|Photo by Robin Gage|
**Giveaway is now closed**
I first was introduced to Kristin Harmel by Jane Porter, when I won "Italian for Beginners" in one of her giveaways. I really enjoyed the armchair adventure that Kristin took me on through this sweet and romantic novel. When I found out that she had a new novel coming out, I knew we had to have her at Chick Lit Central to talk more about it. During the interview, I had a chance to e-mail with her and get to know her better. She's incredibly nice and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at her DC launch party. She's even nicer in person, as well as down-to-earth, and took the time to chat for a while, sharing more background about her latest novel and even asking me questions. I enjoyed hearing her story about the first time she and Emily Giffin met in person.
Kristin's books have been translated into numerous languages and are sold all over the world. She has been a longtime reporter for People magazine and also has written for Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Day, American Baby, Men’s Health, American Way and Runner’s World magazines. She also appears regularly as the travel expert on the nationally televised morning show “The Daily Buzz.” After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, she has since lived in Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Miami. Kristin now resides primarily in Orlando, Florida and goes to Disney World often (where she probably gets mistaken for one of the princesses). Her latest novel, "The Sweetness of Forgetting" (published yesterday) is proving to be a treat even though I'm only halfway through! It has even been named one of the "Best Books of Summer 2012" by Marie Claire! Kristin takes us from the beaches of Cape Cod to the streets of Paris this time around, and shares some recipes along the way. Her interview today is like a novel itself, so sit back with a beignet and prepare to be mesmerized!
Thanks to Gallery Books, we have THREE copies of "The Sweetness of Forgetting" for some lucky US readers.
Want to connect with Kristin? Visit her at her website, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
|At Kristin's pub day party in DC, 8/7/12|
First off, tell us about your awesome new book, "The Sweetness of Forgetting" and what inspired you to write it…
"The Sweetness of Forgetting" is the story of recently divorced single mom Hope McKenna-Smith, who runs a Cape Cod bakery that has been in her family since her grandmother founded it 60 years ago. Hope’s mother has passed away, so she and her grandmother, Rose, are very close, which makes it all the more devastating that Rose now has Alzheimer’s and is slowly slipping away. One day, in a rare moment of clarity, Rose gives Hope a list of names and a set of cryptic clues and asks her to go to Paris to uncover a mystery Hope doesn’t yet understand. There, Hope learns that her grandmother has a secret past buried in the Holocaust and a handful of family secrets hidden away. The lessons Hope learns about love, faith, forgiveness and family change everything, as do the startling discoveries she makes about her grandmother’s hidden past. This is my seventh novel, and it’s a real departure for me. Tackling subjects such as religion, faith, the Holocaust, Alzheimer’s, divorce, parenting, family and death was a huge challenge, and one I really, really loved taking on. I hope you’ll enjoy this book too!
In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?
I wrote my first book ("How to Sleep With a Movie Star") at 24, got an agent, revised the manuscript a few times, got my first offer on April Fool’s Day, 2004 (I thought my agent was playing a bad April Fool’s joke on me when she called!), worked with the incredible Amy Einhorn (who now has her own imprint at Penguin), was part of the launch of 5 Spot (an imprint of Warner Books at the time) and saw my first novel arrive in book stores in February 2006, when I was 26. Sorry, that was a long sentence. :-)
How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
I am a firm believer in outlining. In fact, I truly feel terrible for my poor agent, Holly Root (who, by the way, is basically the nicest person in the entire world), because when I submit an idea for a book, it’s usually about 20,000 words long. And she actually reads it! That’s just one of the five million reasons why I adore her as an agent and as a person, by the way. Basically, for me, the outlining phase is really where I create the tone and the arc of the book, whereas the writing phase is more about adding detail, nuance and dialogue to the plot thread already on the page. I think that’s why I outline so thoroughly, because to me, it’s almost like writing a short version of the entire book, in order to keep up with the thoughts in my brain. I once outlined an entire book in two days, and I felt like my fingers were on fire from all the typing!
How did you decide to write chick lit?
I think that chick lit, and women’s fiction in general, really give writers a chance to explore what makes us tick as women. I think that each of my novels has, in its own unique way, been about a woman’s struggle to learn how to be true to herself. And I think that it’s only by discovering how to do this – how to be ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin – that we can be truly happy. In a way, writing women’s fiction allows me to explore this issue in my own head. But much more importantly, it allows me to explore it on the page in a way that hopefully helps inspire readers to figure out who they really want to be – and how to follow their hearts.
If "The Sweetness of Forgetting" were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Ooh, that’s SUCH a tough question! I know that some writers write with casting in mind. But I’m one of those writers whose characters really come alive in my head as unique individuals, which means that it’s as hard for me to say who would play them in a film as it would be to choose who would play me in a film. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner and Mandy Moore are three of my favorite actresses, so I’d be thrilled to see any of the three of them in the role of Hope. But I think that I wrote Hope as a woman we could all identify with, and thus there are probably a dozen other actresses in their late 20s through early 40s who could play her and really nail the role. It would be so fun to see THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING as a movie!
What is one item you can't live without?
Great question! This is a little shameful but I’d probably say my iPhone. I can talk, text, surf, tweet, Facebook, email, and do a thousand other things with it. I’d be lost without it!
What is your favorite thing to do at a carnival or amusement park?
I live right near Disney World – does that count? If so, my favorite thing to do there is to attend the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot in the fall; they feature foods, beer and wine from all over the world (and I love to eat and drink!), plus they have a really cool concert series featuring bands from the '90s and 2000s, such as Sister Hazel, Boys II Men and Richard Marx. Good times! If we’re talking about your basic, standard carnival, though, I really like eating cotton candy and taffy, and I love to ride the Ferris wheel, because it gives you a view over everything, almost like you’re flying.
What TV show were you too young to appreciate in the past but would totally watch if it were around now?
Good question, but perhaps I’m not the right person to answer it, considering I grew up on Nick at Nite and other reruns! My favorite shows as a kid in the ‘80s were shows from the ‘50s and ‘60s, such as Mr. Ed, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, I Love Lucy and the original Batman series. And yes, I can sing an embarrassing number of ‘60s theme songs. :-) I think the one show I’d probably appreciate differently now is Get Smart. When I watched it as a kid, I was just entertained by all of Maxwell Smart’s crazy, silly antics. Now, I’d probably appreciate more of the Cold War references, the parodistic references to spy movies of the day, and the underlying meaning of some of the jokes and puns. I think it was a really smart, fun show, and I wish it was still around! Even more than that, I really wish I had a shoe phone like Maxwell Smart.
Speaking of shoes...I also have to add that I was obsessed with Sex and the City when I first watched it, during its original run. It’s still my favorite show to watch, all these years later, but I understand it differently now. At the time, the women on the show were all much older than me. But now that I’m in my 30s, I’m much closer to the age that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha were when the series began. And that makes many of the issues they face resonate differently with me now than they did a decade ago. It fascinates me how the same episodes can touch me completely differently now. The fact that almost all of the series is still relevant and resonant today says a lot about the universality of the issues women face – and the spectacular job the writers of the show did in tackling those issues.
Special thanks to Kristin for chatting with us and to Gallery Books for sharing "The Sweetness of Forgetting" with our readers.
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US only. Giveaway ends August 13th at midnight EST.
Chick Lit is Not Dead is also doing a giveaway for this book. Check out the 5 things Kristin would tell her teenage self. (US/Canada, Ends 8/13.)