Friday, May 2, 2008

Author Chat: Barbara Delinsky

A few days ago, my book club was fortunate enough to have an author chat with Barbara Delinsky. We have found that we always thoroughly enjoy author chats, and we always feel like we get additional insight into the book after talking to the writer. This was no exception. Ms. Delinsky was very gracious and spent 45 minutes discussing her book FAMILY TREE with us.

Summary of FAMILY TREE: For as long as she can remember, Dana Clarke has longed for the stability of home and family. Now she has married a man she adores, whose heritage can be traced back to the Mayflower, and she is about to give birth to their first child. But what should be the happiest day of her life becomes the day her world falls apart. Her daughter is born beautiful and healthy, and in addition, unmistakably African-American in appearance. Dana’s determination to discover the truth about her baby’s heritage becomes a shocking, poignant journey. A superbly crafted novel, Family Tree asks penetrating questions about family and the choices people make in times of crisis. -- random house

I thought it was very interesting that Ms. Delinsky didn't get the idea for this book from the newspapers. Rather, she said it just kind of came to her. She mentioned that she often times gets her ideas for her books while driving in the car -- she actually keeps a cassette recorder in her car to capture her thoughts. I am just blown away by the different ways different authors come up with ideas for their books.

When we asked if any of the characters were based on people from her life, Ms. Delinsky did say that Dana did have some things in common with her. Both lost their mothers at a young age and both have a passion for knitting (that they both got from their mothers). Ms. Delinsky also told us how she likes to write books with strong female characters. In addition, her husband is a litigator, and she made Dana's husband Hugh an attorney. (On a side note: I asked her why she mentioned the law firm Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott in her book THE SECRET BETWEEN US. She said that no one has ever asked her that, but she put it in there for her husband -- he works at the Boston office of that law firm. We both thought it was a coincidence that I had interned at the Pittsburgh office while in college!)

One thing that I definitely appreciated more after talking with Ms. Delinksy was the reason for all of her sub-plots. In my earlier post about FAMILY TREE, I mentioned that I didn't quite "get" why there were so many side stories. Ms. Delinsky explained that she wanted to get across to the reader that "things aren't always what they seem." She wanted the reader to take away that people often times live hypocritical lives. As a result, she used the various sub-plots to show that different ways that characters were leading deceptive lives.

I just love author chats; and I am extremely grateful that so many authors give their readers this opportunity. If your book club hasn't had an author chat yet, you should really try to get one. I promise that your book club meeting will benefit from the chance to talk to an author. I have to warn you though; author chats become addictive. After my book club had a few in a row, we felt like we were missing something when we went back to our "normal" meetings!

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