It's always a pleasure to have Kristin Harmel at CLC. Her previous novel, The Life Intended, was listed on Amy and Melissa A's favorites lists in 2014/2015. We're thrilled to help celebrate her pub day for When We Meet Again (reviewed here). Thanks to Gallery Books, we have THREE copies to give away to readers anywhere in the world!
Since Kristin's last visit, she has become a mother! Her adorable little boy is now three months old and keeping her busy. However, not only did she publish a full length novel, but also a novella, How to Save a Life (reviewed here), which is a cross between Grey's Anatomy and Groundhog Day.
To learn more about Kristin, visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was a just a kid, her mom died when she was seventeen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well. But when she’s laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea…until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky. That woman is recognizable as her grandmother—and the painting arrived with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, “He always loved her.”
Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig. And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history. Her trail leads her to the POW internment camps of Florida, where German prisoners worked for American farmers...and sometimes fell in love with American women. But how does this all connect to the painting? The answer to that question will take Emily on a road that leads from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany and back to the Atlanta art scene before she’s done.
Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she’s seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history. But she still has secrets, ones she’s been keeping locked inside for years. Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last? (Courtesy of Amazon.)
How did you research the historical aspects of When We Meet Again?
I read several books about World War II POWs in the United States (and one about POWs in Florida specifically); I read memoirs by former German POWs; I read newspaper articles from the 1940s about POWs to get a handle on local attitudes toward POWs at the time; I spent time with a historian in Clewiston, Florida (which the fictional Belle Creek is based loosely on); I toured a sugar-cane farm and asked a lot of questions about the history of the industry; and I spent time at Camp Blanding, which was the parent camp for the smaller sub-camps of POWs during World War II in Florida. The research was absolutely fascinating.
The idea honestly just came to me! Weird, right? I had a friend named Nick die last May from cancer at the very young age of 49, and I think it got me thinking about how life can sometimes be all too short. And there’s a little boy named Jay here in the Orlando area who’s fighting leukemia; I follow his mom’s updates on Facebook, and I’m always moved by what a struggle he’s going through but how his parents always seem to make his life as normal as possible for him. I think perhaps those two people got stuck in my head, and I began to think about what it would be like to get a possibly terminal cancer diagnosis – like Nick did – and also what it would be like to be a kid with cancer, like Jay. Nick was fortunate enough to have a wonderful wife and two wonderful kids, but what if you hadn’t had enough time to do some of those things you dreamed of in life? How could life be that unfair? And then I thought, “But what if it isn’t? What if there’s a way to live fully in the limited time you have left?” Of course that required a touch of magic; in the book, the main character discovers a way to keep living the same day over and over until she begins to feel fulfilled. In the end, I think it’s a story about how we all need to treasure every day and live life with our hearts wide open, because tomorrow is never a guarantee.
If you could cast When We Meet Again for the big screen, who would play the lead roles?
Ooh, I’m always lousy at this! I really don’t think of celebrities as I’m writing; in my head, the characters are real people. So it’s as hard for me to say who would play them as it would be to tell you who would play me in the movie of my life! That said, perhaps Jennifer Garner or Reese Witherspoon for Emily; Alan Thicke for her dad; Gemma Arterton for 1940s Margaret and Alex Pettyfer for 1940s Peter.
Now that you have a baby, how do you balance writing with motherhood?
That’s a great question, and I don’t have an answer yet! I was very committed to taking a three-month maternity leave to just be with my son for the first months of his life; in fact, I began planning for my leave almost as soon as I learned I was pregnant, meaning that I worked extra-long hours to get ahead on all my looming projects! Since my son just turned three months old, I’ve only been back to work – part-time – for a week now. Of course I replied to emails and even read (and made some corrections to) the final page proofs for WHEN WE MEET AGAIN while I was technically supposed to be on leave, but I was otherwise pretty fiercely protective about this being my time. I’ve always been a workaholic, and I was very afraid I’d be tempted to work during times I should have been with my son. And you really never get those moments back, do you? So I’m just now in the position of trying to balance work with motherhood. We have a nanny coming in part-time now so that I can write, and I do a lot of emailing while he naps, so time will tell if that’s enough for the next couple of years, until he’s in school. I suspect my output will be somewhat reduced, but as long as I’m still writing at least one book a year, which I think it very doable, I’ll be very comfortable with things! I think being a mom will change my perspective too; I expect it will influence my writing.
Who has been your favorite character to write from any of your books?
I’m really attached to the characters from THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING, which came out in 2012. I think Jacob and Rose will be favorite characters of mine for years to come.
What did you do to celebrate your birthday last month?
I always try to get my friends together for a dinner or drinks or something, but this year, with a new baby and a shortage of sleep, it just wasn’t going to happen! Plus, it rained cats and dogs all day, so I didn’t want to leave the house with my little guy! My friends Melixa and Amber dropped by during the day to visit, which was sweet, and then my husband, Jason, cooked an awesome steak dinner, and we opened a bottle of wine. The next day, I took my son to Epcot for a few hours with my mom, and we had lunch over there. So all in all, it was very low-key and lovely. Thanks for asking!
Thanks to Kristin for visiting with us and Gallery for sharing her book with our readers.
~Interview by Melissa Amster
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