  It's the story of two young sisters, Sally and Troo O' Malley, set during the summer of 1960 on the west side of Milwaukee.  It's a sequel to my first novel, Whistling in the Dark.

Q.  Was it tough to write a sequel to such a popular book?
A. I was scared to death, but once the ball got rolling it was wonderful to be back in Milwaukee.  My previous two books were set in the South, so it was relief to be back home. 

Q. Back home?  Are you from Milwaukee?
A. I was born and raised there in a blue collar neighborhood much like the one where the stories are set.  I moved to New York for awhile, and then lived in LA for fifteen years, and moved back home after I had my children.  I wanted them to have the same kind of childhood I had.  (I live in a small town outside of Milwaukee now.  I'm a nature girl at heart.)

Q. How do you get your ideas for a story?
A. Location is important to me.  I'll get an idea, a feeling, really, where I'd like to spend the year or so that it might take to write a book.  Once I feel firmly ensconced in the setting, my characters start appearing.  I don't outline, or have any idea generally what a story is going to be about.  I trust the process and let 'er rip.

Q. Have you ever had writer's block?
A. My problem is that I have too many ideas and don't know which to listen to. I think writer's get blocked when they think too much about a story.  You have to allow it to develop.  To stand back and let it take charge.  When you try to interfer with the creative process, you're just asking for trouble.

Q. Anyone else in your family write?
A. My son has the talent, but he hasn't tapped it yet.  And my daughter and husband are fantastic editors.  Especially my daughter who is an attorney.  Her mind is so different than mine.  She can spot problems in a manuscript sooner than I can, and is not shy about offering suggestions.

Q.What do you like most about being a writer?
A. Beside working in my pajamas?  I love discovering every morning what turns the story will take. 

Q. What do you like most about being an author?
A. It means a lot to me when readers send me an email or bump into me at an event and tell me how much they enjoyed a story.  And book clubs.  They're fantastic.  Writing is such solitary work.  I often spend more time with my characters than real people.  Getting out and talking to book clubbers is refreshing.  Fun!  And they have the best baked treats!
Q. Is there anything you don't like about being published?
A. Bad reviews aren't much fun.  Every author gets them.  It's part of the job. 

Q. How do you handle them?
A. I try not to read reviews  Good or bad.  Books are a buffet.  Some diners are going to love Crab Rangoon, some not.  It's often just a matter of taste.

Q. Anything you'd like to add?
A. Happy Holdiays to one and all.  Wishing you the best New Year ever!

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.

Book Details
Price: $25.95 
ISBN: 9780525952381
Pages: 352
Release: September 2011

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Price: $12.99

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Tribute Books said...

Cheryl, thanks for hosting Lesley today. We appreciate your support of her work.

Lesley, I can only imagine what the pressure must be like to write a sequel to a New York Times best-seller, but I think you did an amazing job with it.