Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Friends & Fiction with Christina Baker Kline

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Meet the #1 bestselling author of ORPAHN TRAIN, Christina Baker Kline and learn all about her new novel, the instant bestseller THE EXILES, her research and writing process, and the challenge of blending fact and fiction. http://christinabakerkline.com

Welcome to Friends and Fiction. Five best selling authors and the stories. Novelists, mary Kay andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, harvey patty Callahan, Henry and mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider. Talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books, they've written the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hello everyone, we are happy to be here because it is Wednesday night and it is seven p.m. Eastern time and that means it's time for Friends and fiction. Welcome to our show. We have so much to look forward tonight I am patty Eliane Henri and I'm mary Kay Andrews and Kristen Harbel and I'm Kristie Woodson, Harvey Yeah and this is friends and fiction, new york times, bestselling authors, endless stories to support independent booksellers. Tonight you'll meet Christina baker klein and we are going to talk about her new book just out in paperback called the Exiles. We'll be hearing about her incredible research, the inspiration or I should say the inspirations plural. And of course we will not let her get away without a writing tip. Her personal history that found its way into this novel is extraordinary. And in support of our and in our continuing support of indie bookstores, which you know, we love tonight, our bookstore the week is watching booksellers, a vibrant independent community bookstore located in the heart of Montclair, New Jersey. We'll be telling you more about that in a little bit. And of course, you know that every week we partner with Parade magazine online, we streamed from their facebook page and we have an original essay in their online magazine every week. So this week, Christie wrote about how it takes a village to raise a child. You can find that s a linked on our facebook page and on our instagram on our instagram page two. But meanwhile Christie, can you tell us a little bit about what you wrote about? I sure can. Um, so when Will was a tiny baby? When I got my first book deal and all of a sudden it was like, oh my gosh, I'm going to have to, you know, I can't do this all the time full time by myself. Um, so we were really lucky to find, um, some like family friends in our neighborhood who um, wanted to keep him for me a couple afternoons a week. And um, what the essay is really about is just how they became our family and will surrogate grandparents and um, just all the things they taught me about being a mother and um they're a really amazing couple and um, jerry, who is the um the husband passed away really suddenly from a heart attack. Um Gosh, like a couple of days before, under the southern sky came out and um it was just, it was really unexpected and it was really, really sad of course, and you know, he's one of my son's favorite people in the whole world. So um it was just a reflection on, you know, everything they've been to us and um and and all the people that, you know, help us raise our Children and so I was just interested from you guys, you know, is there anyone that, You know, maybe it was a part of your villas kind of unexpected. Yeah. You know when Noah was a baby, I took the first three months totally off, which you know that was such a weird feeling. So I had him a little bit later. I had him when I was almost 37. And I've been writing, I've been writing books for so many years at that point that I felt so adrift. It was such a loss of my identity. So I started having, I mean it was really, it was very difficult time for me. So when he was, I think, I can't remember if he was three months or six months, he must have been six months. We started having a babysitter come and nanny just eight hours a week. And I felt so I mean I was in the house with her the whole time, but it was that feeling of oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm handing him off even for a small amount of time to somebody else. She has become a part of our family. She still is. She was here today. I did a speaking engagement today. Um, she was in college at the time and now she's an elementary school teacher and Noah is starting kindergarten in a couple weeks and she's been with us all summer and not only has she been doing just regular, you know, playing with him stuff, but she's helped get them ready for school, like not just the school work stuff, but the, um, talking to him about how exciting school is and how he's really going to make friends and, you know, the ins and outs of the classroom. So I really don't know what we would have done without her. She's...

...phenomenal and that was unexpected. I thought I was hiring someone to spend a little bit of time with him for a short period of time and she'll be in our lives forever. Yeah, it's amazing how that happens. I mean it's just yeah that's exactly exactly how I felt. We had a neighbor, we've lived in the same neighborhood for 37 years. We're in our third house in this neighborhood in Atlanta in town Atlanta neighborhood. And when I first started going on book tour, my kids were um eight and four and you know I've been writing at home, but going out on book tour was a whole different thing. And my husband worked, his job was about 45 minutes away on a good day, on a bad day, an hour and a half. So I recruited um a neighbor's grandmother, nanny and she was living with her son and daughter in law and helping raise her granddaughter who was a year older than my Katie and the kids went to the same parochial school and we knew nanny. And um so one day I asked her, I said nan, do you think I'm getting ready to go out on book tour and I need somebody that could pick the kids up uh you know at school and maybe take Andy to little league practice and you know get supper ready um tom could cook, but since he didn't get home till seven some nights do you think you do that? And she just hemmed and hawed and said oh I I don't think so, I think that's too much for me, you know Andy was pretty rambunctious, he was four and but her son Billy came up to me at the neighborhood pool not long after that and he said mama told me that you asked her if she would help keep the kids and I think you ought to ask her again because I think she really wants to do it, so she wants to be wanted. And so I did. And for years, yeah, nanny, uh her nanny, our nanny was her and she was great and she was so funny. She told me this amazing story about her own life and about her husband basically leaving and taking everything and I used the, the inspiration for that ended up in my novel, um little bitty lies, wow, I love it. You just never know what's gonna happen. She's 99 now, wow. I mean, there's just no way we can do it alone. There's just, I remember when Um Megan who is now 29 and and Thomas was one and I went to the gym because the gym had a babysitter. Yes, it was, I really wanted to work out, I just had one hour and this sweet girl, Catherine basil came up to me and said, you know, I babysit because she fell in love with thomas and just like y'all, she ended up part of our family, my dad who's a pastor did her wedding, her kids were, you know my kids were in her wedding. I mean it's just and we're still really close. My kids think about her and text her and talk to her all the time. So you know, there's so many instances where people come alongside of us and I mean it's just like this show, right, we can't, there's no way when one of us can't do it, somebody comes alongside. It's no different than with our kids if we're lucky. So, and I know Christine has had the same experience, we're going to talk to her in a minute because I have heard that even her three boys have sang a sea shanty for events. No, no. And so that was what I should have gotten a recording of that for the show tonight last year, Last year to post it. So now let's talk about her incredible guest, Christina baker client. She is a number one new york times, best selling author of eight novels, including the exiles Orphan train and a piece of the world. Christina is published in at least 40 countries probably more by now and her novels have received so many prizes that it would take up half the show. But I wouldn't say that night just hit the new york times again. Her essays, articles and reviews have appeared in publications such as the new york times, the new york Times, Book review, the boston globe, the san Francisco chronicle lit hub psychology today and slight Christina was born in Cambridge, England and raised there as well as in the american south and main. She is a graduate of Yale Cambridge and the University of Virginia where she was a Henry Hoynes fellow in fiction writing. She lives in new york city in southwest Harbor Maine with her husband, David Klein. We heard it's her anniversary tonight. So everybody happy anniversary, years anniversary. Anyway, um they are not to sing on the show. I mean that thing yeah. David are the parents of three sons, Hayden Will and Eli, who as patty mentioned have been...

...known to sing at Christina's events. You know I follow her on social media and I love seeing the clips during the pandemic that she shared her sunny lies singing performance as it was so great. Her new book, the exiles is out now in paperback and it's a target pick a Costco pick and of ours, enable pick that's like a hat trick or something like a trifecta or what does it want? A horse? Triple crown, triple crown trifecta. We were going to get there. So this novel is so deeply atmospheric And Christina's prose is so descriptive and evocative and the exiles makes her third foray into the genre. Her other to the orphan train and a piece of the world were grounded in American history. But the exiles takes us to Australia and beyond and spotlights a 19th century injustice that I was hardly aware of. So, but I'll let her tell you about the book. So sean, could you bring Christina on? We could just talk about you. Yeah, I'll just talk about you the rest of the night. I now want to be on this show every day because we do have some fun. So we're so glad you're here. The last time I saw you was at a restaurant in new york city with Paula McLain over a very fine glass of wine. So until we can do that again. This is the best we've got. This is fantastic. And honestly the Combinator, your chemistry, all of your chemistry together, it's just so infectious. It's thank you. Thank you. We don't want to hear the word in that, you know, that is what my when I do voice to text and I'm trying to say friends and Friends and fiction, it's always next infection does not mean it is for me to Yeah, so if so if that's what you mean by infectious Christina, you would be granted our phones agree. So, Christina, in such a pleasure to meet you before we take a deep dive into the inspirations and origins of this story, Can you give us a quick description of this beautiful, atmospheric novel? Sure, so, um, first of all, thank you so much for having me on. So much fun. Um, okay, so the exiles is the story of the convict women who transformed Australia and the native people, the aboriginal people whose way of life was utterly changed. Um, you might say destroyed when british colonists landed on their shores. And the whole thing takes place in the mid 19th century. So around the 1840s. Um, and it's really based on a very true story that not many people know about. So that's the, that's the story. That's awesome. It is awesome. And you're right, because I didn't know very much of this story. I think I've heard whispers about convict ships, but never thought about it being women and never thought about the actual impact on Australia. So, before we dive in, y'all, everyone out there listening, put your questions in the comments on facebook and Youtube and we will try to grab as many as we can. So Christina, my favorite subject, one of his origins, what I call origin stories. And in your author note, you say, attempting to identify the genesis of a novel can be a fool's errand. So here I am on a fool's errand. I've been on a lot of fool's errands, but here I am on another. And I've heard you talk a bit about your tingle, what what we all all of us often call spidey sense And about the origins of this novel coming from three separate streams that flowed into the novel this river of a novel. Can you talk a little bit about that? A lot of it about that? I think something that might be interesting to people who are starting out. I mean, I always talk about this when I teach is that I've learned to trust what you just satisfied the sense we all talk about. I've learned to trust this feeling, which often um is something I want to resist because oftentimes it's a it's an ambitious idea that feels daunting to me, that feels big maybe. Um I don't know enough about it. There are a lot of reasons to say no to a big idea. And orphan Train was the first novel I wrote, where I was so terrified for legitimate reasons of the story that I just it took me. I actually thought...

...about that book over eight years. I wrote to other novels, I published a book and I just eventually couldn't escape in this story. But the reason orphan Train was scary to me is that, I mean, there were so many, but one is that I, yeah, I don't know if you guys have experienced this but I stumbled on this story and it's not my story. My husband's grandfather was nobody knew on an orphan train essentially. He was featured in an article, an orphan train riders. He was orphaned and sent on a train to Jamestown North Dakota. He died and my mother in law read this newspaper article. We were all there when she discovered this after he vanished. And wow, you've never known any of it. And so I knew immediately I got that feeling that we were just talking about immediately what was this crazy idea. And especially because even in the article that said that hundreds of thousands of Children went on these trains. My husband was a history major in college. He had never heard of it. My father is a historian, I know none of us had heard anything about it. And the fact that the daughter of a train writer knew nothing about it too, which by the way, no, no, it's not uncommon. So, but my fear then was that it wasn't my story to tell, as I said. And also writing about the past was not something I'd really done before, and it took me a long time to realize that no one else was really writing this story. And then, like, you know, eight years later, we're still not a novel written about this. So, um, I just plunged in and it kind of gave me the confidence with my subsequent books to do the same thing. So in different, completely different areas. So with the exiles, I read a little piece. So my it was again, it was probably a decade ago when this first came up for me. I read a little article in the new york times, there was a column called Mother load that was about parenting, lisa Belkin used to edit this column, which by the way, would no longer be called Mother Lode, I don't think it would, you know, parenting, so parents exactly. Um but weirdly one week she had a piece on these convict women and their Children on the boat, on the ships, on these repurposed slaving ships, I think her point was, we don't have it so bad now. Um, but I was captivated and I didn't really know why, and I started from there to look into it and I only know now, having finished my novel that there are three different ways that that three different reasons that it appealed to me. one I taught in women's prisons, I was teaching in a women's prison when I read that piece and I was really interested in incarceration, What it does to people also, how women, you know, maintain their sanity, have their identities in prison and what the criminal justice system does to people as well. So that was one big interest. Another latent interest is that I had gone to Australia as a rotary fellow in my 20's and I've been obsessed with it. And I did this huge, fantastic book that I would still recommend. And it's still in print called The Fatal Shore by robert Hughes Is This wonderful dinner. Um, and it was it's a 700 page book almost. And he he devoted one chapter to convict women and aboriginal people together, one chapter together in this enormous, but wow, that was the chapter that interested me most. But I had never really followed up on it. And then the third is that I wrote a book with my Mom, a nonfiction book on mothers and daughters of the women's movement, meaning People. Either the mother or the daughter had been quite involved in the 70s and 80s and in the sort of second wave of the women's movement. And the question that we post was how do you rebel against a rebel and is feminism passed from one generation to the next? And if you know, in other words, is that one of those things that people that kids will toss to the side because they don't want to be like their parents. And we found that yeah, so we found that there were the ways that many of the daughters rebelled against their feminist mothers was to be stay at home mothers. That was interesting, wow, why don't we swing these pencils? So interesting, Wow, feminist mothers raised feminist daughters, which was kind of interesting. But the point to me, what I realized that I had been so interested in is that we interviewed 60 mothers and daughters and had all these women's stories. And that was that project was so pivotal in my life, because it made me realize the value of...

...women's stories and also raise that have not been told in history enough. Right. So what what am I trying to do? I'm trying to tell stories that have that most people don't know a lot about because they haven't been included in our typical history books. So, so those were that's sort of the genesis of this book. That makes me beg the question, Kristina, you've got three sons you raised, have you raised feminist sons? I have raised feminist sons. I don't know them would say that they were feminist. No, I think they would. I think they would, but I but you know, yes, I mean, they have certainly seen me, you know, uh, working and they're all sort of cheering, cheering on. Um, but I will say it's kind of ironic and funny to me that I'm one of four girls and I've read about women and I did this fuck on feminism with my mother. And I have three boys, and three of my sisters have three boys, which is Hillary. That's bizarre. We were sneakily rebelling your DNA rebelling. I don't know. Okay, so Christina. You talked about how you came to this novel and kind of all these forces that came together and told you, okay, this is this is the story for you. This is kind of the path we're going down. But once you have that inspiration and that genesis, you need to build that world and you did that so powerfully here. So I would love to hear you talk about well, you know, and I know you've kind of said that to there's a great quote from you where you have said in ways large and small, the task of a novelist who writes about the past is to make it come to life to find the singular details that make the story breathe, which is such a great quote. I mean, I I write history too, and I 100% agree with you. Can you talk to us a little bit about the research you did for this novel and how you did how you use that to bring it all to life? Yeah, I mean, I did so much research for this book and for the other two historical books. I mean, I even I mean, I know we all do research when we write contemporary books as well, or at least I do because I have a memory like a sieve. Um, but I of course did a ton and it was terrifying to be writing about a period. Um I know Christie read Christie to write about the most Christian, right about the most amazing, um, you know, long ago periods. I've never really written about any time before 1920. The orphan trade story begins there. And my book about Kristina Olson and Andrew Wyatt begins there. This is 18 forties which felt like people is an entirely different things. It's an eternity, never lived in, you know, so that just felt so my way in. So I did a touch of research. I always befriend, I always have been really lucky with these three books to befriend a woman usually in her seventies, who's an expert on the subject and who knows everything and is really interested at this point in her life, perhaps in sharing it. So I had such a person for with orphan train and with a piece of the world, this wonderful tour guide, Um who knew everything about the Wyatts. And uh and then for this book, I was doing research online and I discovered this professor named Allison Alexander, who is in her 70s, who has written 35 books on the history of the convict women. She herself is descended from convict. Uh, and she was just, just give me two bumps. Yeah, so amazing. So I discovered her website, I realized that most of her books weren't available in the United States. So I emailed her and I sort of stalked her and forced her to then to do research. And we became really good friends. And if you go to my website you can see pictures of us together and stuff. I just adored her. And I I I think she enjoyed sharing her knowledge. And so, I mean who I'm reading all her books, you know, asking her questions about them. Um, and I found that she was just this conduit to this world. In addition to all the research I did of other books and the, you know, going to the places and all of that, which I find a pretty important part of the process. But I will say, yeah, um, that to me, the most important thing is I want uh I want the reader to feel absolutely present in the story. So I do everything I can once I've done all that research to get rid of every detail that doesn't matter directly. So that's so hard. It is so hard. Your I'm a good girl and I want to show my work, you know, like wanting to prove that...

I've done all this research. I don't even realize I'm doing it. But of course I am doing so with every draft. I just have to be more and more ruthless. There's this great quote from, I think norman Mailer did a damning review of Gore Vidal. He wrote Gore Vidal wrote a historical novel. And norman Mailer said something like no button, no bobble. No ribbon goes unremarked. Can we make it a goal that we never get that review? Thinking about some editing I need to do right now. It's not a question of like, is it in service to the story? And one question I got recently then set me off on a tangent, but it's along these lines is um, is there anything that you did a lot of research about that you had to cut? And I I was I became slightly obsessed with these bush rangers. These guys, they're often runaway convicts or ex convicts who go into the bush and set up these settlements and live like crazy. They're like bad cowboys, that's how they lived. You know, they were marauding, they would steal things, but they lived in this camp encampments and everybody knew about them and they were really kind of terrifying. And I had a whole thing where I'm writing about them and then I realized none of my characters would have been there or seeing it or experienced it. Really, I had to cut, I had to cut off. I was at hearst. No, it was such a more, you know, but you know, I also feel like the more you you fall into that world and the more excited you get about learning about it, the more it kind of shapes your narrative and shapes your story, even if those things don't directly go into it. Do you find that too? Oh my gosh, so completely true. And you know, for me, I don't know how you guys feel about going to places and trying to be in the places you're writing friends, you have no interest to write novels, you know, or just can't be bothered whatever. Don't want to deal with the travel. Of course, during Covid, it's hard and I didn't get to do some of the travel for my next book, but I will, but but I'll tell you, I'll give you an example of something that I would never have known. And there are a million things like this, This is small, but it's in the book. So, um my sister's often my travel companion, Cynthia. And we were in this fabulous little echo farmhouse in Hobart Tasmania, five miles outside of town and we're standing, it's this modern building and the woman, the Airbnb woman had left us, you know, goats, yogurt, whatever, all this stuff is lovely, you know, basket of stuff, a bottle of their organic wine and wine on the porch at, you know, as that sort of sunset. And all of a sudden on the hill, right there was a sheep's meadow in front of us. It was very bucolic and gorgeous. If anyone wants to go there, I can tell you where it is. And um on the, on the hill we saw this movement kind of like a rippling and as we look closer we realized it was hundreds of Wallabies which are honey kangaroos, they're like little kangaroos and being huge other on the hillside at dusk. And then in the novel, I describe it as like falls tumbling out of a basket. They all one starts hopping and they all hopped down the mountain friend. It's long undulating natural scene, that's only five miles from this bustling, you know, capital city, whatever town. And it was just such a dramatic moment of seeing nature. And so I have it in the novel. There are a lot of things like that that when I was there, I just took notes about and we went to a wildlife preserve and solve these kangaroos were lounging with the kangaroo. So that was really fun. And just all those layers, you know, of experience, work their way in in small ways. Well, really what here's to pull back? The point was that I wanted to show that for these english women, these british english, irish, Scottish, welsh women, this was so mind blowing. And in the novel, I have the Tempest as a kind of counterpoint. As a, as a text, there are the one one woman is reading. It, passes it along to the next to the next. And uh, and I saw this as a Tempest like experience, because these women go to this island and it is unlike anything they've ever seen. And it feels like magic in some ways, even though they're convicts and they're going into this women's prison. The world itself is so vastly different than anything they've ever experienced, that it is like a whole there on it. It's like they're on the moon almost.

And so I wanted to convey that and going there and being able to see how different it is from the topography of Britain and of course our own was really important and useful. Absolutely, yeah. I can only imagine what that would have been like. I had a, my grandparents on my father's side were irish immigrants. And the only thing we know about my grandfather is that he had a brother and when my grandfather came to United States, his brother went to Australia. And as far as we know, was never heard, never heard from again. So there's this whole maybe bring to the family that we don't know anything about in Australia. No. Well you should find a good trip. It's really just anecdotal. Nobody else in the family knows anything. That's so I think we need a trip to find a we have a solution. Anyway. One of the similarities with orphan train and this novel, the exiles is um, so many descendants of train riders are doing massive amounts of genealogical research to try to find out. Or you said your family's from Ireland. So many train right from Ireland. I'm sorry. Never from the book. Yeah. And so many of the descendants of these convicts are also trying to find out, you know where their ancestors came from and what they went through. And it's a big it's a sort of big world of that kind of work and research. Yeah, well it's a definitely a rabbit hole. You can fall down or call down. Yeah, your own novels that it's just all a rabbit hole and you have to be really careful like. Yeah, yeah. Uh say example Bushman who live in the uh you know uh the Christine of the three women characters are two british convicts and I'm not I'm not convinced that my great uncle maybe didn't have something going on. But anyway, evangeline and hazel and an orphan daughter of an aboriginal chief. Do you pronounce that? Athena? Yes, they're also they're also very different and unique. But you have a dozen real life, half a dozen real life characters that show up in the novel. Would you talk to us about that, about the delicate art awaiting the real in with the fictional and how you came to? I don't know, it seems like you must have lived in the world of some of these characters. Yeah. Well first of all, can I just say I never intended to write a novel set in the past. In fact, I remember, I don't know if you guys remember the writer, I mean she's still alive. She writes still her name is Catherine Harrison but she wrote memoir and then she wrote a novel about like foot binding. I mean she wrote a novel set in the past and I remember thinking what a bizarre choice like why would you she's a contemporary novelist, she's a memoir, she's got it going on. Why would she do makeup stuff set in some time period she doesn't live in. I really did not understand. Uh, and um, so it's not like I set out to do it, it kind of was a slippery slope. Only a third of orphan tearing was set in the past and it was sort of the dutiful I had to tell the story of the train. Two thirds of it was set in the present day, which I was much more comfortable with. And then the next novel was the same period as orphan train. It was the twenties to the forties of Night of the 19th 20th century. And that did not seem like the past so much to me, but this one I squarely went way deep into the past and that was a whole a whole different thing. Um but the so to your point, I never imagined that I'd be writing about real people and mixing them with fictional characters. That would have seemed so bizarre to me and and false. How can you ever do that? But but when I wrote, I kind of had this trial by fire or immersion, this terrible experience writing a piece of the world because every character in that book really lived and some are still alive. It was oh wow, It was such, I love that book. I just have to interject and say that I just love that book when you started talking about it was just all these little pieces of things that have stayed with me. Sorry, no, thank you, Christine. I mean, I it was my most hard one book and the most terrifying and Goliath Family is so litigious that it was terrifying. So Andrew you know, foundation and his family are very protective and I couldn't use the cover...

...on the book which we had originally planned to use you know the painting, you know the world on the cover of that book. Anyway, long story short, we're fine with it. I even did an event with Jamie Wyatt who's a the artist, son of the guy I read about. So that was all fine. But I learned how to write about real people I guess and also how to sort of extrapolate and I've got I gained confidence and to your point mary Kay I I I learned that that Elizabeth fry for example a Quaker reformer who wanted to help the women at the same time that she was quite judgmental about them. Um was she was a teeny bit passive aggressive just a little. She was like you got yourself knocked up, here, you are, you know, a little and she was, but she was, she was also the only person who treated them like human beings. So you take the good with the bad and there were and and then Sir john Franklin, who is famous as a polar explorer, as an arctic explorer. He um there was actually a miniseries called The Terror that came out last year, two years ago and it was about him and his crew getting lost in the arctic because they disappeared and never were seen again eventually, but when he was slightly younger, he was actually sent to Australia and was in charge of this whole settlement and all these convicts. And so that was pretty fun to write about two, so that it's become a kind of, it's actually become kind of fun to do. And my new novel sadly um also involves real people I think away from it. I know it feels like why am I what am I doing to myself? Why do we make our life so hard? Real people are hard these days. I'm going to write a very novel again. And yeah, yeah, real people will call you up and threaten you and and and and worse take their lawyers on you. Exactly. Nobody wants nobody wants to see a lawyer letterhead, that's every novelist nightmare. But it's totally terrifying to it's totally terrified. You know, we uh Mhm. We did a podcast with jean hamm correlates about what what am I really got? I wish she would just thank you for doing. And I join us having palpitations ready to wear ties every every novelist other night here is being accused of plagiarism. Subscribe to our podcast. Well, I for one second because she so jean has bet has been a pretty midlist writer for her career and it's been frustrating as hell. We were just talking about that and she is such a great writer. She's always been a writer. And it's just that question of like why did this book not? You know? And and she's had two of her books become movies, even a no and admission, um she's she's just a wonderful writer. And so it was always that question. So anyway, at the beginning of like two months after Covid, she was like oh I wrote this novel during Covid and she sent it to me on like as an attachment and by the way, I don't read anything online because we're all online all the time and I have online. But I read the first two pages Mary Kay and I was like Oh my God this now. and I knew right away and I just read the whole thing like in one night and I called her up and said this is insane, you are going to this is it, this is it and it is, it's so fun to see the success of the plot. It's such a, isn't it just it's the plot of that novel that's so incredible and the writing is beautiful of course, so propulsive. Yeah and terrifying as to anyone who makes a living writing. It's it's yeah, yeah, but it's fun to see it take off and jimmy Fallon just selected it, you know we're gonna Yeah. How cool is that? It's so awesome. Well speaking of kind of that journey from you know where you begin to to what ends up being your big break out. Um I'm really interested just kind of like moving back a little bit, you know, you were born in England, you've traveled to Australia, lived in the american, south, the northeast. So I'm interested in how this has all brought you into being the writer that you are today and backing up even further. How did you get into fiction to begin with? It's a really sort of two questions. So first of all, I think I don't know about you all and I'm not going to presume anything, but in my experience, writers often emerge out of tumultuous families or backgrounds in one way or...

...another, and it's not always true, but in my case my parents are southern, my mother's great, great grandmother was the first Woman to graduate from college in North Carolina. And my father this first person in his entire extended family, not only to graduate from college, but to finish 8th grade. So this come of a Georgia boy whose parents were mill workers and who had grown up on a mountain with no running water. And my mother who came from a very educated, her father was a school principal, her mother was a librarian and you know, all of her relatives had been teachers, etcetera and everyone had gone to college. Very interesting combination and then add to that the volatile mix they met at furman, which is the Southern College or my fabulous. Yeah, my mother was valedictorian. My dad was a big football star and um and but he went off and did a PhD in british labour history at Cambridge University. He was super smart, he was supposed to be a minister, he went to Wake Forest and he had a little scholarship to study for a summer and ended up changing everyone's lives. So they went off to England where I was born and I was born and raised there over nine years off and on back and forth. And they ended up in Maine where they became total hippies through over there, southern baptist childhoods. And um, I had a really kind of creative but also volatile childhood and uh, you know, my parents loved each other, But we're pretty different as I've described and uh, you know, so a lot a lot of, and I think I wrote as a way to kind of make sense of my life. My parents, my dad has published 12 books, all you know, with university presses and everything. Uh, one of which actually was a big book about jesse Owens and it became a miniseries and stuff. That was his, wow, but none of them. So, but but I want to step back and just say one further thing for any parents of young Children, but also writers. Um when people ask me, you know, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? Or how did you know, when did you start writing? I always think, you know, all Children are born creative, every child samples and sings and draws and you know, plays through and right, every kid is our and the question is in a weird way, is not like, why did I continue? But why do kids start to other people stop? Please love that. You know? And so I kind of think that I just didn't stop. And I also, just by the my personality, I think I tell my own own kids this all the time. You know, people are going to be saying no to you in a million different ways, always throughout your life. And I had an impulse to just follow the yes, the like small. Yes, I came along. I love that. Give you an example. So I was in the fifth grade and my teacher was mrs Kerry and she was lovely and she wore wigs I remember. And she gave us an assignment to write a short little story or something. And we handed them in on a friday. And on monday morning we came in and this is back when the desks were lined up in rows, you know, and she walked down the road, she put each person's story down and said something to them and moved to the next. And when she got to me and she put the story down and she said, um, I have to tell you, I really liked your story and in fact, I read it out loud to my husband this week and he liked it too. And that was all she said. So first of all, she had a husband blew my mind the fact that package you can sleep at the school, she like school and had a different life, but she didn't say she loved my story. She said she liked my story and that her husband liked it too. And I swear that was enough to keep me going for the next decade. I was like, well now I'm a writer because Mrs Kerry liked my story and I'm sure she said it to every single person she was walking down the aisle and talking to. But it really did. It was the smallest encouragement. And again, for teachers out there, like the smallest encouragement for a great kid makes a huge difference. And so I felt that, you know, and I had I took that with me a little bit and uh and that was how it started. I'm just impressed that your fifth grade self could tell she wore wigs because like, I I'm really bad at that. Well, even now, got that later. I...

...think I like, okay, I realized, oh, that very black hair on that rather old woman that was always perfectly Brushed and in place. Sometimes the part was here, sometimes it was twisted 45°. I we should do a story, we should do it. So, talking about teachers who really inspired or encouraged us, I had, I'll never forget. I had 1/6 grade teacher, we had written some kind of a story. We've been asked to write some kind of a story and I was in the bathroom and my sixth grade teacher, Mrs Allen came in and of course it was hugely embarrassing that your teacher was in the bathroom when you were in the bathroom, human. Yeah. Uh and she was laughing, she was just like, uh I'm washing my hands and she came out, she goes, Kathy, I read your story and I just can't quit laughing. Oh my gosh! Um everything, so I think the fact that she went to the bathroom just was stunning to me, literally get married your bathroom, remember, like, you would run into a teacher at the grocery store and you'd be like, oh my God, what are you doing here, celebrity? I know what it's like, oh my gosh, stay away. Uh you know, oh sorry, I was going to say I have a, kind of book end to that story, which is um when I was in college then this is another thing that was well, so, I was in college, I got into this college seminar that was very uh potentially damaging. I'm shocked that I still am. I became a writer because it was with writers who are now famous, like names you would know and the teacher was a who had just the teacher was a woman who had just won the national Book Award and she was she taught me everything I need to know about what not to do as a teacher. She was a terrible teacher and she was so awful in that she pitted us against each other in this creative anymore. Yeah, she was awful and she was very intimidating, but also like really uninterested and you never even could tell if she'd read your work, you know, that kind of thing. And she just was lazy and horrible and she wore scarves to very pretentious. And anyway, the weird thing, one she without telling or asking or even telling me, handed my stay Like the two the only two short stories I've ever written in my life really to her agency and they signed me on and I was 20 years old and that was a shock. First of all she gave me an a minus, like she didn't even like me um And but suddenly I had an agent at the age of 20 which never happens and it was in a moment, I'm sick world, but it was at a moment when like ready Analysis and Jay, McInerney and Donna Tartt, we're all getting huge contracts at like the age of 20. So you know how agents are often like lemmings and they sort of follow the trends and so I think that there was a trend that young writers which did not happen with me, but but I that gave me even though that was a really weird experience of that class having this young junior agent in this agency who was interested in my work and would call every four months and say, what are you thinking? Are you writing a novel yet? I think that had a profound influence influence on me, you know, having just having someone who was waiting for something. And so even though not everybody has that experience of getting an agent at that age, I always I always tell my own students to have someone who's waiting for it. Like the exchange work with a friend had someone who's for to whom you're accountable that whom you respect. Um Because I think that makes a difference. That's great advice. Yeah, for sure. Um Well, Christina, can you tell us a little bit about why you chose our bookstore of the week? Oh my gosh, yes. Watching books in Montclair New Jersey for 20 years. I lived in this wonderful wonderful town. Um we left this is it Watching books and here's something they do that I've never seen it. Another bookstore and I love it. They have stenciled on the walls of the bookstore names of famous writers who are long dead and alive. You know everyone from say um you know uh I don't know Charles dickens to Alice walker but then they also stencil the names of local writers. And if you've published um a book you have your name or I think you have to have published two books. You have your name...

...stenciled on the wall and it's just such a really sweet and encouraging thing. They're amazing to their local writers in town and they host book parties and all kinds of creative events and they have a great Children's section and Margo the owner is just fantastic. So I can't say more good things about them. They're great. That's okay. Road trip bookstore. Yeah, if we go will they will they put our names on the wall? Yeah, I I have to move to montclair. Okay, marker patty. They can't stop me harry sharpies with us. There's no stopping us. Okay, since you have already given us so many writing tips, we're going to skip right over to if there is a book that you're reading that you would love to recommend. Well actually I'm reading a more tolls new book to read that book. It's coming out um or is just such a delightful human being. Well, you know, I live in new york now and uh we've done a bunch of events together and he's been, he's super savvy about the writing. You should, I should have him on, he's so fun and so we would love it, we're working. But uh it's called the Lincoln highway and it's this sort of epic story about the highway that crosses from new york all the way across America and it's um, it's just beautiful and, and, and immediately immersive and fun. I managed to get my hands on a more smoke that's coming out in, I think either end of september, beginning of october the new cloud cuckoo um the uh Tony door, Anthony doors, new book also, 100 pages and Jonathan franzen's new book, Crossroads. Oh my goodness. It's a big foam. They're all 600 pages. There are enormous, wow. And I just, I just pray that all of them don't drop on my pub day. Okay, please tell me they're not on october 19. Yeah. Right, okay, Okay. Back uh alright, Cristina and everyone else please stick around because we have one more thing to talk to Christina about. But first we want to remind all of you to check out our friends in fiction, writer's block podcast. We have a brand new one every single friday along with the shows and this past week Ron and Christie talked to Vitti and Howard and this week, this friday, we were just talking about Ron and mary Kay talked to Jean Hamp Corlett about the Blockbuster book, the plot that was just chosen for the tonight show Book Club pick. So awesome and um in case you guys haven't heard patty mary Kay and I all have winter books coming out and we have a winter wonderland subscription box that we've partnered with Nantucket Book Partners um to all of you and we're so excited about it. So if you, if you purchase this box from Nantucket book partners, you can also get it off our website or a facebook page, you'll get each of our three winter books and an exclusive special friends and fiction coffee mug and hot chocolate. So we're really excited and we hit the, you'll sign up. I just left out those parts together and how they look so great. You know, every time you guys showed that picture, I'm like, I should have worked harder last year. I should have a few things going on I think just blacker. Uh really, really like tied up with a bow together in bookstores, you can just like have a fiance tim Well, when we're all like, we can't live and we haven't bought anyone's gifts, you'll be like, I'm finishing my wrapping Exactly. All right. So if you are not hanging out with us yet in the Friends and Fiction official Book Club, you are missing out. We tell you that every week. So the group which is separate from us and is run by our friends, lisa Harrison and Brenda Gardner is now more than 7000 strong. Um they just celebrated their one year anniversary. They had to put off their one year anniversary official celebration that will be coming in another week or two, but on august 8th will be hosting a happy hour with our Dear Ron Block, our Writer's block podcast host. And then on August 16, which is a Monday, I will be joining them to discuss the forest of vanishing stars, my brand new novel, um which you know, didn't come out in the winter. So I'm clearly the odd man out, but they have plenty more fun events in store. So make sure to join them. Now, if you have into the Friends and Fiction Official Book Club and next week join...

...us right here again at seven p.m. Eastern to meet Lauren Willig who wrote the historical fiction novel Band of sisters along with our and our first special guest co host, Christine and Mark McMorris will be stepping in. She'll be my stand in while I'm vacationing on Cape Cod. And um, yeah, I'm I'm going on vacation. All I have to write every morning, so I'm going to be accountable to all of you. Yeah. What goes around comes around. That's all I can say. Yeah, exactly. And if you're, I love her. She's and if you are, yeah, okay. If you're ever wondering about our schedule, it's always on our Friends and fiction website as well as a sidebar that has events on our friends in fiction facebook page. And if you haven't signed up for our newsletter, please do that. Because every week we send out a newsletter, Christina answered some great questions on our newsletter this week about what her idea of a great day is. I think it's going to Australia. I'm not sure. So don't forget you can keep up with us um, on that friends and fiction newsletter. So, Christina. So here's the one final question, we promise. So we usually ask our guests what the influences around reading and writing in their childhoods were. But you already kind of touched on that. So, I would love to ask you about the book you wrote with your mom. The conversation begins, Mother and daughters talk about living feminism. So you've said that this led to a powerful lesson in the value of women telling the truth about their lives. Can you talk a little bit about how that shaped your writing going forward? Yeah. So the second wave of the women's movement was in the 1970s, um and it was women who the first wave was sort of the suffragettes, right, and the suffragists, whichever you want to call them, um and getting the vote and all of that. And then the second wave was about um equal work for equal pay, and, you know, birth control, and sort of women's issues that were people galvanized around, um and wanted to sort of make the world a better place, especially for mothers and for women going working, etcetera, etcetera. And um but a lot of those stories, again, as I've been saying about my own novel, set in the past, weren't necessarily stories that we were reading about in school. And so interviewing even, you know, my kids going to school didn't know much about the second wave of the women's movement, and my mom and I were really interested in looking at how and if feminism has passed from one generation to the next. Um and so we wanted to sort of explore the idea of how You rebel against a rebel as I said. And um and so we interviewed all these women and um what I learned through the narratives was just that many of these people had been a part of pivotal moments in american history. And, you know, recently there's been some miniseries actually with, like, Cate Blanchett. There's one uh there's a great one, Gosh, I'm trying to it was about Phyllis schlafly, I believe in um there just have been some terrific sort of revisiting of that period, but getting to talk to women who lived through it was really important. And I think it shaped my interest in writing fiction, which is as I think I've said, writing about little known pieces of history and writing about corners that people don't necessarily know about, that might have big reverberations. And I think the second wave of the women's movement has had huge reverberations and that we're all we're all we can all now take things for granted as a result of them. Um and so yeah, so that has been that book. It was really important for me and also crazy to write a book with my mother. I mean we were very intimately engaged for a couple of years working on the book and uh you know before that I was sometimes a bratty teenager and we didn't always get along, but somehow doing that project together where she was in charge of the interviews for the mothers and I was in charge of the interviews for the daughters. But we were we did it them together and we were present with them and we edited back and forth was a really special kind of a special thing experience. That's awesome. How lucky are you two have gotten to do that? I know I'm thinking my mom and I writing a book. My daughter and I writing a book. None of its jelling, but anyway, none of it's clicking but to no back quickly to Dorothy event and frank she and her daughter, you know, uh they wrote teddy spaghetti together. So to all of you out there, we encourage you to grab...

Christina's novel, the excess exiles, the explode the exiles. And how could you not with everything that you just heard from her and hopefully from our bookseller the week watching books, I'm probably saying it wrong because that's my superpower. So Christina. We are so happy to have you here. It was so much fun and thank you for being so open and sharing about your inspiration and your life and your mom and all of the things that flowed into this story and sharing your wisdom. This has been a really wonderful night. Thank you. Thank you all so much. What a joy! What a privilege to be here. Thank you. It was our pleasure. Thanks for the anniversary. Yeah, happy and thank you for spending part of your anniversary with us. Now go spend the rest of it with that cute guy. Tell your husband. Thank you. Yeah, thank you for learning you to us. So everyone out there, you are such an amazing book loving community and we will see you a minute at our story point after show this up and stay after show and come back next week. Same time. Same place as we welcome Laura Willig with our special guest host, Christina McMorris. Meanwhile, to keep you busy. Check out our podcast, our winter Wonderland subscription and all of the fun going on on our facebook page and our book group and our podcast. Goodnight y'all. Hi guys, wow, great. I'm totally intimidated. I'm just gonna go hide my head why she's so amazing as published. How much but she, she reminds us well first, y'all welcome to our sip and stay story point after show. We're going to break down the night. Um, and don't forget for those of you who are watching, we want to show the power of our amazing community. So pop over to instagram, look up story Point wine and follow them. Let's see how many we can get in one night and impress them. Yeah. And I think they have a website in a newsletter to, right, so you can sign up, you can sign up for that. It's just they fit so well with us because I think they're they're all about story. I mean that's kind of the story behind their brand is that they have a story and that's that's really the part that fits especially well with stories and wine. It's no wonder it's the whiner friends infection. Uh huh. Uh So intimidating and not only that, but she she reminds us again and again what we all talk about if we're not terrified, why bother? You know what I actually had to say? Um So I met her I mean a lot of books ago so I mean it was years ago and I was like terrified to meet her because yeah it was like right when the orphan train was um had just been so massively successful. And um part of this guy is that her next book was called that I loved so much, was talking about a piece of this guy, this guy. It was a few years ago. So I mean my memory is not that great, but it was such a great book, but I was so terrified like to meet her and it was so intimidated and she is one of the most approachable, like, kindest, warmest people and she just, and she gets as terrified as we do, right? Yeah. Like if I bit off more than I can chew, how am I going to find the research? How much of my research do I put in there, even though I want to put it all in there, because guess what? I spent a month researching that, right? Well, and I also always appreciate hearing from someone who wasn't an overnight success. I mean, that's wonderful in its own way, but it's great to see someone like her who really worked her way into this and learned and pushed herself and became better and I mean she's phenomenal. She's at the top of her game. She's doing an amazing job. I remember when the orphan train first came out, I had gone to a writer's workshop in Antioch Ohio, I've been going for a few years and had some friends actually was part of a book club there and I told one of my friends, you know, the orphan train wasn't an overnight success. Yeah, I think if I remember correctly that book was a slow build and it was a bookseller and a librarian hand sell like word. That's my memory. I could, I could be wrong. Well have you know, maybe we'll ask, Christina will text her and say, hey, is that the case? But it was this huge slow build people saying, wow, what an amazing story. And you know what else struck me as she said both about the orphan train and about this, It reminded me of Vanessa Riley last week. They go said the story had been brewing for a decade. Both of them said that...

...and I'm thinking once the story starts brewing for me a decade is a long time. But guess what? It's not right if there's something that's been kind of back there tingling and it's been a decade, maybe it's time to do something about it. You know, I have one I want to write and I guarantee it'll take me a decade to write it. Well, you know what else writes at first, but in real time or a decade in Christie time, which is really which is, which is like carpool, pretty much she's like, I probably won't have it written until the middle of next week. So were hilarious patty patty and I were working, patty had already been working for quite a while and had a contract for um her book and I just sort of started out of nowhere and was writing it in secret and I finally shared it with with y'all and Christine. I mean christian basically goes, Christie basically goes, yeah, I think all right one and then the next day it was done it only today. That's so true. How did I want christmas a day and a day? And what was I doing? It was covid it was freezing cold outside. Every christmas thing was canceled. What else were you doing? You had nothing else on your plate. You didn't have friends in fiction, you didn't have a child, You are moving out of that house. Yeah, thank you weren't singlehandedly running the Friends and fiction shipping depot. I mean it was really bags y'all? I had a nightmare last night that all the coffee mugs came to me instead of God you know. Isn't there? Oh my God that is by oh okay. So you're going to Cape Cod tomorrow. We are yeah we have a 5 30 pick up to go to the airport and I have to finish packing. Um We're gonna go tom I great husband got us tickets. I said I want to go I've always wanted to go the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. So and I try to go online and buy tickets and they were like sold out. But I said call them and throw just tell them some bullshit story about your wife. You know it's dying and her last wishes to go to that museum. My my wife is a famous author and she was like, you know, let your boats and leave. She'll let you take pictures with her. Yeah, that's gonna that's gonna float a lot of boats in boston. Anyway. Somebody, somebody took pity on him and gave, didn't give us tickets, but they found, I guess some people canceled. We're going to go to a red sox game. I don't know. I don't know if we're gonna wear our braves are brave spirit, where or not? That's probably a bad move. And then friday, we take this very over to Nantucket and I'm gonna do signing at Mitchell's books and, and um, I'm really excited about that. And then we're gonna go to Cape Cod and see some very old friends and um, and I'll have to write every morning. So I'll be on the text chain with you all. Okay, we're back on our riding horses. I don't want to brag, but I get to see Patti next week. So everything be jealous. Uh yeah, meg says, see if I can solve the art heist mystery or write a book about it or that I do love a good heist. I know that might be your next book. Yeah, Well I am in the mountains and it is crazy how just driving up here from Alabama, like every whatever Miles, it dropped one degree, one degree, one degree, one degree. So jealous. It's so weird because it's really cool here too. I mean, I guess it always is, but it's been 82 for like Days on end and it was like 84 of the week before. Like we really, I mean I'm knocking on all the wood because it'll probably be like 99 tomorrow, but it's been like in the low, it's been so pleasant. I'm shocked. Not in Alabama, supposed to be 99 here tomorrow and it's rained every day for the past two weeks. It's like living in a dishwasher. Are you a writer or something like hot and steamy? So there's this like little piece of paper in this like it was like across the street, that's all one of those like group bulletin boards and it said I want to know what it's like living in north Carolina in the summer, take a shower, don't dry off, put all your clothes on and walk around for a while...

...with a sprinkler hitting you with the sprinkler. No, it's nice to get out of the heat for a bit and get Christie. I can't wait to get, we'll send we'll send you guys pictures and then hold flat flat kristen and MK like I still have flat christian and like I'm not sure what to do with her, like is there a protocol, like do you, do I just keep her forever or I mean you can't get rid of her. I know, I'm like I would recommend a shrine, is that too much what we put on next week because I won't be home for the next week, I'm going to have her like hanging taped up, my expect some candles, maybe some wine offerings. Story, the story points acceptable. The story after the other night my parents were here and we're all sitting around the dining room table and kristen is like it is here I what are you there? I mean that's just where I left her. Did you put an empty wine glass in front of her? At least I buy a wine glass on either campaign, I swear to you, this could be the start of a Stephen King novel, like we carried around black kristen. Then we put a full wine glass in front of her and then somebody looks over and it's empty. So where several states away. I'm drunk. I And then there's nothing happening. There's a knocking at the door like in the bed. I maybe you could you do your special doorbell. I fired, sounded I have been fired. Like literally I've been fired. My husband is cooking dinner downstairs and I can smell it. And I have another zoom and I have a virtual event at nine p.m. So I cry. We'll show up and ask you questions. See meg even walker are managing director and you just wrote in the private chat. No sound effects for patty. So yeah, sorry, I love you. You have a lot of strengths and that thing to focus on. So, all right, You have a great trip. You, I miss you all next week. We'll miss you. You to send loads of pictures. Okay, well, fine. You guys, thank you for tuning in, join us every week on facebook or Youtube, where our live show airs every Wednesday night at seven p.m. Eastern time. And please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here.

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