Friday, May 30, 2014

Interview with author Catherine Fitzpatrick

Read my review of going on nine

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick, author of going on nine.

16.95 – print
16.99 – ebook
Releases May 20, 2014

From the Publisher:
A child swipes her mother's ring, snatches her sister's nightgown, and runs outside to play "bride." She soon loses the ring, rips the gown, correctly assumes it's about to rain daggers, and runs away from home to find a better; family. What happens next is a summer-long journey in which Grace Townsend rides shotgun in a Plymouth Belvedere, and hunkers in the back of a rattletrap vegetable truck, crawls into a crumbling tunnel, dresses up with a prom queen, and keeps vigil in the bedroom of a molestation victim. There are reasons why Grace remembers the summer of 1956 for the rest of her life. Those are just a few.

Through the eyes of a child and the mature woman she becomes, we make the journey with Grace and discover important truths about life, equality, family, and the soul-searching quest for belonging.

Can you share a couple of your favorite experiences as a journalist in the fabled Hannibal, MO?     
     My first job after graduating from journalism school was as a cub reporter at the Hannibal Courier Post. I loved it! There were no “young singles” apartment complexes in Hannibal back then, so I rented the front rooms of a beautiful Queen Anne mansion that had once been the home of a Mississippi River lumber baron. It came with a huge bay window, red velvet drapes, tasseled tie-backs, and a genuine claw-foot bath tub. Five days a week, I covered the Hannibal police department, fire department, county sheriff’s department and city government. That was in the mornings. After lunch, I wrote feature stories. All that, for $95 a week.

How did your 9/11 experiences color your writing world?
     I happened to be in a hotel in midtown Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was sent to New York to cover Fashion Week runway shows. That day, I woke up intending to do just that.
     Eighteen hours later, I lay back down in the same hotel room, forever changed. I had watched in horror as the first tower sank upon itself. I had interviewed fire fighters who, a few minutes after we parted, lost their lives in the heroic line of duty. I had heard the terrible thudding sound of bodies hitting the earth from a height of 1,000 feet. And when the second tower collapsed in an enormous cloud of debris, I was close to Ground Zero, in harm’s way. I filed real-time stories all that day, filed stories all that week, stories that took awards.
     When I returned home to Wisconsin, shattered, I carried with me the idea that at any moment something could come flying out of the blue and change things forever. That experience informed the theme of my first novel, A Matter of Happenstance:
     Inevitably, things come zinging at us out of the blue, things capable of changing ourselves, our families, our cities, and our world. But character trumps coincidence, and in fact our lives are what we make of them.

What are some of the different aspects of the writing craft you needed to learn to apply to fiction vs. non-fiction?
   I come from a family of natural-born storytellers and I was trained in the art and craft of journalism at the University of Missouri’s renowned School of Journalism, so I have a background in both fiction and non-fiction.
   What took me a while to conquer, though, when I began writing a book-length work of fiction was to maintain a consistent  point of view, and to create dialogue that was pin-dot perfect. With newspaper writing, you don’t have those issues. The point of view is what you have observed first-hand or learned through interviews, and the dialogue is exactly as your subjects spoke it.

 What do you love about Going On Nine?
Oh, my little heroine, of course. What’s not to love about a kid who swipes her mother’s diamond ring and her sister’s new white nightgown, goes outside to play bride, loses the ring, rips the nightgown, correctly assumes it’s about to rain daggers, and runs away from home rather than face the music?

What do you hope readers will tell other readers about the book?
     I hope, if they’re “of a certain age,” that they’ll say Going on Nine took them right back to the unstructured, carefree summers that children experienced sixty years ago, when the only thing calling them home from kickball games in the street, fort-building out by the fence lines, or catching tadpoles in the creek, was the sound of a bell, a whistle, or their mother’s particular calling that meant the Jell-O salad was set and a meat loaf was nicely browned or as tuna noodle casserole was bubbling under a topping of crumbled chips.


The best of Milwaukee:
   If I had to pick just one thing, it would be the foresight of the city fathers who, long ago, dedicated a series of urban parks along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, green spaces threaded with bicycle paths, dotted with trees and decorated with public statues and picturesque foot-bridges, greenswards bordered in summer with boats bobbing at moorings in the harbor and equally lovely in winter under blankets of ever-fresh snow. For generations thereafter and generations to come, Milwaukeeans who wish to, rich or poor, can go there and enjoy broad sunrises, draughts of fresh air, dew-drop grass and warm sand beneath their feet, and grand views of a lake that stretch to the horizon.

The best of Florida:
    Oh, so many bests. Just one? Nigh onto impossible. So, a few then:
     Birdsong in January. Soft breezes at twilight. Palm fronds rustling overhead. Pale pink shells half-nestled in caramel sand. The thonk of tennis balls volleyed over a net. The ping of a 250-yard drive sailing down a velvet fairway. Foam at the leading edge of incoming tide. Coppertone doing business as perfume. Beach towels flapping on a lanai. Limes. Coconuts. Umbrella drinks. Enough? Okay, I’ll stop now.

Why write non-fiction:
    Because it teaches us, reminds us, warns us, helps us, comforts us.

Why write fiction:
     Because it entertains us, inspires us, drags us to the depths, lifts us to the heavens, stills our thrumming hearts, soothes our discontented souls, and, for long moments as we turn the pages, expands our world beyond the cloisters of reality.   

What’s in your To-Be-Read pile?
     Everything my book club is reading this year. One thing I’ve always wanted to read. One thing I’ve never wanted to read but always thought I should. One thing I won’t tell anybody I’ve read, and one thing I will want everybody I know to know I’ve read (because it’s so darn good!).

About the author:
Although the book takes place in St. Louis, Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick grew up in Milwaukee and will always be a Wisconsinite at heart. She lives in Milwaukee and Florida. going on nine is her second novel.

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