Looking for Christmas with Len Cassamas

Len Cassamas

Actor Len Cassamas is author of a short book of Christmas stories titled Looking for Christmas, which on audio includes a full cast, and Michael Drayton, Detective Guy. He has also written and performed in audio dramas and short films. He is at work on a short comic film in Atlanta, and recording a suspense thriller for release in January. 

Tower Review) It was a surprise to see that you’re also an author, and that one of your titles is Looking for Christmas. Cassamas and Christmas go together, don’t they. Start with C and end with “mas.” And multi-cast on audio, with sound effects and music! How did that title come about? 

Len Cassamas) That’s funny because my father used to say, when he was explaining to people how to pronounce the name, that it was “Cassamas, like Christmas.” The title came about because, when I was writing the plays, I wanted to connect them all in the manner of one of those anthology movies they used to make in the 1940s and ‘50s–such as “Tales of Manhattan”— where one device would be used to connect a series of otherwise unrelated stories.  The device I chose was based on a holiday activity that I’ve indulged in–first with friends and now with my wife and son) for many years in which we drive through neighborhoods near and far seeking out outdoor Christmas display.  Each display gets discussed, evaluated, and rated.  We call it “Christmas light looking.” So, I came up with a storyline in which three characters from another project drive around their town looking at Christmas display.  I was then able to segue into stories that took place in houses and other locations that came with their notice.  Given the themes that emerged in the stories I was writing, naming it “Looking for Christmas” just happened naturally.

TR) Then there’s Michael Drayton, Detective Guy. What’s that about?

LC) “Michael Drayton, Detective Guy” is a noir mystery with a literary flavor.  It features Michael Drayton, an offbeat, nonviolent, Rhode Island-based private detective, and the adventure he finds himself in after his wealthiest client is murdered on the same afternoon he is doing routine work for the man’s daughter and son-in-law.  He has run-ins and interactions with mobsters and politicians and, of course, the police and has to balance a variety of interests and loyalties while trying to act with honor—at least according to his ideas about honor.  And, on top of all that, he’s trying to quit smoking.

As with all of my work, humor may be involved.  I have also adapted this for full production audio, but, since the script features over 60 speaking roles, haven’t had the time to organize such a massive project.  Someday, though.

TR) How did you come to acting for film? Any commercials, games, or other media?

LC) I actually started, in the olden days of my youth, doing theater, but my heart was always in film and TV.  I got burnt out doing theater and my father passed away, and I made a series of silly decisions, including deciding to retire from acting to concentrate on writing.  Thirty years later, fortunately, I came to my senses just at a time when Atlanta and Georgia in general—where I happen to live—was becoming something of a mecca for film and television production.  After getting myself back in shape by doing a series of videos I put up on YouTube as “The Car Monologues,” I contacted seven agents and got a response from one, who signed me.  Within three months, I had been cast in a web series and in a SAG/AFTRA independent film.  That was three years ago.  Almost two years ago, I left my regular job to pursue acting full time.  It helps to have a wife who makes a nice living. As a professional actor, I take whatever roles I can get and have appeared on a cable crime reenactment show, several web series, and a couple of short films. 

TR) What did you read as a teen that may have influenced you to act and write?

LC) My favorite writers when I was a teen and in college were John Steinbeck, Hermann Hesse, and Raymond Chandler, along with several humorists, including Woody Allen, SJ Perelman, and Robert Benchley.  I also devoured Fred Allen’s memoir concerning his years in radio, which was called “Treadmill to Oblivion.”  Another one of my interests was the playwright and wit, George S. Kaufman, and there are roles in his plays that I still hope to have a shot at. I fell into performing as a sophomore in high school when my best friend convinced me to try out for that year’s production, which was the stage version of the book “M*A*S*H,” a book I read and enjoyed.  During our first performance, I came out on stage and had some business before I needed to speak.  During that time, despite a warning from the director not to do so, I snuck a peek at the audience.  In that moment, all my nervousness disappeared, and I thought, “Ah!  I’m home.” As a writer, I came to my vocation in the cafeteria of the junior high school I attended.  I was in study hall there, and our English teacher had assigned us to write a short story.  No one had ever asked us for fiction before, and, as I worked on the story, I had a quasi-religious experience and knew that I would be writing stories for the rest of my days.

TR) I can relate. Favorite writers or genres?  

LC) I am most likely to read history and biography, although I have been playing catch-up with classics and serious lit.  I just read “Jane Eyre” for the first time a few months ago, and enjoyed it immensely.  I’m in the middle of “Ethan Frome” now.

TR) What’s next for you?

LC) My son Sam is actually directing a short film from a script of mine, starring me and a cast including Becky Boyd and Phil Proctor, called “Bill Johnson’s Adventure Through the Watching Glass” which should be ready to submit to festivals early in the new year.

TR) That’s interesting. Look forward to seeing it. How is recording a book is different or daunting, compared other kinds of acting?

LC) I do find it more daunting.  It’s similar and related, but not quite the same thing. Part of the fun with acting is in interacting with the other actors.  When you’re in a scene with someone that you work well with, you build on one another’s work, and unexpected things happen.  You can go with the gestalt of the moment and ride the flow and energy of the scene.  This doesn’t mean that you change the dialogue; rather, it means that the dialogue comes out in unplanned ways. Recording a book is a much more controlled experience as a type of storytelling I’ve not done before.  That makes book narration a challenge.  An interesting challenge, a not insurmountable challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

Tasty Mysteries

Boo Walker

After picking the five-string banjo in Charleston and Nashville and then a few years toying with Wall Street, Boo chased a wine dream across the country to Red Mountain in eastern Washington with his dog, Tully Mars. They landed in a double-wide trailer on five acres of vines, where Boo grew out a handlebar mustache, bought a horse, and took a job working for the Hedges family, who taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. Recently leaving his farm on Red Mountain, Boo and his family are back on the east coast in what’s called the Portland of Florida, St. Pete. As he wraps up the second book of the Red Mountain series, he’s got his eyes and ears open, building his next cast of characters. No doubt the Sunshine City will be host to the next few novels. The author of Lowcountry Punch, Off You Go, Turn or Burn, and Red Mountain, Boo’s novels are instilled with the culture of the places he’s lived, the characters he’s encountered, and a passion for unexpected adventure.

Tower Review) You’ve always wanted to write, but you’re involved in the winery business. Did you start with articles or fiction?

Boo Walker) I used to play music in Nashville for a living with a band called the Biscuit Boys. My first taste of the creative process and putting words together was writing songs. When I left that career, I had to fill the void. Being a voracious reader, I always wanted to try my hand writing fiction. So I went from songs to full-length fiction.

TR) Anything happen at the winery itself that could be described as “mysterious” or “suspenseful?”

BW) There’s always things that happen at the winery with a sense of suspense or mystery. Our winemaker was nearly killed by the press one year. A year before that, someone stole our neighbor’s grapes, picking them at midnight during harvest. I’ve seen wars waged between humans that may not resolve themselves for generations. Eastern Washington is desert country, the wild west. We have coyotes that will track you, we have badgers that will maul you, and we have rattlesnakes that linger in the grass. Even though Red Mountain is a tiny blip on the map, the potential stories are endless!

TR) Drinking a bit helped me with live interviews, and many writers have been aided by wine in loosening up the free flow of ideas. Red or white for this?

BW) Ha! The best interviews always begin with a glass of white. But I have a steadfast rule… no drinking while writing. Even Hemingway stuck to that.

TR) Favorite authors? Influences?

BW) My favorite author for many years has been Pat Conroy. We share pasts in Charleston together. If I could emulate one writer, it would be him. But I read Plum Island by Nelson Demille while traveling through Ireland after high school, and it gave me the thirst. I was in Waterville on the west coast, and I remember thinking that I had to write a book. Not that I could or should, but that I had to. So I owe him a lot. My favorite book right now though, one that has utterly blown me away, is A Gentleman in Moscow. I’ve never felt so motivated as a writer. Amor Towles puts words together in ways that make my eyes water. The way his mind works is pure art and genius. And most importantly, he’s reminded me to be free in my writing. I don’t need to subscribe to any particular way of doing things. I need to write from the heart and let my voice shine.

TR) Your wine is carried at Whole Foods, bought by Amazon. Some of your characters are in wineries, too. Ever thought about sending a case to Jeff Bezos? He might buy movie rights.

BW) I love the idea of sending wine to Bezos! I sent him an email one time; he never responded. Perhaps a box of wine would do the trick!

TR) Hobbies? What’s next for you?

BW) I’m halfway way through the sequel to Red Mountain. Once that’s wrapped up, I’ll be writing a few books from my new home in St. Pete, Florida. After many years in Washington, my wife and I decided to take a new adventure. So I’m getting out and about in St. Pete, learning the history, the culture, the people. And then I’m going to throw it all in a blender and see what kind of fiction comes out. I always tell my new friends that they better be careful what they tell me, because I’m always looking for new material. Other than writing, I still play some music and absolutely thrilled to be buying my son his first guitar this Christmas. My newest hobby will be teaching him everything I know!

Red Mountain

Nelson DeMille on Florida

Nelson Demille

Nelson Richard DeMille, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, was born in New York City. He was a first lieutenant in the United States Army (1966–69) and saw action as an infantry platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. His first major novel, By the Rivers of Babylon, is still in print, as are all his succeeding novels. He attended Hofstra University, where he received a degree in political science and history. He is the author of By the Rivers of Babylon, Cathedral, The Talbot Odyssey, Word of Honor, The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General’s Daughter, Spencerville, Plum Island, The Lion’s Game, Up Country, The Gate House, Night Fall, Wild Fire, and The Lion. He also coauthored Mayday with Thomas Block and has contributed short stories, book reviews, and articles to magazines and newspapers. A member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, and American Mensa, he holds honorary doctorates from Hofstra University, Long Island University, and Dowling College.

We spoke to Nelson DeMille briefly about Florida and his older novel The Gate House. Several of his books became movies, notably The General’s Daughter starring John Travolta. His new book is The Cuban Affair.

JONATHAN LOWE: To what extent are Sutter and Bellarosa based on real people you’ve known living on Long Island, and what’s your attraction to them as characters of fiction?

NELSON DeMILLE: I’ve never used a single real person as a character in my novels, but I do base my characters on composites of people I know or have met, or who are public figures. John Sutter is a type that I’ve known among the old families of Long Island, but, of course, I’ve given him some quirks, and a self-awareness that is not all that common in this class of people. Frank Bellarosa as a Mafia don could have easily been a stock figure from Central Casting, but I gave him a lot of brains, a good eduation, and he, too, has a self-awareness that would be unusual in his profession. Both characters – Sutter and Bellarosa – have a good sense of humor, and together they are more than the sum of their parts.

JL: I once interviewed Ronald Kessler about his book “The Season,” which described the social undercurrent of billionaires living in Palm Beach, Florida near Trump. One of your characters makes a comment of disdain toward those “living in Florida,” so I’m wondering what are the similarities and differences between these playgrounds of the world’s super wealthy. Is there a rivalry there, as between those living in New York and Los Angeles?

ND: New Yorkers take some pleasure in looking down on other New Yorkers who move permanently to Florida. Maybe, though, it’s jealousy. In any case, it isn’t rivalry as it is with Los Angeles because these “Floridians” are, for the most part, New Yorkers who’ve chosen to leave New York. As for Palm Beach, this is a seasonal town, and becomes New York South from Christmas to Easter, then empties out.

JL: Do you listen to audiobook performances of your novels, and if so, in what ways do you think the personalities of the characters are illuminated by the actors? Any which have nailed the way you perceived a character by voicing him or her, as in films?

ND: Yes, I listen to all my audiobooks, and I think that Scott Brick has nailed down my character of John Corey in PLUM ISLAND, THE LION’S GAME, NIGHT FALL, WILD FIRE, and THE LION.

James Lee Burke

Agatha Christie

 

Imagining Diana Author Interview

Diane ClehaneDiane Clehane is the author of Diana: The Secrets of Her Style and has served as a commentator on the British royal family for CNN, Access Hollywood, and CBS News. She has written about celebrities and popular culture for Vanity Fair, Forbes, People, Vogue.com and Adweek.com, and is a U.S. correspondent for British Heritage. In her weekly “Wednesdays at Michael’s” column, Clehane chronicles the Manhattan media scene. She co-authored the New York Times bestseller Objection and edited the New York Times bestselling collection of essays, I Love You, Mom.

Tower Review) There’s much background on Diana, and of course speculation about what her motives were, played out in fiction after her death. Wondering what the biggest guess was, besides the fact that she wanted to live her own life and create an honorable life for her boys amid all the glitz and paparazzi.
 
Diane Clehane) I have been writing about the British royal family for a long time and did extensive research for the book. As someone who has written about Diana for two decades, I felt very confident about the path I imagined for her had she lived. The biggest mystery was if she would have remarried. What I did in the book is directly related to a relationship she really had with Teddy Forstmann. I believe the greatest happiness Diana would have found later in her life would have come from the relationship she had with her sons — and their wives and children — and her work as a global humanitarian figure. 
 
TR) Did Diana really not want to go to Paris, making it a jealousy play with no intention of a serious relationship with Dodi? 
 
DC) When Diana met Dodi, she had just had a devastating break-up with Hasnat Khan. I believe she was trying to make Hasnat jealous by allowing herself to be photographed on the yacht in Dodi’s arms. That said, she was enjoying herself on that vacation because Dodi was focused solely on her. She found him very attentive, but when the holiday was over she was ready to go back to London. I don’t think their romance would have lasted for a whole host of reasons — the fact that William didn’t care for the Fayed jet-set lifestyle being among them.

TR) The agent in New York looking to exploit Diana. Was there a specific agent in mind, perhaps based on one you encountered in real life? Or is she a total fiction, like Meryl playing a fashion snob in The Devil Wears Prada?
 
DC) The agent Lois is a composite character based on many people I’ve known in the media, publishing and entertainment fields. I thought it would be fun to make her a larger-than-life presence.

TR) Was Diana ever in love with Charles, and vice-versa, in your opinion? Who cheated first, and why?
 
DC) Diana was definitely in love with Charles when they married. She was all of 20 years old and very much believed in love and romance. Charles told friends he hoped he could ‘grow to love Diana’ and he did, I believe, in his own way. Unfortunately for Charles and Diana, it was an arranged marriage because he was being pressured to find a suitable (read: aristocratic and virginal) bride. Unfortunately, Charles never really let go of his emotional attachment to Camilla.  Later it became an open secret among palace insiders that he had resumed his affair. Ironically, Diana and Charles were starting a new stage of their relationship post-divorce when she was killed. I believe they would have grown closer as friends in later years as they do in my book.

About the book:
IMAGINING DIANA begins on August 31, 1997 in a Paris hospital. As the world awaits news of Princess Diana’s fate following the paparazzi-fueled crash, Diana awakens from a coma to discover that she has survived the wreckage, but with her famous face—the most photographed in the world— forever changed. Based on actual events, what ensues is an elegant, riveting account of Diana’s storied past and imagined future as an icon, lover, and mother of a future king. On audio the book is introduced by the author, and narrated by Stina Nielsen.

Lisa Scottoline Interview

Lisa ScottolineTower Review: When and how did you become a writer? What is your background?

Lisa Scottoline: I began as a writer about ten years ago, when my daughter was just an infant. At the time I was a trial lawyer for a large law firm in Philadelphia, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, and my marriage ended at about the same time my daughter was born. As much as I loved being a lawyer (really), I found that my kid turned my head. I wanted to be able to stay home and raise her, which required me to find another way to make an income. At the time, John Grisham and other male lawyers were writing legal thrillers successfully, and I noticed that no women were. I had majored in English, in the contemporary American novel, at Penn, so I figured why not try? I also thought I could bring a new perspective to the genre as a woman. I think that law school was where I learned to write novels. As a lawyer, you need to sort through the facts, pick out those that are most important and will add to your argument, and then put them on paper in a succinct and persuasive way. Every word counts, and you are trying to create a perspective – a spin, if you will – in the readers’ mind. This is the same way I create a character. And, in order to keep up the pace of a novel, you need to make sure that each line adds to the story, and drives it forward. I write with the thought that every word counts. And every reader.

TR: How was your first novel received? What did that feel like?

Scottoline: Thank God, my first novel was very well received, and all of my novels have shared the same good fortune. My first book, EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, was nominated for the Edgar Award, which is the most prestigious award given to mystery writers. Although my first book did not win, my second book, FINAL APPEAL, was nominated the next year, and did win. When the first good review of EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT came in, I made my editor read it over and over to make sure it was true. Then to be nominated for an award, seemed more than I could have ever hoped for. The whole writing experience has been a thrill for me and it gets better and better with each book.

TR: When you get fan mail now, what do most people seem to connect with. What most interests them about your characters?

Scottoline: I try very hard to write characters that are interesting, yet realistic. The thing that I hear the most is that people love my characters because they feel like they can relate to them. Once a reader makes a personal connection to a character, they are naturally more involved in the story. I like that my characters are not super people. They’re just like all of us.

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Seabiscuit Author Interview

Horses

The following interview was conducted via phone just prior to the release of the movie SEABISCUIT, for XM radio. Journalist Laura Hillenbrand’s fame was sealed when her article on the legendary race horse won on the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing, and led to her Random House book, which became the blockbuster movie starring Jeff Bridges. Her next book was UNBROKEN.
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JONATHAN LOWE: You wrote on occasion for Equus, a horse magazine. What in your background led to that, and what was your job there?
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LAURA HILLENBRAND: As a contributing editor. I’ve been a horse person all my life, actually. My parents had a farm next to a battlefield, and they had an agreement with people throughout the county that if someone had horses they couldn’t keep they’d end up at our farm. So my sister and I would ride them. I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome now, though, so I don’t keep a horse today, although I wish I could.
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LOWE: It’s a fascinating story-–Seabiscuit-–and I’m particularly impressed with your race descriptions. You consistently maintain the suspense.
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HILLENBRAND: Thank you.
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LOWE: How much of this suspense was inherent in the true story, and how much was due to your experience as a magazine reporter?
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HILLENBRAND: Most of it was the story itself. My focus might have been different than someone else because I’ve always been passionate about horse racing, and I even wanted to be a jockey for a while, until I learned how dangerous it is. I was fascinated with jockeys too, and I spoke to a huge number of them to get the feel of what it’s like to actually be in the race, and to get the reader up on the horse.
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LOWE: Into the saddle, so to speak.
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HILLENBRAND: Right.
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LOWE: What was it about Seabiscuit that captured America’s imagination back in the late 1930s?
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HILLENBRAND: I think Seabiscuit would have been a star in any generation because he was a great athlete and a captivating athlete. I think what enabled him to transcend sport and become a cultural icon was the Depression. He was a rags to riches horse, and was surrounded by men who were hard luck people, and this was something the American public could identify with. The whole country was down and out, and this was a horse that looked just like them! He was beat up, ugly, from the wrong side of the tracks, and he was very, very persistent. And I think that’s what got people passionately behind him. It is amazing to see the passion that people felt for this horse. . . of people weeping after his races, leaping the rails at the track and running after him. It was quite extraordinary.
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LOWE: The listener feels that too. That’s what is so amazing about this audiobook. But the horse was not large, and had crooked knees, so how could he be so fast?
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HILLENBRAND: (laughs) I think heart was a big part of the equation with this horse. He had an ugly gait, what they call an eggbeater gait. . . he would kinda stab out with one of his forelegs when he flung it forward, and his knees didn’t straighten all the way. He was a bit of a mess bio-mechanically, but he was a very hard horse to discourage, and he would try his heart out every time, and that was the main factor for him, I think.
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LOWE: Was Seabiscuit the fastest horse ever? What about Secretariat and others?
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HILLENBRAND: It’s impossible to compare great race horses of different generations, really, because the conditions are so much different. Horses today carry less weight, and the tracks are faster. The think I will say, comparatively speaking, is that of all the horses who ever lived, if it came down to a nose-to-nose fight down the home stretch, there is no horse I would pick over Seabiscuit.
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LOWE: The showdown between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, when the jockeys knew what the crowd watching did not, was stunning. There are really in tune with their horses. So do horses reject substitute jockeys sometimes? Do horses have to be familiar or connected emotionally with the rider to run their best?
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HILLENBRAND: I think jockeys are underrated in their role in the success of race horses. A lot of horses are comfortable under different jockeys, but there are horses who will really run only for one guy. And I think Red Pollard had much to do with Seabiscuit’s success. His early jockeys really did not get this horse, while Seabiscuit and Pollard were kindred souls. Seabiscuit was a very difficult horse to ride.
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LOWE: Horses really have personalities, like people, don’t they?
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HILLENBRAND: They are as complicated as people. They have complex emotional lives. They are not carbon copies, but have as broad a range of personalities as people. Some are as sweet as puppy dogs, and some are very high strung, that’s right.
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LOWE: Actor Campbell Scott, who is George C. Scott’s son, reads the audiobook version, and I think he made the right choice by not being overly dramatic with the text, but just telling it like a documentary. What did you think?
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HILLENBRAND: I think he did a wonderful job, and was the perfect choice for it, too. The feedback I’ve gotten, people just loved it. He used the right tone, and put just the right stress on all the words.

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Sophie Chen Keller Interview

Sophie Chen Keller

In this story for readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Man Called Ove, when all seems lost, you need to find what matters most. Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting. But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders—his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing—except for his lost father. So when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it—along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls. Steeped in nostalgic wonder, The Luster of Lost Things explores the depths of our capacity for kindness and our ability to heal. A lyrical meditation on why we become lost and how we are found, from the bright, broken heart of a boy who knows where to look for everyone but himself.
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JL, Tower Review) What gave you the idea to write this book?
Sophie Chen Keller) Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading out loud to me from the books we’d check out from the library in stacks of twenty or thirty at a time—books that would whisk me off to magical places, by authors like EB White and Roald Dahl. I wanted my debut novel to be a grown-up version of those childhood classics—a tale that was warm and wondrous and pure, yet at the same time layered with meaning and observations on what it is to live, to be human. I wanted to take people back to that lost time, when the world was bright and brimming with possibility, because as we get it older, it becomes easier to forget that it can still be that way. There are times when we all could use that breath of fresh air—that reminder of the goodness that lives in us, and in the people around us. The specific idea of a boy who looks for lost things came to me later, in the summer of 2014. I came across a “Lost” flyer posted at a campsite, for a missing camera that contained sentimental family photos. I started wondering whether the lost camera had been returned, and about all the other things that people lost. What did it say about them? What were they really looking for when they looked for something like a lost camera? As I wondered if anyone responded to “Lost” flyers like that one, I had my first idea of who Walter would be—a boy who answered “Lost” flyers, finding the things that people had lost and were so desperately looking for.
TR) How does food figure into your conception?
SCK) I spend a lot of time eating food, thinking about the food I’m going to eat next and watching people on TV prepare food that I can then imagine eating. I like exploring different foods—I’m the one holding up the line at the gelato shop or the bakery, inquiring about every item in the display and hemming and hawing over which one to choose. So really, I couldn’t resist writing about food.
TR) A real sweet tooth! And Walter?
SCK) In the book, the main character, Walter Lavender Jr. struggles to find a place to belong because of the motor speech disorder that renders him virtually speechless, trapping him inside his own head. Food, desserts especially, have a way of bringing people together, and of transporting them back to a time and place where they felt like they belonged. One bite, one whiff of warm chocolate chip cookie, and you’re transported decades back to Grandma’s kitchen as she’s pulling a baking sheet out of the oven. At The Lavenders, the magical bakery run by Walter’s mother, Walter is able to experience the sense of belonging and connection that he longs for. The Lavenders is what my ultimate dream bakery would look like, comprised of my favorite elements from various bakeries I’ve been to—the whimsical touches of a California chocolatier, the home-spun coziness of a German bäckerei, the classic brass elegance of a French patisserie, the sugary brightness of a closet-sized Manhattan bakery.
TR) So inviting, and imaginative.
SCR) You’d step in, order, and be transported to anywhere in the world you wished—the bourbon peach pie would take you to the South, the maple walnut whoopie pies to New England, the mango napoleon to Thailand, the sticky toffee pudding to England, the rose macaron to France, the green matcha croissant to Japan. And now…I’m hungry!
TR) What is your favorite dessert recipe?
SCK) Rainbow cupcake cones! On the surface, they look like that hot-weather staple from childhood…but once you dig in, you’re in for a delightful surprise. These “ice-cream cones” are actually cupcakes baked inside ice-cream cones and frosted to look like scoops of ice cream. Whimsical, delicious and easy to make, I love them most of all because they capture the magic of being a kid, in a fresh, unexpected way—kind of like The Luster of Lost Things itself. To get the recipe, download The Luster of Lost Things custom book club kit from Putnam’s Facebook page, here: http://bit.ly/2eRCBSH.
TR) Have you found your writing voice, and what’s next for you?
SCK) When my parents and I first immigrated to the US from China, I didn’t know a word of English. I remember starting school and not being able to understand what anyone was saying to me. I couldn’t communicate my thoughts or even my basic needs—being thirsty, hungry, tired. I wound up crying in the bathroom at lunchtime from the loneliness and frustration. But as Walter does in his journey, through my journey, I ended up discovering something unexpected: my writing voice. To help me learn English, my mom would spend hours reading out loud to me every night, and that was the beginning of my love for books—those bedtime stories that taught me English and kept me company when I felt alone. Soon enough, I started writing stories of my own while continuing to read anything I could get my hands on—books of all genres, books on the craft of writing, short stories. My first short story was published when I was 15, in Glimmer Train. A decade later, I started writing The Luster of Lost Things. Now, I’m working on a second novel, and am already very excited about it!
TR) Kirby Heyborne is your talented narrator for the audiobook. He narrated a Murakami book recently, plus romance from Karen Kingsbury, and children’s books like “Terrific,” which was terrific. What did you think?
SCK) Kirby Heyborne is phenomenal. His voice is the epitome of timeless magic, all golden warmth and nuanced emotion. I felt like I was sitting in front of a crackling fire—with a giant hot chocolate, of course—being regaled by a master storyteller. His range is incredible, and that’s another reason I’m so excited he’s narrating the book. As Walter searches for the one lost object that will save The Lavenders, he encounters people who are a familiar and distinctive part of New York City, including food vendors, can collectors and train conductors. These characters are the beating heart of the story, and Kirby imbues each of them with that unique spark as he brings them to life. I am deeply grateful for the love and care that he and the Penguin Random House Audio team put into bringing The Luster of Lost Things to audiobook.