Monday, May 23, 2011
Allison Pittman's "Lilies in the Moonlight"
Q&A with: ALLISON PITTMAN
1) When did you first start writing, and what was your journey towards becoming a published author?
My first novel, Ten Thousand Charms, came out in 2005, and it was literally my first novel. I’d never attempted anything on that scale before. I’d known for a long time that I wanted to be a writer, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to write. I knew magazine writing would never work, because the idea of deadlines terrified me. So, I started a novel, figuring I’d write when I wanted to, and just wait and see. God’s plan for me was much more streamlined than my own!
2) What is the most helpful bit of writing or publishing advice you’ve ever received?
James Scott Bell opened my eyes to show me that, no matter where I was on my writing journey, I could look back and see progress. I’d started writing a novel…I finished writing a novel…I’d pitched a novel…I got an editor to request a proposal…
3) Your latest book, Lilies in Moonlight is the third of your three “baseball novels” after Stealing Home and The Bridegrooms. What made you interested in vintage baseball?
It all just seemed so romantic. These men were stars back when nobody was a star. They worked hard and sacrificed, playing for the sake of playing. No millions of dollars—they played for food. I fell in love with how they loved the game. It’s uniquely American—representing the best and worst of us.
4) Tell us more about Lilies in Moonlight and what you love about this book and its characters.
I love Lilly. She reminds me a little of Gloria, from Ten Thousand Charms—an innocent soul walking around in a sinful body. So much light, and such a sweet spirit. Her voice and mannerisms are lifted directly from one of my favorite students from my teaching days, so that made writing a joy. Betty Ruth was a hoot, too. I felt total freedom with her, making her sweet and silly, letting her get away with saying things that nobody fully in their right mind would say.
5) Lilies in Moonlight explores two mother-child relationships—how do these relationships define each of the characters?
Lilly has spent a lifetime trying to earn her mother’s love and approval; it’s a losing battle. She’ll never be good enough to please her mother, and she’ll never be bad enough to please the world, so she’s kind of stuck in this place where she only has herself to worry about. Cullen, on the other hand, can do no wrong in his mother’s eyes—he’s the only son, the only child, and heir to the fortune. He’s never had to prove himself at all, and when he tries on both the baseball field and the battlefield, the results are not good…
6) How do you research for your books?
I do a lot of reading—as many primary source documents as I can (journals, newspapers, etc.). For this book, I watched a lot of silent movies, so I could get into my head what Lilly would have considered glamorous. I also read a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald – not only the iconic Great Gatsby, but several of his short stories, too. These were published in magazines, so they really gave a contemporary image of the time. I tried to get a feel for how people spoke by studying his dialogue.
7) Tell us a little about your family—what’s it like to be the mom of three boys?
It’s hectic these days! My oldest (twins!) just turned 16, so they’re driving and working and dating. We have to schedule family dinners. My youngest is in Middle School, so we’re in that weird space where he’s not a little boy, but not a teen-ager yet. Just a lot of awkwardness, but fun. I’m a much better mother with tweens and teens than I ever was with toddlers.
8) How can parents encourage reading, writing and creativity in their children?
I think it’s important for kids to see their parents reading and writing. We talk about books all the time. Even when the boys read a book in, like, 4th grade, Mike and I would read it, too, so we could talk about it. It’s so much fun to share stories. I think the key to fostering creativity is to let it happen naturally. Kids are naturally creative, so just let it happen! Provide opportunities, but, even with all they do, help them develop a critical eye. Showcase the best and save the rest.
9) Lilies in Moonlight is set in the 1920s—what was your favorite thing about that time period? If there was one thing about the 1920s you wish you could transport to this current decade, what would it be?
I just think about what an exciting time of change it must have been for women. Just think—skirts went from weighing twenty pounds to measuring twenty inches. Suddenly there were movies and music and glimpses into a world beyond their neighborhood. I don’t think there’s much about the decade that we don’t still have—the best and the worst, actually. With all that freedom came a very slippery moral slope, and women lost a lot of ground. For the first time, immoral behavior was accepted by mainstream society, and that left a haunting impression. If anything, I’d like to step back in time and whisper to the flappers, “Be careful, girls…”
10) What are you reading these days? Any favorite books or authors?
I’ve just gotten into a book club (a nerdy life-long goal…) and I just finished The Help. I know I’m a little late to that party, but it’s fabulous! My favorite author is Anne Patchett, and my favorite book of hers is Bel Canto. (I snuck that into book club so I could re-read it!) I’m actually a very sloooooow reader, and if I’m not immersed by page 70, I don’t read past 71. I probably abandon 3 out of 4 books…I finish fewer than 10 books a year.
11) What are you working on next?
Forsaking All Others, the second book in my Sister Wives series, comes out in October 2011 from Tyndale.
12) Where can readers contact you or learn more about you, Lilies in Moonlight and your other books? (website, facebook, etc.)
I’m an avid facebooker and a rather reticent blogger, but readers can go to my website http://www.allisonpittman.com/ to access my blog and to sign up for my newsletter. http://facebook.com/allisonkpittman is my facebook profile and http://facebook.com/pages/Allison-Pittman-Author-Page/121203897897741 is my author page. I love comments!
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