Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode 11 · 2 months 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 firedfrom my dad's story for the dad in this book. Mickey, his immigration fromIreland his work in construction and my dad had a bookie for decades. So littlethings like that I kind of deliberately worked in and had some fun with and abig family and all the fun and affection that comes with that I guesssome of the things that I didn't really realize at the time and I'm still kindof realizing in a way that worked its way in it was just kind of going backto that impact of shame. I was in the shower and I got stuck onthat line and I kept singing that phrase over and over and over again andthen I thought wait, this is the book I made to right this is what my life isfor everything I experienced is in this book. And if this is the book I made towrite, I can't compromise on it. That became my parameters for this book wasthat you don't compromise on your life's work. You just don't Welcome tothe friends and fiction writer's Block podcast. Five new york times,bestselling authors, one rock star librarian and endless stories join MaryKay andrews. Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan HenryMary Alice Monroe and Ron Block As novelists. We are five longtime friendswith 85 books between us. I am Ron block. I am so glad you've joined usfor fascinating author interviews along with Insider. Talk about publishing andwriting if you love books and are curious about the writing world you'rein the right place. Yeah, welcome to the friends and fiction Writer's Blockpodcast today, we are thrilled to present another episode in our originstories series. We love digging into where ideas come from and talking aboutthe foundational elements behind an author's work. We're joined today totalk about two exciting recent releases. We are the brennans by Tracy lang andthe 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 isTracey's debut novel and publishers weekly says that fans of intense familydramas are in for a treat. I say, I agree and it is enchanting andconsuming and it has been chosen as the book of the month Club pick TracyWelcome, Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. We're thrilled. It'ssuch a treat. Yeah, we're so excited to talk about this book, Ron and I bothread it and we have loads of questions about its origins. Congratulations! Andall of the wonderful things that are happening with it and thank you forjoining us to talk about it. I devoured it. I started it on the plane anddidn't put it down and I loved all of the voices in it and I adore the pubsetting. So, before we drive into the origin story, can you give ourlisteners just a quick description of this family story. Sure. So the novelis about a large family from large by today's standards, I guess for Childrenfrom 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, butfive years before the book starts, the lone female sibling of the four, sundayBrennan leaves home kind of unexpectedly and without a lot ofexplanation. So fast forward five years when the book opens, she's in, she'sliving in California in L. A. And she has a pretty nasty drunk drivingaccident and as a result her big brother helps helps her realize thatmaybe it would do her some good to come...

...home for a little while. So she headsback to new york back to the family fold and as happy as she used to bethere, as excited as they are to have her her homecoming kicks up a lot ofturmoil, various questions and resentment start to come up about whyshe left the way she did. Then there's the fiance, she sort of abandoned whenshe left new york years ago and he is her brother's business partner and he'skind of part of the family. So he's very present and even though he'smarried someone else now he's very much in the mix. And so that's there'sdefinitely some tension there. And then basically, the longer she's home, themore sunday realizes that her brothers and her dad or may not be doing quiteas well as she thought they were. And the clincher is when she realizes herbrother is in it's a pretty heavy debt to a bad guy from her past and in orderto kind of protect him and her family, she's going to have to come clean withsome stuff and and from there, all sorts of secrets start to unravel thathave 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 thoughtthis should be called, We are the tangled Brennan's and it's amazing. Wetalk about it as authors all the time about making sure that characters areintersected a lot of different points and I can say that your charactersintersect and a lot of different points. That's what I was hoping. It'sfantastic. This is such a dumb aside, but I love the names that you pickedfor the characters. They were just so just refreshing, really cool names thatthey 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 loveto hear that. That's great. That's awesome. So we also know that it'sreally hard to know exactly where the story comes from and where itoriginated, but sometimes there's hints and clues can you tell us where theoriginal ping for this idea came from? Well, certainly, I guess a deep levelit came just from my own experience growing up in a big irish catholicfamily in new york and with lots of family in Ireland, although none ofthis is autobiographical, the characters and events or none of it'sbased on my family, but I come from that world. So I know ultimately that'ssort of where the story started on some level, but then it really, it kind ofstarted with the situation, I love reading about family and writing aboutfamily, the messier the better. And so I knew that I wanted to kind of startwith someone coming home back into the family fold after being gone for awhile 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 impacteverybody else? And as I dug in further with characters and the story, Irealized I was kind of wanting to explore the impact of shame really, ona very loving family, these guys would do almost anything for each other, butat the same time they still feel the need to hide things from each other andkeep secrets. And so I kind of wanted to explore that, it's kind ofcontradiction 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 orwas it this book that made you want to write a book, meaning did this ideacome to you and you were like, I have got to write a book about this or wereyou more? So I have been meaning to write a book and I'm looking for anidea 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 fora long time, it was sort of seeing this...

...magical world to me that I didn't thinkI 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 alot from, but we'll probably just remain in a door. But this was the nextidea and that I kind of ran with. So the writing was their first, but once Iland on this idea that it took over and it was a lot of fun, a lot of work, allof that. But yeah, I had in the drawer first draft that ended up being myfourth novel, so you never know, that's right, that's right. I don't ruleanything out. So, like you mentioned, you yourself come from a huge irishcatholic family just like the brennans and some of them I think he said evenlive in Ireland Yeah, so my immediate family was just my parents and I haveone 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 andyeah, 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 wasone of four and so all of those aunts and uncles had multiple kids. And sothere were cousins everywhere and spent a lot of time in Ireland growing up. Sowe were just around that in a big part of each other's lives, you know, allthe time. Yeah, that's, that's how I kind of know this world. Yeah. How muchof that do you think snuck in purposefully versus subconsciously? Canyou look back at the book and say, oh that snuck its way in there that way myuncle in Ireland or my trip to Ireland or my, I'm not even going to guess howmany cousins you have but has some of that worked its way in there. I want toknow what worked its way consciously and unconsciously. It was definitely amix and I'll tell you, we actually did the math recently and I, we have 56 1stcousins 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 wereintentional. 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 bookiefor decades. So little things like that I kind of deliberately worked in andhad some fun with and a big family and all the fun and affection that comeswith that I guess some of the things that I didn't really realize at thetime and I'm still kind of realizing in a way that worked its way in was justkind of going back to that impact of shame on such a big loving family andyou know, how do you get to the point where you still feel the need to hidethese things from each other and I know there were things growing up as much asI love my family, there were, I knew there were things we didn't really talkabout from their past and so I know things like that sort of snuck theirway in that idea that you know, you can support each other as much as possibleand be there for each other and have all the loyalty in the world. Butthere's still, sometimes it's need to hide flaws and mistakes and familyhistory from each other. So yeah, those things kind of snuck their way and Ithink so actually let's talk about your character development. So you havesunday Danny Kale and Jackie are the four main characters here, but eachvoice is unique and they carry their own secrets. Each one, did you plan onhaving that many voices or did they crop up as your story developed? Itreally cropped up as I went, because I don't hear it so much anymore, but notthat long ago, I remember hearing, oh,...

...watch out multiple point of view, Idon't know, use as few as possible. You don't want to confuse people, it canget 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 goingon, it was a great way to let the reader in on some of those secrets whenall the other characters didn't know. And so, but it was not planned. I Iknew I had kind of sunday Danny and Caleb, but then they're just seeingthese really cool opportunities to bring in some other characters just fora 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 thepeople that you developed? Um I don't know if I, I will say that probably themost fun was Jackie for some reason, the younger brother, I would like toactually spend more time with him. There were just so many people can onlydo so much, but he just has kind of a neat edge to his voice that was justkind of fun to write. But there was something I really did love about eachof them really and I kind of look forward to spending time with each ofthem for the most part Yeah, we can occur, we can occur. So let's take aminute to talk about the origin of your setting because we begin in Los Angelesand we feel that frenetic pace and sunday's kind of frenetic life andsunday is coming undone. But the majority of the book takes place in newyork city and I want you to talk about that choice. You were born in your inbend Oregon right now. Right, Yes, but you but you grew up in new york, sotalk to us about the setting and choosing it and then we're definitelygoing to talk about the pub. Okay, I did, I was born in the Bronx, but grewup for the most part, on the Upper east side of Manhattan, my parents weresuperintendent of a building, which is how we could afford to live there. Butand and that's so I knew that world, I have family from out Long Island andthroughout the boroughs and up into Westchester and I knew that I wanted itto be in new york because that's that's the world I knew and and and I wanted atown, I wanted to be close to the city, but small enough that it would haveappealed to the Brennan parents when they first were looking for kind of asmall town, close knit community after coming over from Ireland. So that's howI landed on the town west manner, which is kind of loosely based on Briarcliffmanor, just in terms of location. But I sort of had to, I felt like I had totake a few liberties with the history and so I went with west manner, but butclose to the city, but still kind of a small, small, quaint town. So that'show I landed on that location. Uh, and it did seem that when sunday left thefamily, what could be so polar opposite of that really would be the other coastand a big sprawling city like L. A. Just to kind of contrast where she camefrom and where she was headed back to. So, so talk to me a little bit aboutthe pub, which is one of my favorite parts of the novel, it is said to readthe story unfolds and is set in and constantly kind of taps back to thispub and the trouble it gets in and the things that have happened in the puband you truly nailed the atmosphere in particular. So, I want you to talk tous a little bit about that. Well, I, I love a good irish pub and Ihad all right. And I've had family members particularly in Ireland thatowned 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'sinvolved in, everyone spends time there and it's sort of a family businessreally. And I just love that feeling. It just is akin to being part of thatbig sort of clan, you know, that's bigger than you and um, so that's, itjust seems so natural that Danny would own this pub and that the family wouldbe really involved in it and that they would in fact spent a whole lot of timethere. That's awesome. I have a little follow up. You have such a huge familythat you talked about our any of them thinking that they are the people thatyou were writing about in your book. I don't think so. I especially with thebook coming out lately, I've wondered about that and I did draw on some namesfrom people from my family that uh just because the name seems so perfect, butit'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 willget caught up in that to be honest, but we have yet to see more secrets couldcome out. Yeah, exactly. Your secret, your sequel can be, we are the firstcousins all 55. Yeah, I feel like even just with voices in the novel, evenJackie probably has his own story, even you know, kale, they each could sproutoff. You gave them so much depth and background that I think all of themcould have their own story. Thank you. Yeah, that's one thing I worried aboutwas uh rushing just because there were so many, so you know, I wanted to givethe full picture, but only had so much space and so I'm glad it it feels likethey each had their own little uh story going on, that little going on. They'vegot big stories going on before we end. I have one last question I really amcurious about and that is back to theme. I know that you talked about thestaying power of shame and then you saw that theme emerge. But another and youwent into the story with that, which is really interesting because a lot oftimes themes don't, for me don't always show their faces till about halfwaythrough. And so that you went in with that is so interesting. But anothertheme that really emerged for me was the idea of being drawn home again. Ithappens 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. ButI wondered if that was originally part of the origin of this story or if thattheme of coming home kind of bubbled up while you were writing it. Itdefinitely 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 bitof a throwback that Brennan's because nowadays, so often, you know, you growup, you go somewhere, your siblings go somewhere else, your parents may end upsome in a different place. And so the fact that they're all sort of backtogether is it's unusual, but it definitely was not my idea going inthat's just kind of emerged as I went really and I can't I can't see a newshame was going to be huge going in, but I knew it would play into itbecause frankly, it's just such a big part of the catholic culture for somepeople, not everybody's experience. But yeah, yeah, that speaks speaks well ofyour writing prowess to develop it as you go along. How much more shame can Iput in here? No. Uh what else can I do...

...to these guys Tracy? We have so lovedhaving you and hearing about the origins of your debut novel. Uh thebest readers are gonna love this, they're going to pick it up and they'regonna they're gonna choose it as their Book of the Month club and from thebookstores and libraries, but I want people to know more about you. So howcan they find you online? I do have a website Tracy lane dot com. That'sprobably the best place to find out anything else they might be interestedin. 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 isChristie Woodson harvey. We're joined by Allison Larkin, the author of thePeople we Keep, which publishes weekly, says the music and the generosity ofstrangers provide healing in Larkin's emotionally expansive latest. Thishopeful story will move readers. Oh my gosh, what a great review. Well and sowell deserved. Congratulations Allison on the publication of your fourth noveland really notably being selected for the Book of the Month Club. That is soexciting. So, before we dig into the origins of this book, can you give ourlisteners are just a little bit of an overview of this story? Sure, thank youboth so much. I'm really excited to talk with you. This story is about 16year old April Sawicki who is a folk singer. She's growing up in a motorless motor home in a small town called Little River in New York and she'sdecided she's had it and she steals a car and hits the road. Mhm. To starther life to her. Amazing. Amazing. I have to say. I think I knew I was goingto love this story when right away from the first scene, she's like, hot wiringher neighbors are I don't know if that's what you call it. Yeah, I thinkthat'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, becauseit's not like, It's not like, you know, hot wiring a car that was built in 2020or something. So I thought that was brilliant. I loved it. It is reallyawesome. Made me think, I wonder if Ali has had a history of doing this. Ithink I could if I needed to if it was the 90s area car because I did have todo some really interesting research to figure out what was possible. That isreally great. Well, I keep a list of people that we want with us in certainsituations. So now we know that you are someone that we really need if we're ina crisis. Yeah, come in. Got to put this stuff to you Well, we'll draw theline though, knocking over liquor stores. So, as you know, ali, I lovedloved loved this book and readers are going to really take to it, it's such arelatable story on so many levels. But let's talk about where the ideas camefrom, What were the original story come from? I do know that you have not, thisis not your first time writing about april and Ethan. I have been writingabout April and Ethan since 2006. I was working on my first novel Stay and Iwas in a writing group and we had eight pages do for writing group and I waslistening to a playlist like on Itunes and the song Iowa by Dar Williamsplayed, and then this is the Sea by the Water Boys and this is the c talksabout 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 youmove through the world. I april just just showed up. It was like this thisthing in my mind that was like, hey,...

...over here and I couldn't stop thinkingabout her. And I finally, it was like, I'm not going to get my pages done, Ihave to pay attention to this. And I think I wrote About 6000 words of Apriland Ethan in one night. Like, it was just and it's weird because a lot of itis actually in the second part of the book and some of the paragraphs arealmost exactly there, but they didn't quite make sense to me yet. I hadconsidered it to be a short story, but there was so much missing in the shortstory. And it's such a strange thing how that happens where the story isbigger 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 Ihad to find it to tell you about it, which I don't know how much I actuallybelieve that, but that's what it felt like. I totally believe that, because Ithink that happens to me with every story, like, I'll have some weirdlittle spark of an idea and it's just what you're saying. I'm like, up atnight, 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 backto 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 thisstory, but I feel like it's like this adventure that I get to get up everymorning and go on this adventure to figure out what this story is and whothese 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 areabsolutely incredible characters, and they probably found you for a reason, Iwould think, oh, thank you, but you also have these really great secondarycharacters and all these quirky and mostly lovable inhabitants in april'sworld. So what influenced those characters? I think some of them are a little bitof me, like there's actually a little bit of me and Ethan that I can seepretty clearly sometimes. I think in some respects, like april is a littlebit the younger version of me and Ethan is a little bit further down the linewith a little more perspective and some of the things that he says and herealizes about himself, I, you know, I worked in a, I worked in a companyanswering phones in the summers and some of the women took me under theirwing and I also spend a lot of time waiting tables and working, I was abartender, I went to college for two years and then I dropped out for awhile and I was working in a an italian restaurant and then in a biker bar andso I worked with these kind of colorful people who were adults when I was stillvery much trying to figure out the world. And I think that margaux camefrom that quite a bit, I appreciate from this perspective how much theynurtured me and tolerated me when I had this little kid perspective of theworld and I'm so thankful for that, so I think this is a little bit of a lovestory to those people who cared for me when I needed that care, that's theperfect, perfect way to put it because that's how they come across and that'show we feel about them reading, there's just really, really deep characters andthey 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, likeshe'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 togetheroutfits and ripping and cutting and tearing and trying to get ready for anight out. It's just really, we know people like that, that's what I'mtrying to say is that the book is full of people that we kind of all know, butI want to, I want to talk a little bit about place and time. So you set thebook in the early to mid nineties and even later in the nineties, but in alarge 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 drewyou to write about that? Um I grew up in the new york city suburbs and wentto Ithaca college for two years and I had grown up in a town called Somersnew york that you know, didn't really have sidewalks, there wasn't, there wasthere was a lot of, you know, if you didn't have a car, you couldn't reallyget anywhere. It's a very long skinny town. So some of my friends livedacross 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, Iwas taking a bus downtown and hiking through a gorge. You know, it was itwas this ultimate freedom for me all of a sudden. And then also I was a theatermajor 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 thatI chose because I'm a creative person and I got to be with other creativepeople who were making that choice in their lives all of a sudden, like thewhole 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 athere's a part in the book where april talks about how she thinks Ithaca iswhere she started and get a little emotional thing this, but that is how Ifeel about it too. And I really wanted to write that and it's also just such abeautiful place. It really is. It really is. I grew up about a half anhour north of there. So I know like every christmas going to the commonsand and like that's where the original moosewood restaurant is. And there'sthis, you describe it so perfectly and it makes you want to go back and visitagain. 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 likekind 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 whohad 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 smallchild in the nineties. And so I'm wondering No, because I know you didyou did you do a lot of research like did you have to go back and researchthe 90s or is a lot of it from your memory like how did that work? That isactually exactly when I was in Ithaca I went to Africa, I mean april was therea little bit earlier? It's a funny little thing. I'm 44 And April, notthat 44 young but you look very, very young. I am actually you know it'sfunny because this book categorized this historical fiction by book of theMonth. It's hilarious because my college age. Yeah. Horrifying. Okaygreat. I said it there was actually a place called Cafe Decadence which isthe coffee shop where april works in the book and it was I just loved it somuch. I didn't work there but I went there and I loved it so much and I hada cafe decadent smug and I didn't wash it in my dorm room like gross collegekid and it I was like I'll throw it out, I'll get anyone next semester and thenext semester I came back and cafe decadence was gone. So I wanted to setit at at the right time for cafe decadence to be there at the time. Thatapril 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 wasand that actually dictated the entire timeline of the book. But it alsowasn't april because the same time that I was when Woolworth was still thereand 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 putapril at a time before she would have a...

...cell phone because that made everythingdifferent. It does, it changes everything. I completely agree andsometimes I feel like there are things that we have to throw into books thatare contemporary that sort of take you out of the story, but like They aren'ttexting and their 18, it's not a real story, but a huge message of this bookcentres on April search for belonging both, you know, in the world and toother people. Can you talk about how you developed that need in her and thisreally difficult relationship that she has with herself? Yeah, I think, youknow, april's life circumstances aren't aren't mine, but I think her heart isand I was I was a weird little kid, you know, I was always stuck in my head andI didn't have a purpose for it yet. So I was just daydreaming and strange andand I had these moments of very close belonging. I went to this art summercamp and and and really belong. I mean I still talk to the kids I went tosummer camp with on a regular basis because theres that bonding that youhave when when you find people, I mean that's why why writers can show up andjust start talking to each other because you have that baseline of webelong together, we're doing the same thing and that is so magical and it'sbeen so magical in my life. So I really think I'm fascinated in that experienceof where you don't belong and where you do belong and and the fact that I hadto figure out a lot of things about myself To feel comfortable belongingwith the people who I belonged with. Like I was diagnosed with attentiondeficit disorder when I was 19, which is also one of the reasons I droppedout of college, because it just changed the parameters of my world and I had tofigure it out again. But I think that contributed to feeling like I didn'tfit in and then and not always trusting myself because sometimes I would notcome through for someone the way that I wanted to and I wouldn't understandwhat that was, would turn it into being, you know, not a very good person. Andso I had to learn how to trust myself and learn how to forgive myself for myfailings 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 ofgetting very close to someone and then getting scared that I was going to messit up and um just kind of looking for the exit, so I can see all of that inapril obviously, you know, I mean, I didn't do it on purpose and then it'slike, 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 timeshe 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 reallydeveloped her though throughout the book. So, you, kind of see her growththrough it and just fascinated by that. I think it's so interesting what welearn about ourselves to every time we write. Absolutely, absolutely. I I feel likethis is this story is me in allegory, and I didn't mean to do it, and then Ican 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 wastalking to one of my best friends who I went to Ithaca with the other day, andshe had read the book and she was asking me questions about it and sheshe pointed out some things that were like, do you think you wrote thisbecause 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 frompeople 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 ismusic. It's an integral part of the novel and it's something that's april'stouch point and something that she's always desired. It's the one thing thatshe can almost call home as she goes into different situations. Can youshare what music has meant for you and...

...about the process and the importance ofit? Um in weaving it into the story. Absolutely. One of my favorite books isSong of The Lark by Willie carter. Actually, it's my favorite book. I readit as a child and I've read it several times since and she's working out herfeelings about being a writer through this story about an opera singer. Andso this is a a little bit of a nod to that to some extent. But also music hasbeen a really important part of my life. I was raised on a steady diet of folkmusic. I was named after a Gordon Lightfoot song. I've been fascinated byguitar since I was very, very young and I did play guitar a little bit in mytwenties when I worked at a biker bar, I play a couple songs that the open micthey held downstairs in the other bar. And and I studied classical voice for10 years and part of that was in Ithaca, but I studied it because I wanted to bea 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 tofocus on me and uh what ended up happening was that I didn't really likeI hated auditioning. I had really bad stage fright and I still would go tothese voice lessons and study, you know, for a and and sing all these classicalsongs because it was the way that people meditate or do yoga. That waswhat voice lessons were for me. I was really close to my voice teacher inafrica, still keep in touch with him. Uh he sent me a long letter ofeverything he thinks about this book, which is amazing. So uh you know, Ithink 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 amazingpart of writing this book both with the songs that started it. And then I wasreally stuck with this book for a very long time. And there's a musician namedChris Perica who I think is just she's my favorite, she's the best and she hasa song called compass rose and those are the words that are at the beginningof the book are uh I know someday someday I'll offer up the song I wasmade to play. And I had, I was getting this feedback about changing april andchanging a book and I just had that song stuck in my head and I remembersinging it over and over. I was in the shower and I got stuck on that line andI 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 foreverything I experienced is in this book. And if this is the book I made towrite, I can't compromise on it. And so that became my parameters for this bookwas that you don't, you don't compromise on your life's work. Youjust don't. So music saved me in that way too. That's such, you're such aninspiration. I think so many people are going to relate to it and now I want toread the book all over again after talking with you about it. It's just, Ilove it. I mean, that's a pull quote. If I've ever heard one, you don'tcompromise on your life's work? I think I need like a tattoo of that on thecourthouse or something. I'll send you the crisp Erica song. I listen, Iremember 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, Ilove 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 yourjourney 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 oneof those kids that just couldn't get enough words in my face, you know, asas a child, I was just always reading, I was reading with a flashlight underthe covers and I really couldn't right. I always had these stories in my headand I would try to write them down and...

I had horrible handwriting and my handwould 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 beginningmiddle 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 wherethey made us do theater and I was really shy little kid, but I had to doit because everyone else had to do it. And it turns out that I loved it. Soover the years I ended up going to school to be a theater major, which wasfunny because I was still a pretty quiet kid, right? What I realized lateris that I was drawn to the character study of all of it, that that's what Iloved and I still use my acting training all the time when I'm creatingcharacters 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 tofigure out the depths of a person to figure out their behavior and justifyit. So I do that with my writing a lot, but it wasn't until figuring out that Ihad attention deficit disorder and kind of taking that break from the path thatI was on and finally learning how to learn and going back to college, that Irealized 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 justkind of collect scenes and put them all together and eventually they become abook. And then I edit and edit. And for years it's just so interesting becausethat is exactly how I write to. And I feel like I'm having all these lightbulb moments about myself because I do that also. And it's really difficult asI'm sure you can relate to when you're trying to sell something and you don'twant to have to write the whole book, but your mind doesn't work in beginningmiddle and end. And so you're like, I don't know the beginning. I don't evenknow what this is yet. That is really, really interesting because I don't hearthat too too terribly much. But that's exactly what my processes like two andand 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 editforever. So it's like uh you know, sort of an opposite kind of thing. I thinkthat's really interesting that you do that too. Yeah, I've started usingscrivener. So all my scenes are organized. When I first started writingthis book, it was just one giant word file. It was perpetually scrollingthrough. And so I started using scrivener and really leaning into thefact that that's how my mind works. So it's like, okay, I don't know, this iswhat happens in the beginning. I don't know what happens next, but I do knowwhat happens in chapter 34. So I'm just gonna write that scene as clearly as Ican and then it gives you clues to the rest of what you have to write. That'sexactly what I do. I feel so scene right now, I'm witnessing somethinghere. I don't know what it is, a synergy. So ultimately the people we keep isabout families that we choose versus the ones that we are born into. Can youtell us what your hope is for readers to understand about that? I really hopethat people realize, you know, I mean, I think a lot of people do, but Ireally wanted to give credit to how important our friends are and how lifechanging that is. I think a lot of times, you know, we we don't get thecredit of seeing our friends as family, we don't get the respect for that. Youknow, there's there's no family medical leave when your friend is sick and Ithink that sometimes, I mean in my life my friendships are so vitally importantand 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 havethese, these found families to feel...

...validated in that. Well, that comesacross so truthfully I totally can relate and people, I think peopleeverywhere are going to relate to that theme and because we do havefriendships that we just value. And oftentimes it's more of a closenessthan with your family of birth because you have more in common with them andlike you said, they help you be a better person and you get to learnthings from them. It's they help you grow up. Yeah, I thought I love theconcept of that and the idea of these people who are in our lives when we arebecoming who were going to become and that was a really great theme. Andanyway, I'm so thrilled that we got to talk about this beautiful book. Um Icannot wait for everyone to read it. I know Ron and I have been talking abouthow much we loved it and it's just gonna be a huge, huge success. So we'rethrilled for you and we appreciate you sharing a little bit of your originstory. So can you tell us where people can find you online and where they canlearn more about you? Thank you. I am at Ali Larkin rights dot com. I'm ontwitter as Ali Larkin. My other books have been written at Sally Larkin andthen this one is Alison. So you'll find me mostly online as Ali Larkin, I'm atAli 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, soit's very cool to be, We are thrilled that you were able to join us becauseit's rare that a book really touches us so deeply. I think I think readers aregoing to really relate to this and just eat it up. Thank you. And I will helpyou 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 90sand we'll work on, I'll kind of, I'll be looking around okay, when you seewhere I grew up, we'll find a car over there. Don't worry the deal. Yes, sothank you everyone. Thanks for tuning in. We hope that you've enjoyed thisepisode of Friends and fiction Writer's Block. Be sure to tune in each fridayfor more fascinating conversations, please be sure and tell a friend. Thankyou for tuning in to Friends and Fiction Writer's Block podcast. Pleasebe sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform, tunein every friday for another episode and you can also join us every week onfacebook or Youtube where you can See our live friends and fiction show thatairs at seven p.m. eastern standard time. We are so glad you're here.

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