Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Duluth author's creepy debut novel

I mean creepy in the best possibly sense of the word of course.

–adjective,creep·i·er, creep·i·est.
1. having or causing a creeping sensation of the skin, as from horror or fear: a creepy ghost story.

Duluth journalist Wendy K. Webb has just put out her first novel called "The Tale of Halcyon Crane". I'm not somebody who usually reads ghost or gothic tales, but since the author was from Duluth, I gave it a try.

And boy, was I pleasantly surprised. And did I say creeped out? I don't want to give anything away, but I'm definitely being careful when I stand in front of open windows or staircases.

Webb's character of Hallie James is at a pivotal point in her life. She grew up raised by her single father, thinking that her mother had died in a fire when she was young. We meet her as her father is dying of Alzheimer's and she is sent a letter informing her that her mother has also died and that the family home on Grand Manitou Island has been left to her.

She barely remembered her mother, and to find out, late in life, that she COULD have known her, intrigues her enough to travel to the remote, gothic setting to find out what she can about her family. Based on Mackinaw Island, the setting is both beautiful and haunting.

“The Tale of Halcyon Crane is a wonderfully creepy gothic tale with a distinctly modern sensibility. Ms. Webb has written a hypnotic, twisting, and vividly imagined story about the terrible and lovely ways the past impacts the present, and how one woman’s discovery of old family secrets reveals new truths about herself and her life, and sets her on a perilous road to a future she could not previously have imagined.”—Megan Chance, author of The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife

Tune in for our conversation this week - along with a talk with Walter Mosley about his newest series of mysteries as well as his post as ambassador to the American Library Association.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

there is always something new to learn

This week's Realgoodwords was kind of a stretch for me. One of the featured books was about immigration laws in the United States, the other was a novel considered historical fiction or inspirational fiction. Both things I don't read every day. So what did I learn you ask?

I've always wondered when I hear people talk about "illegal" citizens in the United States - they suggest that it is easy to become a citizen. Most of the time the people who are saying this know what they are talking about, because they became U.S. citizens themselves. The difference is, all they had to do was be born.

When I talked with author Helen Thorpe about the four young Mexican students she profiles in her new book "Just Like Us" and asked her why the two undocumented students haven't filled out the paperwork to become citizens she finally explained things to me.

These young women were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. When you come into the United States illegally, you do not have the option of filling out the paperwork to become a citizen. You have to go back to your country and apply. It could take decades for this to happen. And in the meantime they would be back in a country that they chose to leave because of severe economic situations. These girls are in a no-win situation.

If you missed the conversation, check the Realgoodwords archive here.

I realized when I talked with MN author Julie Klassen that I tend to read the same kinds of novels, and don't really seek out new and different kinds. I am a contemporary reader. In fact, there are many classics that people can't believe I haven't read. For that reason I might have passed right by Julie's novel "the Silent Governess" because it would have been in either the historical fiction or the inspirational fiction section. Because she was nominated for a MN Book Award I decided to take a chance. And I found a strong storyteller that pulled me out of my contemporary rut to Jane Austen-era England.

This week I realized why I read. There is always something new to learn.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crazy Heart and After You on Realgoodwords

There's a sense of ownership sometimes, when you read a book before you see the movie. There is something in reading the words on a page and creating an image in your mind of the characters that makes you feel like you really know them. You develop a relationship with them. That's probably why more often than not, the movie does NOT live up to the book. From what I've heard from others, Crazy Heart is NOT like that. (Yes, it's true, Crazy Heart hasn't made it to northern Minnesota yet!)

Thomas Cobb published his first novel in 1987. "Crazy Heart" got great critical acclaim and was even optioned for a movie by Chuck Barris (of The Gong Show). But that movie never happened (Chuck went off sailing on his yacht instead) and the book went out of print in the early 1990s.

Flash forward to last Sunday night at the Academy Awards ceremony. Jeff Bridges takes home the Oscar for the character Thomas Cobb created, Bad Blake. And "The Weary Kind" won for best song.

I had the chance to talk with Thomas Cobb about the resurgence of Bad Blake in his life and where the story originally came from. Tune in for our conversation this week (Wednesday evening from 6-7 and Sunday morning from 9-10).

I'll also talk with Julie Buxbaum about her novel "After You" - the story of how Ellie steps into her best friend Lucy's life after she is stabbed to death. One of the things I like most about this novel is how books and stories and words can heal. Ellie reads "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett with Lucy's young daughter Sophie as a form of comfort. Could I see Julia Roberts playing the role of Ellie in the movie version of After You? No way!

What movie version of a favorite book didn't quite live up to your standards?