Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode 11 · 1 year ago

WB S1E11: Ron Block, Patti Callahan and Kristy Woodson Harvey with Tracey Lange and Allison Larkin

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK: Ron Block and Patti Callahan in conversation with Tracey Lange about her debut novel, We are the Brennans, and its journey to publication. Also, Ron and Kristy Woodson Harvey interview Allison Larkin about the origin story of her novel, The People We Keep

...some things were intentional. I fired from my dad's story for the dad in this book. Mickey, his immigration from Ireland his work in construction and my dad had a bookie for decades. So little things like that I kind of deliberately worked in and had some fun with and a big family and all the fun and affection that comes with that I guess some of the things that I didn't really realize at the time and I'm still kind of realizing in a way that worked its way in it was just kind of going back to that impact of shame. I was in the shower and I got stuck on that line and I kept singing that phrase over and over and over again and then I thought wait, this is the book I made to right this is what my life is for everything I experienced is in this book. And if this is the book I made to write, I can't compromise on it. That became my parameters for this book was that you don't compromise on your life's work. You just don't Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's Block podcast. Five new york times, bestselling authors, one rock star librarian and endless stories join Mary Kay andrews. Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan Henry Mary Alice Monroe and Ron Block As novelists. We are five longtime friends with 85 books between us. I am Ron block. I am so glad you've joined us for fascinating author interviews along with Insider. Talk about publishing and writing if you love books and are curious about the writing world you're in the right place. Yeah, welcome to the friends and fiction Writer's Block podcast today, we are thrilled to present another episode in our origin stories series. We love digging into where ideas come from and talking about the foundational elements behind an author's work. We're joined today to talk about two exciting recent releases. We are the brennans by Tracy lang and the people we keep by Allison Larkin, I am Ron Block and I and paddy Callaghan. First up, we're talking with Tracy lang, author of We are the brennans, this is Tracey's debut novel and publishers weekly says that fans of intense family dramas are in for a treat. I say, I agree and it is enchanting and consuming and it has been chosen as the book of the month Club pick Tracy Welcome, Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. We're thrilled. It's such a treat. Yeah, we're so excited to talk about this book, Ron and I both read it and we have loads of questions about its origins. Congratulations! And all of the wonderful things that are happening with it and thank you for joining us to talk about it. I devoured it. I started it on the plane and didn't put it down and I loved all of the voices in it and I adore the pub setting. So, before we drive into the origin story, can you give our listeners just a quick description of this family story. Sure. So the novel is about a large family from large by today's standards, I guess for Children from new york and irish catholic family and they're pretty tight knit group, arguably a little too mixed up in each other's business probably at times, but five years before the book starts, the lone female sibling of the four, sunday Brennan leaves home kind of unexpectedly and without a lot of explanation. So fast forward five years when the book opens, she's in, she's living in California in L. A. And she has a pretty nasty drunk driving accident and as a result her big brother helps helps her realize that maybe it would do her some good to come...

...home for a little while. So she heads back to new york back to the family fold and as happy as she used to be there, as excited as they are to have her her homecoming kicks up a lot of turmoil, various questions and resentment start to come up about why she left the way she did. Then there's the fiance, she sort of abandoned when she left new york years ago and he is her brother's business partner and he's kind of part of the family. So he's very present and even though he's married someone else now he's very much in the mix. And so that's there's definitely some tension there. And then basically, the longer she's home, the more sunday realizes that her brothers and her dad or may not be doing quite as well as she thought they were. And the clincher is when she realizes her brother is in it's a pretty heavy debt to a bad guy from her past and in order to kind of protect him and her family, she's going to have to come clean with some stuff and and from there, all sorts of secrets start to unravel that have been um kind of toxic in this family for generations in some cases. So all of those come home to roost at that point when I finished, I thought this should be called, We are the tangled Brennan's and it's amazing. We talk about it as authors all the time about making sure that characters are intersected a lot of different points and I can say that your characters intersect and a lot of different points. That's what I was hoping. It's fantastic. This is such a dumb aside, but I love the names that you picked for the characters. They were just so just refreshing, really cool names that they were. So thank you for that. If nothing else. Yeah, I appreciate that. I put a lot of time in the names are definitely important to me. So I love to hear that. That's great. That's awesome. So we also know that it's really hard to know exactly where the story comes from and where it originated, but sometimes there's hints and clues can you tell us where the original ping for this idea came from? Well, certainly, I guess a deep level it came just from my own experience growing up in a big irish catholic family in new york and with lots of family in Ireland, although none of this is autobiographical, the characters and events or none of it's based on my family, but I come from that world. So I know ultimately that's sort of where the story started on some level, but then it really, it kind of started with the situation, I love reading about family and writing about family, the messier the better. And so I knew that I wanted to kind of start with someone coming home back into the family fold after being gone for a while and and then all kinds of questions came up about why she left, why she's coming back, what's that going to have that going to impact everybody else? And as I dug in further with characters and the story, I realized I was kind of wanting to explore the impact of shame really, on a very loving family, these guys would do almost anything for each other, but at the same time they still feel the need to hide things from each other and keep secrets. And so I kind of wanted to explore that, it's kind of contradiction in a way. So that I guess that's kind of where it started from. So relatable, did you always want to write a book or was it this book that made you want to write a book, meaning did this idea come to you and you were like, I have got to write a book about this or were you more? So I have been meaning to write a book and I'm looking for an idea which egg, chicken, chicken egg, it's writing, the writing came first. I've always been drawn to writing. I've been a huge reader all my life, but for a long time, it was sort of seeing this...

...magical world to me that I didn't think I could really do. But so I I've been writing and I actually kind of had, I've had that first manuscript that I wrote down really quickly and learned a lot from, but we'll probably just remain in a door. But this was the next idea and that I kind of ran with. So the writing was their first, but once I land on this idea that it took over and it was a lot of fun, a lot of work, all of that. But yeah, I had in the drawer first draft that ended up being my fourth novel, so you never know, that's right, that's right. I don't rule anything out. So, like you mentioned, you yourself come from a huge irish catholic family just like the brennans and some of them I think he said even live in Ireland Yeah, so my immediate family was just my parents and I have one brother. So we're not really that huge. But my dad, yeah, we're kind of, but my dad was born of 15 And so he had seven brothers and seven sisters and yeah, 15 is huge. Yeah, that's pretty big. His neighbors in Ireland had 22, so they weren't. So it happened. Um, but then on my mom's side even she was one of four and so all of those aunts and uncles had multiple kids. And so there were cousins everywhere and spent a lot of time in Ireland growing up. So we were just around that in a big part of each other's lives, you know, all the time. Yeah, that's, that's how I kind of know this world. Yeah. How much of that do you think snuck in purposefully versus subconsciously? Can you look back at the book and say, oh that snuck its way in there that way my uncle in Ireland or my trip to Ireland or my, I'm not even going to guess how many cousins you have but has some of that worked its way in there. I want to know what worked its way consciously and unconsciously. It was definitely a mix and I'll tell you, we actually did the math recently and I, we have 56 1st cousins spread out between uh, from New York to Ireland and some other spots. But but to answer your question, it was definitely a mix. Some things were intentional. I fired from my dad's story for the dad in this book mickey, his immigration from Ireland his work in construction and my dad had a bookie for decades. So little things like that I kind of deliberately worked in and had some fun with and a big family and all the fun and affection that comes with that I guess some of the things that I didn't really realize at the time and I'm still kind of realizing in a way that worked its way in was just kind of going back to that impact of shame on such a big loving family and you know, how do you get to the point where you still feel the need to hide these things from each other and I know there were things growing up as much as I love my family, there were, I knew there were things we didn't really talk about from their past and so I know things like that sort of snuck their way in that idea that you know, you can support each other as much as possible and be there for each other and have all the loyalty in the world. But there's still, sometimes it's need to hide flaws and mistakes and family history from each other. So yeah, those things kind of snuck their way and I think so actually let's talk about your character development. So you have sunday Danny Kale and Jackie are the four main characters here, but each voice is unique and they carry their own secrets. Each one, did you plan on having that many voices or did they crop up as your story developed? It really cropped up as I went, because I don't hear it so much anymore, but not that long ago, I remember hearing, oh,...

...watch out multiple point of view, I don't know, use as few as possible. You don't want to confuse people, it can get frustrating. So I really felt like I was going out on a limb using so many, but it was also such a great way to when there were so many secrets going on, it was a great way to let the reader in on some of those secrets when all the other characters didn't know. And so, but it was not planned. I I knew I had kind of sunday Danny and Caleb, but then they're just seeing these really cool opportunities to bring in some other characters just for a chapter or two to give even more insight to what's going on there? Yeah, they were great, great observers. Did you have a favorite out of all the people that you developed? Um I don't know if I, I will say that probably the most fun was Jackie for some reason, the younger brother, I would like to actually spend more time with him. There were just so many people can only do so much, but he just has kind of a neat edge to his voice that was just kind of fun to write. But there was something I really did love about each of them really and I kind of look forward to spending time with each of them for the most part Yeah, we can occur, we can occur. So let's take a minute to talk about the origin of your setting because we begin in Los Angeles and we feel that frenetic pace and sunday's kind of frenetic life and sunday is coming undone. But the majority of the book takes place in new york city and I want you to talk about that choice. You were born in your in bend Oregon right now. Right, Yes, but you but you grew up in new york, so talk to us about the setting and choosing it and then we're definitely going to talk about the pub. Okay, I did, I was born in the Bronx, but grew up for the most part, on the Upper east side of Manhattan, my parents were superintendent of a building, which is how we could afford to live there. But and and that's so I knew that world, I have family from out Long Island and throughout the boroughs and up into Westchester and I knew that I wanted it to be in new york because that's that's the world I knew and and and I wanted a town, I wanted to be close to the city, but small enough that it would have appealed to the Brennan parents when they first were looking for kind of a small town, close knit community after coming over from Ireland. So that's how I landed on the town west manner, which is kind of loosely based on Briarcliff manor, just in terms of location. But I sort of had to, I felt like I had to take a few liberties with the history and so I went with west manner, but but close to the city, but still kind of a small, small, quaint town. So that's how I landed on that location. Uh, and it did seem that when sunday left the family, what could be so polar opposite of that really would be the other coast and a big sprawling city like L. A. Just to kind of contrast where she came from and where she was headed back to. So, so talk to me a little bit about the pub, which is one of my favorite parts of the novel, it is said to read the story unfolds and is set in and constantly kind of taps back to this pub and the trouble it gets in and the things that have happened in the pub and you truly nailed the atmosphere in particular. So, I want you to talk to us a little bit about that. Well, I, I love a good irish pub and I had all right. And I've had family members particularly in Ireland that owned a couple or still do. And I know that they're kind of part of the family, even if maybe just one couple or one...

...man or whoever owns the it's everyone's involved in, everyone spends time there and it's sort of a family business really. And I just love that feeling. It just is akin to being part of that big sort of clan, you know, that's bigger than you and um, so that's, it just seems so natural that Danny would own this pub and that the family would be really involved in it and that they would in fact spent a whole lot of time there. That's awesome. I have a little follow up. You have such a huge family that you talked about our any of them thinking that they are the people that you were writing about in your book. I don't think so. I especially with the book coming out lately, I've wondered about that and I did draw on some names from people from my family that uh just because the name seems so perfect, but it's not because so I'm worried that some people are gonna wait a second, but I think they're all different enough that I don't think anyone will get caught up in that to be honest, but we have yet to see more secrets could come out. Yeah, exactly. Your secret, your sequel can be, we are the first cousins all 55. Yeah, I feel like even just with voices in the novel, even Jackie probably has his own story, even you know, kale, they each could sprout off. You gave them so much depth and background that I think all of them could have their own story. Thank you. Yeah, that's one thing I worried about was uh rushing just because there were so many, so you know, I wanted to give the full picture, but only had so much space and so I'm glad it it feels like they each had their own little uh story going on, that little going on. They've got big stories going on before we end. I have one last question I really am curious about and that is back to theme. I know that you talked about the staying power of shame and then you saw that theme emerge. But another and you went into the story with that, which is really interesting because a lot of times themes don't, for me don't always show their faces till about halfway through. And so that you went in with that is so interesting. But another theme that really emerged for me was the idea of being drawn home again. It happens to so many of us and hopefully it will happen to my kids who are out, you know, doing their thing to be drawn back home, come on, come back home. But I wondered if that was originally part of the origin of this story or if that theme of coming home kind of bubbled up while you were writing it. It definitely was not, I guess I knew that she was going to be coming back home, but it wasn't really a theme in my mind at first. And I kind of there are a bit of a throwback that Brennan's because nowadays, so often, you know, you grow up, you go somewhere, your siblings go somewhere else, your parents may end up some in a different place. And so the fact that they're all sort of back together is it's unusual, but it definitely was not my idea going in that's just kind of emerged as I went really and I can't I can't see a new shame was going to be huge going in, but I knew it would play into it because frankly, it's just such a big part of the catholic culture for some people, not everybody's experience. But yeah, yeah, that speaks speaks well of your writing prowess to develop it as you go along. How much more shame can I put in here? No. Uh what else can I do...

...to these guys Tracy? We have so loved having you and hearing about the origins of your debut novel. Uh the best readers are gonna love this, they're going to pick it up and they're gonna they're gonna choose it as their Book of the Month club and from the bookstores and libraries, but I want people to know more about you. So how can they find you online? I do have a website Tracy lane dot com. That's probably the best place to find out anything else they might be interested in. Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun. I love, appreciate the opportunity to talk about the origins in particular. Yeah, we're so glad that you were with us today. Thank you. Now, joining me in the co host seat is Christie Woodson harvey. We're joined by Allison Larkin, the author of the People we Keep, which publishes weekly, says the music and the generosity of strangers provide healing in Larkin's emotionally expansive latest. This hopeful story will move readers. Oh my gosh, what a great review. Well and so well deserved. Congratulations Allison on the publication of your fourth novel and really notably being selected for the Book of the Month Club. That is so exciting. So, before we dig into the origins of this book, can you give our listeners are just a little bit of an overview of this story? Sure, thank you both so much. I'm really excited to talk with you. This story is about 16 year old April Sawicki who is a folk singer. She's growing up in a motor less motor home in a small town called Little River in New York and she's decided she's had it and she steals a car and hits the road. Mhm. To start her life to her. Amazing. Amazing. I have to say. I think I knew I was going to love this story when right away from the first scene, she's like, hot wiring her neighbors are I don't know if that's what you call it. Yeah, I think that's a spoiler or anything, but I was like, wow, that is really incredible. And I was like, I wonder if the research for that was like, because it's not like, It's not like, you know, hot wiring a car that was built in 2020 or something. So I thought that was brilliant. I loved it. It is really awesome. Made me think, I wonder if Ali has had a history of doing this. I think I could if I needed to if it was the 90s area car because I did have to do some really interesting research to figure out what was possible. That is really great. Well, I keep a list of people that we want with us in certain situations. So now we know that you are someone that we really need if we're in a crisis. Yeah, come in. Got to put this stuff to you Well, we'll draw the line though, knocking over liquor stores. So, as you know, ali, I loved loved loved this book and readers are going to really take to it, it's such a relatable story on so many levels. But let's talk about where the ideas came from, What were the original story come from? I do know that you have not, this is not your first time writing about april and Ethan. I have been writing about April and Ethan since 2006. I was working on my first novel Stay and I was in a writing group and we had eight pages do for writing group and I was listening to a playlist like on Itunes and the song Iowa by Dar Williams played, and then this is the Sea by the Water Boys and this is the c talks about these things. You keep you better throw them away. And for some reason, thinking about Dar Williams as a folk singer and what her life must be like. And then this idea of like what you keep and what you leave behind as you move through the world. I april just just showed up. It was like this this thing in my mind that was like, hey,...

...over here and I couldn't stop thinking about her. And I finally, it was like, I'm not going to get my pages done, I have to pay attention to this. And I think I wrote About 6000 words of April and Ethan in one night. Like, it was just and it's weird because a lot of it is actually in the second part of the book and some of the paragraphs are almost exactly there, but they didn't quite make sense to me yet. I had considered it to be a short story, but there was so much missing in the short story. And it's such a strange thing how that happens where the story is bigger than what you know it is, and you have to do the work to dig it out. That's what this book has always felt like, that this exists somewhere, and I had to find it to tell you about it, which I don't know how much I actually believe that, but that's what it felt like. I totally believe that, because I think that happens to me with every story, like, I'll have some weird little spark of an idea and it's just what you're saying. I'm like, up at night, like writing this story when I'm always on deadline for something else, you know, of course, and I'm trying to figure out, like, and then I come back to it and I'm like, what is this, who are these people, what's their story, what do they? And I think, I don't know if you felt this way and writing this story, but I feel like it's like this adventure that I get to get up every morning and go on this adventure to figure out what this story is and who these people are, and um you know, every now and then it doesn't work out, but nicely it does. So I'm glad it worked out for you because these are absolutely incredible characters, and they probably found you for a reason, I would think, oh, thank you, but you also have these really great secondary characters and all these quirky and mostly lovable inhabitants in april's world. So what influenced those characters? I think some of them are a little bit of me, like there's actually a little bit of me and Ethan that I can see pretty clearly sometimes. I think in some respects, like april is a little bit the younger version of me and Ethan is a little bit further down the line with a little more perspective and some of the things that he says and he realizes about himself, I, you know, I worked in a, I worked in a company answering phones in the summers and some of the women took me under their wing and I also spend a lot of time waiting tables and working, I was a bartender, I went to college for two years and then I dropped out for a while and I was working in a an italian restaurant and then in a biker bar and so I worked with these kind of colorful people who were adults when I was still very much trying to figure out the world. And I think that margaux came from that quite a bit, I appreciate from this perspective how much they nurtured me and tolerated me when I had this little kid perspective of the world and I'm so thankful for that, so I think this is a little bit of a love story to those people who cared for me when I needed that care, that's the perfect, perfect way to put it because that's how they come across and that's how we feel about them reading, there's just really, really deep characters and they just don't even think my heels as we're going to stay with me, I was like, oh, I was like, what a visual image that is and it just right off the bat, like you knew who that character was, you know, you just can see her, like she's in this diner and her stiletto pink high heels and you just knew her. So you did know her and I love the scenes where they're putting together outfits and ripping and cutting and tearing and trying to get ready for a night out. It's just really, we know people like that, that's what I'm trying to say is that the book is full of people that we kind of all know, but I want to, I want to talk a little bit about place and time. So you set the book in the early to mid nineties and even later in the nineties, but in a large part it takes place in central and western new york locations, which, you know, I love Ithaca, well, why this...

...time and place, what is it that drew you to write about that? Um I grew up in the new york city suburbs and went to Ithaca college for two years and I had grown up in a town called Somers new york that you know, didn't really have sidewalks, there wasn't, there was there was a lot of, you know, if you didn't have a car, you couldn't really get anywhere. It's a very long skinny town. So some of my friends lived across town and I just didn't have that out in the world's ability on my own. And when I went to Ithaca all of a sudden, the first day I was there, I was taking a bus downtown and hiking through a gorge. You know, it was it was this ultimate freedom for me all of a sudden. And then also I was a theater major in at Ithaca, so going from being a kid in a town where you live there, just because that's what other people chose for you to going to a school that I chose because I'm a creative person and I got to be with other creative people who were making that choice in their lives all of a sudden, like the whole world's opened up to me and I met all these amazing people and I'm still, there's still my family, you know, which is incredible. And so there's a there's a part in the book where april talks about how she thinks Ithaca is where she started and get a little emotional thing this, but that is how I feel about it too. And I really wanted to write that and it's also just such a beautiful place. It really is. It really is. I grew up about a half an hour north of there. So I know like every christmas going to the commons and and like that's where the original moosewood restaurant is. And there's this, you describe it so perfectly and it makes you want to go back and visit again. I don't get too, so I'm going to have to go, Yeah, I have not. You know, we're going with you, we'll go with you field trip. I mean, I think it's like kind of now we have to go, I mean it's like we're here, we're talking about it. I am really interested. I actually was talking to an author the other day who had just written her debut novel and it was set in the sixties and seventies, which would have been the time period when she was sort of like coming of age. I do not know how old you are, but I'm assuming you are a very, very small child in the nineties. And so I'm wondering No, because I know you did you did you do a lot of research like did you have to go back and research the 90s or is a lot of it from your memory like how did that work? That is actually exactly when I was in Ithaca I went to Africa, I mean april was there a little bit earlier? It's a funny little thing. I'm 44 And April, not that 44 young but you look very, very young. I am actually you know it's funny because this book categorized this historical fiction by book of the Month. It's hilarious because my college age. Yeah. Horrifying. Okay great. I said it there was actually a place called Cafe Decadence which is the coffee shop where april works in the book and it was I just loved it so much. I didn't work there but I went there and I loved it so much and I had a cafe decadent smug and I didn't wash it in my dorm room like gross college kid and it I was like I'll throw it out, I'll get anyone next semester and the next semester I came back and cafe decadence was gone. So I wanted to set it at at the right time for cafe decadence to be there at the time. That april was which is a funny thing, you know, little rivers and made up town. But for some reason I just needed cafe decadence to be what it was when it was and that actually dictated the entire timeline of the book. But it also wasn't april because the same time that I was when Woolworth was still there and it had a certain feeling to it that I think it's still there at the heart. But I think it you know has changed and moved on. I also really wanted to put april at a time before she would have a...

...cell phone because that made everything different. It does, it changes everything. I completely agree and sometimes I feel like there are things that we have to throw into books that are contemporary that sort of take you out of the story, but like They aren't texting and their 18, it's not a real story, but a huge message of this book centres on April search for belonging both, you know, in the world and to other people. Can you talk about how you developed that need in her and this really difficult relationship that she has with herself? Yeah, I think, you know, april's life circumstances aren't aren't mine, but I think her heart is and I was I was a weird little kid, you know, I was always stuck in my head and I didn't have a purpose for it yet. So I was just daydreaming and strange and and I had these moments of very close belonging. I went to this art summer camp and and and really belong. I mean I still talk to the kids I went to summer camp with on a regular basis because theres that bonding that you have when when you find people, I mean that's why why writers can show up and just start talking to each other because you have that baseline of we belong together, we're doing the same thing and that is so magical and it's been so magical in my life. So I really think I'm fascinated in that experience of where you don't belong and where you do belong and and the fact that I had to figure out a lot of things about myself To feel comfortable belonging with the people who I belonged with. Like I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when I was 19, which is also one of the reasons I dropped out of college, because it just changed the parameters of my world and I had to figure it out again. But I think that contributed to feeling like I didn't fit in and then and not always trusting myself because sometimes I would not come through for someone the way that I wanted to and I wouldn't understand what that was, would turn it into being, you know, not a very good person. And so I had to learn how to trust myself and learn how to forgive myself for my failings and as I did that I started to accept the belonging that I was finding, but until I could do that, I think I I had a history at points in my life of getting very close to someone and then getting scared that I was going to mess it up and um just kind of looking for the exit, so I can see all of that in april obviously, you know, I mean, I didn't do it on purpose and then it's like, well that's where it came from, I'm painting from my palette, you know, that's fascinating because I just loved the development of april and every time she would get into a situation and start to get a little comfortable, something would happen, and you have to move on to the next one. And it really developed her though throughout the book. So, you, kind of see her growth through it and just fascinated by that. I think it's so interesting what we learn about ourselves to every time we write. Absolutely, absolutely. I I feel like this is this story is me in allegory, and I didn't mean to do it, and then I can go back and say, oh, that's why I read about that, that's what this means. You know, I can decode it for myself, which is really funny. And then I was talking to one of my best friends who I went to Ithaca with the other day, and she had read the book and she was asking me questions about it and she she pointed out some things that were like, do you think you wrote this because of this, that happened to you? And it's like, what? Yes, I think so, wow, it's still a discovery, which is exciting, that is the coolest from people who know us read our stories and can find those things. That's amazing. I love that. The other thing I want to talk about is music. It's an integral part of the novel and it's something that's april's touch point and something that she's always desired. It's the one thing that she can almost call home as she goes into different situations. Can you share what music has meant for you and...

...about the process and the importance of it? Um in weaving it into the story. Absolutely. One of my favorite books is Song of The Lark by Willie carter. Actually, it's my favorite book. I read it as a child and I've read it several times since and she's working out her feelings about being a writer through this story about an opera singer. And so this is a a little bit of a nod to that to some extent. But also music has been a really important part of my life. I was raised on a steady diet of folk music. I was named after a Gordon Lightfoot song. I've been fascinated by guitar since I was very, very young and I did play guitar a little bit in my twenties when I worked at a biker bar, I play a couple songs that the open mic they held downstairs in the other bar. And and I studied classical voice for 10 years and part of that was in Ithaca, but I studied it because I wanted to be a theater major and that's kind of what you do is you also saying, you know, everybody wants to be a triple threat and I can't dance. So I really had to focus on me and uh what ended up happening was that I didn't really like I hated auditioning. I had really bad stage fright and I still would go to these voice lessons and study, you know, for a and and sing all these classical songs because it was the way that people meditate or do yoga. That was what voice lessons were for me. I was really close to my voice teacher in africa, still keep in touch with him. Uh he sent me a long letter of everything he thinks about this book, which is amazing. So uh you know, I think music has been a through line in a way that I connect with other people. It's also a way I connect with the world and it's been such an amazing part of writing this book both with the songs that started it. And then I was really stuck with this book for a very long time. And there's a musician named Chris Perica who I think is just she's my favorite, she's the best and she has a song called compass rose and those are the words that are at the beginning of the book are uh I know someday someday I'll offer up the song I was made to play. And I had, I was getting this feedback about changing april and changing a book and I just had that song stuck in my head and I remember singing it over and over. I was in the shower and I got stuck on that line and I kept singing that phrase over and over and over again. And then I thought, wait, this is the book I made to write like, this is what my life is for everything I experienced is in this book. And if this is the book I made to write, I can't compromise on it. And so that became my parameters for this book was that you don't, you don't compromise on your life's work. You just don't. So music saved me in that way too. That's such, you're such an inspiration. I think so many people are going to relate to it and now I want to read the book all over again after talking with you about it. It's just, I love it. I mean, that's a pull quote. If I've ever heard one, you don't compromise on your life's work? I think I need like a tattoo of that on the courthouse or something. I'll send you the crisp Erica song. I listen, I remember when I read that like in the opening of the book, I mean it really, it's like a cold chills kind of flying there. I mean it's amazing. But wow, I love that story. So actually that leads so beautifully into my next question, which is focusing on your origins. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a writer and maybe you've sort of hit on this a little bit, but just a little bit about some of your influences. Absolutely. I was one of those kids that just couldn't get enough words in my face, you know, as as a child, I was just always reading, I was reading with a flashlight under the covers and I really couldn't right. I always had these stories in my head and I would try to write them down and...

I had horrible handwriting and my hand would hurt and I don't think in a linear way. So I would start, right? And when you're a little kid you're writing an essay, it's like beginning middle and end. And and I just have a race remarks that went through the page. And so I didn't think that I could, right? And I went to an art camp where they made us do theater and I was really shy little kid, but I had to do it because everyone else had to do it. And it turns out that I loved it. So over the years I ended up going to school to be a theater major, which was funny because I was still a pretty quiet kid, right? What I realized later is that I was drawn to the character study of all of it, that that's what I loved and I still use my acting training all the time when I'm creating characters because we did a lot of work that wasn't on the page. And you know, what did you eat for lunch today? Like what your character eat for lunch today, what they wear on their first day of grade school, You know, just trying to figure out the depths of a person to figure out their behavior and justify it. So I do that with my writing a lot, but it wasn't until figuring out that I had attention deficit disorder and kind of taking that break from the path that I was on and finally learning how to learn and going back to college, that I realized that I have to work to collect my thoughts. Like I I don't, you know, I wrote part of the end of this book first and that's fine. Um and I just kind of collect scenes and put them all together and eventually they become a book. And then I edit and edit. And for years it's just so interesting because that is exactly how I write to. And I feel like I'm having all these light bulb moments about myself because I do that also. And it's really difficult as I'm sure you can relate to when you're trying to sell something and you don't want to have to write the whole book, but your mind doesn't work in beginning middle and end. And so you're like, I don't know the beginning. I don't even know what this is yet. That is really, really interesting because I don't hear that too too terribly much. But that's exactly what my processes like two and and I'll end up with all these chunks and then I'm like, you, I edit forever. Like people say, oh, you write so fast and I do, I write quickly, but I edit forever. So it's like uh you know, sort of an opposite kind of thing. I think that's really interesting that you do that too. Yeah, I've started using scrivener. So all my scenes are organized. When I first started writing this book, it was just one giant word file. It was perpetually scrolling through. And so I started using scrivener and really leaning into the fact that that's how my mind works. So it's like, okay, I don't know, this is what happens in the beginning. I don't know what happens next, but I do know what happens in chapter 34. So I'm just gonna write that scene as clearly as I can and then it gives you clues to the rest of what you have to write. That's exactly what I do. I feel so scene right now, I'm witnessing something here. I don't know what it is, a synergy. So ultimately the people we keep is about families that we choose versus the ones that we are born into. Can you tell us what your hope is for readers to understand about that? I really hope that people realize, you know, I mean, I think a lot of people do, but I really wanted to give credit to how important our friends are and how life changing that is. I think a lot of times, you know, we we don't get the credit of seeing our friends as family, we don't get the respect for that. You know, there's there's no family medical leave when your friend is sick and I think that sometimes, I mean in my life my friendships are so vitally important and they have been all along, my friends taught me how to be a person, you know, and they supported me while I was and I just want people who have these, these found families to feel...

...validated in that. Well, that comes across so truthfully I totally can relate and people, I think people everywhere are going to relate to that theme and because we do have friendships that we just value. And oftentimes it's more of a closeness than with your family of birth because you have more in common with them and like you said, they help you be a better person and you get to learn things from them. It's they help you grow up. Yeah, I thought I love the concept of that and the idea of these people who are in our lives when we are becoming who were going to become and that was a really great theme. And anyway, I'm so thrilled that we got to talk about this beautiful book. Um I cannot wait for everyone to read it. I know Ron and I have been talking about how much we loved it and it's just gonna be a huge, huge success. So we're thrilled for you and we appreciate you sharing a little bit of your origin story. So can you tell us where people can find you online and where they can learn more about you? Thank you. I am at Ali Larkin rights dot com. I'm on twitter as Ali Larkin. My other books have been written at Sally Larkin and then this one is Alison. So you'll find me mostly online as Ali Larkin, I'm at Ali Larkin writes on instagram also and Ron and Christy, thank you so much. It's just wonderful to get to talk with you. I'm a big fan of the podcast, so it's very cool to be, We are thrilled that you were able to join us because it's rare that a book really touches us so deeply. I think I think readers are going to really relate to this and just eat it up. Thank you. And I will help you steal the car so we can go to Ithaca ways we knew we were gonna like, you knew it just this is great. I cannot wait To find one from the 90s and we'll work on, I'll kind of, I'll be looking around okay, when you see where I grew up, we'll find a car over there. Don't worry the deal. Yes, so thank you everyone. Thanks for tuning in. We hope that you've enjoyed this episode of Friends and fiction Writer's Block. Be sure to tune in each friday for more fascinating conversations, please be sure and tell a friend. Thank you for tuning in to Friends and Fiction Writer's Block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform, tune in every friday for another episode and you can also join us every week on facebook or Youtube where you can See our live friends and fiction show that airs at seven p.m. eastern standard time. We are so glad you're here.

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